If you have a question about gardening in the Birmingham area, ask John. John Floyd has been gardening–and learning about gardening–for more than 30 years. In addition to his day-to-day experience in the garden, John has degrees in horticulture, plant taxonomy, and plant physiology from Auburn and Clemson Universities and was Editor-in-Chief of Southern Living.
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Unless the Crepe myrtles are huge and produce dense shade, it is probably not the shade of these trees. My guess is that they need to be dug and separated because they are so massed that they did not produce blooms. Here is my suggestion: When the foliage turns yellow, dig the bulbs. They probably need to be dug with a big clump of soil. Shake all the soil away from the bulbs, and separate each bulb no matter how small. Replant a few in that spot, and use the others in another part of the garden, or give them to friends. You are going to have lots of bulbs.
Nutgrass and nutsedge are two different things in my mind. If it is nutgrass, you have to get the “nuts,” which are round, enlarged parts of the roots. The only effective way is to almost sift the soil and throw the nutgrass roots away (and not into the compost pile). Now if it is the seeding type, wide-leafed nutsedge, then the seeds are washing down from above the fence and germinating in that nice moist space. Spraying the nutsedge plants outside the fence with Round-up should handle that problem. Now you must handle the water issue. We all know that water runs downhill, so we either have to divert it away from the lowest level in your yard with a pipe, trench, or dam that will move the water away from your problem area. Go to the top of the slope, and see if you can run the water along the base of the fence by one of the aforementioned ways. Also, you might try a french drain if you have a good place to take the water in your yard. I have Zoysia, and often times–if you can water the grass if needed as the day warms up–it can keep your rust problem down instead of putting it to bed wet.
I think you should be okay, but to be on the safe side, I would add epson’s salts to each plant. Dissolve one heaping tablespoon of epson’s salt in a gallon of water, and pour it around the roots of each plant. That will make sure there is iron available for your plants. Your plants, like all I have seen, are suffering from a tough winter. For more information, see ‘Tending the Garden’ post of April 4, 2015.
Yes, many of the Sedums do very well in Birmingham. Perhaps the most well known fall flowering one is Sedum “Autumn Joy,” which has big clusters of burgundy to red flowers that fade over time. Many types fill rock gardens and pots around Birmingham, and the old-fashioned “Hen and Chicks” will make it here and over winter outside. Sedum “Acre,” a popular spring-flowering yellow one, is limited hardy in Birmingham but easily spreads and has almost a carpet of yellow flowers. One good thing is–at the nursery and garden shops–the labels usually discuss their hardiness. So, if it will survive to 5 degrees, most years you are safe for the Birmingham area.
I, too, had a big planting day Saturday. I think you are okay if they are not standing in water. If they are in standing water for over a couple of hours at a time, I would be concerned. If this is the case and they were shrubs, and if the root balls have not been destroyed by the water, you might try to pot them in containers. But I think that would be extreme. I wish both of us good luck, and let’s hope all our work Saturday was not a waste of time.
There are a number of ways I handle this situation. If the seedlings all look like they are grown together, I transplant the group, and once they start growing you can cut the least vigorous out. It really is okay to leave them alone and allow them both to grow if you are not a purist. If the plants are detached, even just a little bit, I usually separate them being careful not to destroy all the roots. Since I label my plants with popsicle sticks (written on with pencil), I dig them out with these sticks. Since tomatoes will grow roots on their stems, I try to get as much root as possible, and also bury a bit of the stem in the soil. I rarely lose plants when dividing, using any of these methods.
I have always used Espon’s Salts on my gardenias (see Tending the Garden – April 3, 2015), but I would not be honest if I said I use it on other things. But that is not to say that a tablespoon sprinkled around peppers and tomatoes, once they are established, is not a good idea. What I do know is if you are growing things in heavy clay soils that have not been amended, then it would probably be helpful on a variety of plants. I would suggest a soil test. You can get the boxes at the local extension offices or at the Hanna Center at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Some folks say, “What can it hurt?” but I am not from that school of thought.
I want to quickly admit to you that I do not have enough space to grow fruit trees or grapes in my garden. But I think it is generally accepted that once flowering has finished and fruit set has occurred, fertilization helps as a generalization because there might be specifics for production growers. I think any fertilizer with a middle number lower than the others is okay. If you can get 15-0-15, it is a good all-purpose product for this area. Products like 8-8-8 and 10-10-10 are okay, but if you have a high phosphorus like many of the soils do in our area, you may be tying up nutrients the plants need for good fruit production.
I think it will be just fine to do nothing. Now don’t worry if those leaves shed as the new leaves start coming out. Mine dropped some leaves but started blooming a few weeks ago. Now that the new leaves are coming out, I am losing those old mottled leaves.
I would wait just a bit before doing anything. Most shrubs are just coming out, and we really are a couple of weeks away from knowing how much winter damage has occurred on most of our plants. Now I always shape my gardenias by removing stray branches. So cutting it back by a third certainly will not hurt, but I would not assume branches with no leaves are dead just yet. Mine also look bad, and I annually apply a heaping spoon of Epsoms salt dissolved in a gallon of water around the roots to promote good growth and dark green leaves.
Take a look at “Tending the Garden – March 26,” and you will see my thoughts on your hydrangeas. I usually do not prune any stems off mine until late April when I am sure they are dead, because the flowers bloom off the shoot that develop from the old stems.
I always plant pansies in late fall, generally right after the first frost. As for siberian iris, they are tough and can be planted now, as they are just beginning to put up their new foliage. But I think most folks think with iris, the earlier in spring the better. IF you did not put your pansies in last fall, it is too late now, as we are thinking about summer annuals. If you are enjoying blue iris now, it is probably Dutch iris. These are bulbs that need to be planted anytime in this area from November through early January.
I want to answer this in two ways. If the temperature does not fall below freezing a prolonged length of time, the shrubs and trees will probably be all right or only suffer a slight bit of damage. On the other hand, tender annuals and vegetable plants will be severely injured or killed if we hit freezing. About the only protection is covering these plants up and hope. But remember, covering plants protects them from frost, not temperature. I do advise watering plants late in the afternoon before a freeze is predicted for this time of the year. Water is a great insulator. Remember, the last frost date in the metro Birmingham area is April 15. Even if garden centers and big box stores have vegetable plants, like tomatoes and annuals like marigolds, please wait until around April 15 to plant them.
It depends on what you are planting. For vegetables, spinach, lettuce (mine is up), onions, and any of the greens like kale and turnips, plant now. I would recommend that you purchase plants of cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, as they need to produce vegetables in the next couple of months. Plant these now. Everything in the vegetable category is fine to plant after the last average frost date in this area–April 15. For trees and shrubs, plant as soon as possible. For hardy perennials and annuals, plant now. For tender annuals and others, plant after April 15.
There are basically three growers I know of in this area, and the most widely distributed in this locale are Bonnie plants. Smaller growers who distribute in this area are Alabama Grown and Young’s. There may be others I do not know about. I buy from them all, but if you want some very unique things I suggest you go to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens plant sale which is April 10-12. Check their website for times and location.