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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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.
I really do not have a good answer for you, but here are a couple of suggestions. Try the ‘Native Seed Network.’ I am sure they will have a number of milkweed types, and also check with the North Carolina Botanical Gardens. They have an excellent seed exchange program, and most years they have various types of milkweed seeds available, even if they are not listed (might have to call). Let us all know if you find them from another source.
That is a tough question, because there are many types of milkweeds. They scatter their seeds by the wind, so the common type–which is tall–can broadcast seeds far and wide. If you have a big native plant space, I think it would be okay. Most folks who have small spaces grow butterfly weed, and they do not have a problem scattering seeds. I so appreciate your efforts to plant things that attract monarchs.
You are so right. Mine is not as far along as yours, so I expect it to be showing itself around Easter. All of the Viburnums, which is the genus for Snowball, are under used in gardens around Birmingham. And thanks for tagging your viburnum picture with #BHMBlooms so everyone can see it on Instagram!
Yes, use it as if it were a new bag. Most bagged soils can be open, kept, and used for many years.