This Week In The Garden

This common camellia is finishing flowering and dropping its flowers.

What pleasure it is to garden in comfortable spring weather. This is such an important time in the garden to ensure you have a great gardening season. First, many shrubs and trees have been hurt by a major freeze a few days ago. Here is what you do to help these plants – nothing. That’s right, if they recover they will recover from the part of the plant not hurt by the freeze. By cutting off the damaged foliage you may injure the plant that was not hurt by the frost. Going from doing nothing to chores that need to be done now are many. It has been the best blooming year for camellias in many years. To ensure your blooms next year do not have ugly blooms infected with “petal blight,” be sure and get up the dropped blossoms under the plant. On my Empress alone I have gotten up two five gallon buckets of dropped bloom, and it is still blooming. The noteworthy thing about this plant is I picked blooms for the Christmas dinner table and still have thirty to forty blooms on it now.
This is also the time I am turning my vegetable garden, as soon as I can remove my fall greens that are now blooming and going to seed. I will first turn the soil by hand (I do this every other year because of tree roots from my neighbors trees), and then either till it or rake it smooth before I plant. Seeding spinach and all types of lettuce now is a perfect time if you enjoy a late spring harvest. It is also still okay to plant cole crops like cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower transplants.
As things like winter honeysuckle, spirea, quince, forsythia and other early spring flowering plant are finishing blooming, it is time to remove dead limbs, and shape as needed by removing stems deep in the plant. If your plants have not been pruned properly, now is also the time for a severe cut back which can be as low as a foot off the ground.
If your monkey grass is not putting out green shoots, it is still okay to cut it back. If new shoots are present I would not cut it back, as all the new leaves will have that cut look. My big blue liriope is out except in shady spots, but the variegated type has not put out new shoots yet.
If you have taken a soil test, now is a good time to amend the soil if the report suggested it. The report is not home garden friendly in many cases, so call the Hanna Center at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens and let them help you understand your needs, if it is not clear.
Finally, if your turf is dry enough give it a good cut and bag the clippings one notch lower than your usual cut, unless you did not cut it since fall; then cut at usual height. This will remove a lot of dead grass build up and also winter debris in the yard. I would still wait until late March to apply a granular herbicide for summer weeds, unless your yard is already greening up. If so, apply now according to label directions.

John Floyd

John Floyd has been gardening--and learning about Birmingham area gardening--for more than 30 years. In addition to his day-to-day experience, John has degrees in horticulture from Auburn and Clemson Universities and was Editor-in-Chief of Southern Living.

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