Late winter a good time to plan garden

Marci Gore • Mar 3, 2014 at 8:51 AM

Although we’re not completely out of the woods yet, the warmer, sunnier weather we’ve had these past few days does hint at the end of what has been a very long and very cold winter.

Local gardening expert and horticulturist Roy Odom II says now is the perfect time to think about getting our gardens and landscaping ready for spring and summer.

“February is a great time to prune fruit trees and fruit bushes,” Odom said. “Mainly what you want to do is just remove any overgrowth, anything that’s just really sticking out.”

However, don’t prune anything that blooms in the spring, Odom advises.

“Anything that blooms before June, things like azaleas, rhododendrons, forsythia, dogwoods, red buds, you don’t want to be whacking on right now. If you prune those right now, you’re cutting the bloom buds off,” he said.

Odom says February is also a great time to check for any winter damage.

“With the cold weather, there’s a lot of burned foliage. But don’t get too eager to start cutting things back. Keep in mind that just because foliage is burned, this doesn’t mean that the stems and trunks are dead,” Odom said.

It is also a good time to cut back liriope, sometimes called monkey grass, Odom said.

“It’s definitely been burned during the winter months. Get rid of the ugly ‘over stuff’ to make it look better in your landscaping,” he said.

February is also a perfect time to pay some extra attention to your lawn.

“Now is a great time to over seed [casting seed onto an existing lawn] and have your soil tested. Our soil here is very ‘clay-ey.’ It never hurts to add some organic material. With the over seeding, this is a great month to do that because you kind of want to get those grass plants established before the heat hits. And it seems like that happens earlier and earlier now. Normally, when I was growing up, it didn’t seem like it got hot until June. Now, it seems like the month of May we can have some 80-degree days. And, because of the rain we usually get in March and April, grass that’s planted right now, has a better chance of surviving,” Odom said.

If you do test your soil and discover it is too acidic, Odom said now is the time to add some dolomitic limestone. And, if it is too sticky and clay-like, add some gypsum.

Just like grass seed, Odom says now is a good time to plant trees and shrubbery.

“If you didn’t get trees and shrubbery planted in the fall, this is a great month to get those things in the ground now. It’s cool and it’s damp and those roots can grow and get out into the soil before the heat of summer,” he said.

Don’t neglect your containers either, Odom says.

“Get those containers out and check them and make sure they’re not cracked or broken to see if you need to replace them, because you don’t want a nice weekend in April, when you can plant, you don’t want to have to be running to the garden center to pick out new pots,” he said. “And if you need potting soil for your containers, now’s a great time to go ahead and go out and stockpile that.”

Vegetable gardens can use a little TLC right now, too.

“It’s probably too damp to get in and turn a vegetable garden. But it’s a great month to go ahead and hit the garden centers and pick out your vegetable seeds and begin to plan out what you’re going to do,” Odom said. “You could also do some cleanup in the vegetable garden. If there’s any debris left over from last year, you can remove it and compost it. Or, if it was diseased, I like to just remove it completely and get rid of it. I think you are asking for trouble if you try to incorporate diseased material into your garden.”

And since no garden is complete without birds, Odom says if you’ve been feeding them throughout the winter months, don’t stop right now.

“You need to go ahead and keep feeding them at least through the end of March when it starts warming up and there are some insects for them to eat,” he said.

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