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Cannon: Plenty to keep you busy in garden as spring approaches
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As we approach our transition from an unusually mild winter into spring, there are many important tasks to be done in the garden and landscape.

A quick look around the landscape will help you to identify your needs in terms of pruning ornamental shrubs and trees, turf requirements, flowering annuals and perennials, fruit and nut trees and the ever popular vegetable gardens.

Most of our landscape pruning is done in the winter months when trees and shrubs are dormant. In general, the best time to prune is in the winter, before spring growth begins. Crape myrtles, butterfly bush, shrub roses, and gardenia are some common examples.

The only exceptions are the early spring bloomers like azalea, forsythia, quince and spirea. These should be pruned immediately after blooming. Also remember that now is a great time to plant trees like dogwoods, river birches or redbuds.

Now is the time to prune fruiting trees like apple, pear and plum. It's also a good time to prune muscadine or scuppernong vines. Wait until March to prune peach trees.

If questions persist on when the exact time to prune a plant is, just give us a call at the Extension office and we will gladly help to get you a speedy answer.

Lawn maintenance is also a concern this time of year as you prepare for a healthy, green turf. Spring pre-emergent herbicides should be applied now on tall types of fescue, bermuda and zoysia lawns. Spot spray for any winter weeds that may exist, such as henbit and chickweed. Remember that dormant winter grasses may be greening up and contact with a weed killer could hurt the grass.

Also a fescue lawn can be sodded or fertilized now. Wait until later in the warmer months to sod or fertilize bermuda and zoysia lawns.

Flowering plants such as tea roses and pansies can still be planted. Just remember that pansies will not last very long once warm weather gets here. If you have established flowering annuals, now is a great time to deadhead and fertilize them.

Now is also a great time to plant new rose bushes. Many flowering perennials can be planted now. Most perennials are in their dormant stages, but in a few months you will begin to see them leaf out. Plant some coreopsis, black-eyed susan or hardy plumbago.

Fruit and nut trees need to be on a scheduled maintenance plan. There are specific times to prune, fertilize and spray for disease and insects. The Extension office has publications and resources to help the gardener maintain this schedule for optimum fruiting success.

Plant strawberries now and watch them produce the following year. Now is also a great time to purchase a fruit or nut tree, such as a pecan or pear tree. With a little TLC and a good maintenance schedule, fruiting trees can bring the gardener many years of enjoyment.

Now also is the time to look through gardening magazines and plan your flower and vegetable gardens. Look for designs that are pleasing to your own individual tastes, then sit down and map out a plan. You can do this online or simply draw out a plan with the specific plants in mind.

Keep it simple and small in scale. This will help you achieve your goal with very little anxiety in the process. Start with a soil sample, define what you want to plant and amend the soil accordingly. This process will jump-start you on a successful journey toward accomplishing the plan.

There is still time to plant cool season veggies like cabbage, spinach and kale in vegetable gardens. Plant English peas, onions, asparagus or garlic now, too. But if you are looking ahead for spring, now is a great time to clean out the existing garden or raised beds and begin preparation.

Again, have the soil tested at the extension office to determine the garden's lime and fertilizer needs. Pull up existing weeds that might have found their way in or spray with Roundup. Start some veggie seeds indoors like tomato, pepper or eggplant in a seed starting potting mix and put in a cool, sunny location in your home. Once the seeds germinate and the threat of frost has come and gone, you can safely transplant the seedlings into the garden.

Spring is right around the corner and now is the opportune time to get the plants in your yard in tip-top shape and then begin the process of adding some wonderful, new additions into your garden landscape in terms of trees, shrubs and flowers.

Are you up for the challenge? I can't wait! Happy gardening!

Wanda Cannon is a Master Gardener trained through the Hall County program and also serves as Master Gardener coordinator and horticulture assistant for the Hall County Extension office. Phone: 770-535-8293. Her column appears biweekly and on