Though the wind howls and the air has a cold bite, spring is around the corner. Therefore, I am offering a to-do list this week. You can access it and more at the Hall County Master Gardeners website.
Each year, I always try something new and something fun. This year is no different.
I’ve stored my heirloom seeds from last year and ordered organic seeds from my favorite seed catalog. This will give me something old and something new.
First, grow at least one new vegetable or vegetable variety you’ve never grown before; it may be better than what you are already growing.
Second, use a soil or kitchen thermometer to know when to plant spring vegetables.
Some cool season crops such as onions, kale, lettuce and spinach can be planted when the soil is consistently at or above 40 degrees. You can plant asparagus crowns into late March. Garden peas and spring potatoes are usually planted early to mid-March.
Third, buy healthy seed potato pieces from a reliable nursery and plant them 3 inches deep. Do not add lime to potato planting beds.
Finally, if you haven’t already done so, sow seeds for spring transplants.
Most seedlings need five to eight weeks to get to transplant size, so begin early indoors. By starting seeds now, you can have marigolds, vincas, petunias, tomatoes, peppers, herbs and other warm-season seedlings ready to transplant in the garden in late March.
This month is the best time to prune your repeat-blooming roses such as floribunda and hybrid tea roses, if you haven’t already. Shape them for spring blooms, remove dead canes and apply new mulch as needed.
Do not prune your once-flowering climbing roses now, but prune them after the bloom instead.
Next, fertilizing pansies and other winter flowers as needed. Use a high-nitrate fertilizer such as calcium nitrate.
Then, check stored bulbs, tubers and corms. Discard any soft or diseased ones. The colorful hellebores will be in full bloom now. The leaves of the Italian arum also will be a nice contrast to the browns of winter.
Once you’ve pruned your flowers and checked your stores, buy summer and fall bulbs, such as amaryllis, dahlias, gladioli, cannas and lilies. You should also order perennial plants now for cut flowers this summer. Particularly good choices are phlox, daisies, coreopsis, asters and lilies.
But don’t plant them yet. Wait for warmer weather. The soil temperature must be at least 55-65 degrees Fahrenheit.
When it’s time to plant them, place the perennials in full sun with well-drained soil.
Late winter is the time to prune many deciduous trees and some shrubs. Look over your plants and remove dead, dying or unsightly parts of the tree. Then eliminate sprouts growing at or near the base of the tree trunk and crossed branches.
Also, check for rabbit damage on young trees and shrubs. Apply dormant oil for control of scale and mites.
Almost anything that blooms after June 1 (except oak leaf hydrangea and late-flowering azalea cultivars) can be pruned safely now.
Now is a good time to prune crape myrtles, too. For best results, prune to shape and try to avoid “crape murder” — topping crape myrtle trees and shrubs.
Wait to prune spring-flowering shrubs until after they bloom, including azalea, rhododendron, viburnum and forsythia.
And don’t prune cold-damaged plants yet. Wait until warm weather returns to cut them.
After the worst winter cold has passed and before spring growth begins, prune fruit trees such as apples, pears and cherries. Also prune vines and brambles like grapes, raspberries, and blackberries.
Prune peach and nectarines prior to bloom time.
Fruiting pruning advice can be obtained by calling the Hall County Extension office.
After pruning, spray the fruit trees with a dormant oil such as volck oil to control mites and scale. The oil simply covers the tree and suffocates the insects. It also helps inhibit sporulation of some diseases.
(Note: Do not apply dormant oil when the tree is not dormant. Doing so in the spring, summer and fall will cause damage. The tree cannot transpire properly when covered with the oil during the wrong season.)
Finally, fertilize fruit trees as soon as possible after the ground warms a bit but before they blossom.
Cut ornamental grasses back to within 3 to 5 inches of the ground. Do this before the grass starts sprouting.
You also can apply a pre-emergent herbicide for summer weeds from mid-February to mid-March. Crabgrass seeds germinate when the soil temperature gets to about 55 degrees, so apply before the soil gets warm. Timing is critical for good control.
Henbit, dock, wild garlic, chickweed and annual bluegrass can be real problems if you didn’t use fall pre-emergent herbicides. All you can do now is spot treat infestations or use a broad-leaf weed killer compatible with your turfgrass species.
Don’t fertilize warm-season grass lawns at this time regardless of how warm the winter might have been. And avoid “weed-and-feed” products on warm-season grasses.
Finally, if you have not soil-tested your lawn in the past 12 months, now is a great time. The Hall County extension office is busy helping residents who are bringing in their soil samples for testing.
My own to-do list is long.
Screening trees placed for a house being built beside us.
My valentine bought me empty wine barrels to plant herbs. They will be kept on our deck, so I don’t need to traipse to our garden for meal preparation.
An additional shed built beside our raised edible garden beds. And our raised beds will have the benefit of an irrigation drip system this spring.
March is an exciting time as we prepare for spring.
Robin Lynn Friedman is the Master Gardener coordinator for the Hall County Extension Office. She can be reached at email@example.com or 770-535-8293.