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Getting ready for Springtime

Posted: March 11, 2014 5:05 p.m.
Updated: March 12, 2014 5:00 a.m.

By Jackie Jordan

It’s hard to believe with all the cold weather we have been experiencing that spring is around the corner. There are many tasks to tackle in the upcoming weeks to prepare your landscape for warmer days.

Lawn (Turfgrass)

Pre-emergent herbicides create a barrier that prevents weed seeds from germinating. Pre-emergent herbicides will not kill existing weeds but help to prevent new weeds from growing. There are many types of pre-emergent herbicides available. Some are better at preventing grassy weeds and others will prevent more broadleaf weeds like dandelions.

The product label will list all of the weeds that can be controlled. Pre-emergent herbicides should be applied between early and mid-March. The most reliable indicator is to apply pre-emergent when forsythia (yellow bells) goes into bloom. Most brands provide 60 days of control. Weed and feeds are not recommended for our warm season turf. Wait to fertilize your grass until it has completely greened up.

This is usually about early to mid-May. Fertilizing your turgrass too early can cause bright yellow patches to appear in the lawn and can lead to future problems with insects and diseases.

Pruning

Ornamental grasses like monkey grass (liriope) and maiden grass (miscanthus) should be cut back now before new growth begins in the spring. If you haven’t already pruned fruit trees and muscadine vines, go ahead and prune before new growth starts this spring.

If the winter weather damaged any tree limbs, make sure to use proper pruning techniques to prevent further damage to the tree. Stubs cause wounds to heal slower and become an entry point for insects and rot to move into the tree.

Not all plants should be pruned before new growth starts in the spring. Flowering plants will either bloom on new wood or old wood. New wood is growth that is put on during the current season. Examples of plants that bloom on new wood include crape myrtles, butterfly bush, oleander, gardenias and rose of sharon.

Plants that bloom on new wood typically bloom in the summer. Old wood refers to the previous season’s growth. Examples of plants that bloom on old wood are azaleas, forsythia, bridal wreath spirea, and lady bank’s rose. Plants that bloom on old wood should not be pruned until after they finish blooming. This will maximize their blooming potential the following year.

Most roses bloom on new wood and should be pruned moderately this time of year. Take the canes back to 18 to 24 inches tall. There are exceptions; roses that only bloom once a year should be pruned after flowering.

Regardless of whether you are pruning a small twig or a large branch, you can avoid leaving a stub by always cutting back to a bud, a lateral branch, or the main trunk. When you prune back to a bud, make the cut at a slight angle just above the bud.

This allows moisture to flow readily off the wound. Do not use any tar or sealant to cover the wound, as it can trap moisture and make the plant more susceptible to pests.

Pruning should be done to enhance the overall shape of the shrub. When you make cuts, new growth will emerge from the bud below the cut. Stagger pruning cuts throughout the whole shrub to encourage new growth. If pruning cuts are only made to the top six to eight inches of growth, a very top heavy, sparse plant will develop. Remove interior branches to open up the shrub for more light and circulation. This will encourage a fuller shrub overall. A good rule of thumb is to remove up to 1/3 of the plant material.

Fertilizer

It is still too early to fertilize most plants, but spring flowering bulbs can be treated with 1 to 2 lbs. of 10-10-10 per 100 square feet. The application can be made once the shoots appear in late winter/ early spring.

Home grown fruit trees, berries, and grape vines should be fertilized in March. With most trees and shrubs wait until new growth begins in the spring before fertilizing. Nutrient needs are greatest once dormant trees and shrubs completely leaf out. This is because plants deplete energy stored in their root system to produce new leaves each spring.

Soil Sample

Having your soil tested is the best way to know what fertilizer to use and how much is needed. The soil sample results will also tell you the pH of the soil. Soil pH is a measure of how acidic the soil is.

Plants grow better when pH of the soil is at the recommended level. Adding lime will help to raise the pH and the results will also tell you how much lime you may need to add. Results can be given for grass, flowers, trees, shrubs and vegetable gardens. Soil samples can be submitted to the Kershaw County Clemson Extension Office. The cost is $6 per sample.

Upcoming Events

A program on lawn care will be offered thru the Kershaw County Extension Office. The program is comprised of two evening class on March 25 and April 1 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. The cost is $30 and pre-registration by March 19th is required. Please call the Kershaw County Extension Office at 432-9071 or email Jackie Jordan at jk opack@clemson.edu to register. The class will be held in the FCL Building located at 634 W. DeKalb St. in Camden. The class will cover cultural requirements, fertilization, weed control, and insect and disease management. Should you require special accommodations due to a disability, please notify our office ten days prior to the event.

A program for emerging farmers will be offered on Saturday March 29 from 9 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. Specialists from the SC Department of Agriculture will discuss GAP certification and marketing your product. Specialists from Clemson University will discuss organic certification and private pesticide licensing. The class is free but pre-registration is required.

Please call the Kershaw County Extension Office at 432-9071 or email jkopack@clemson.edu to register by March 26th.

The class will be held in the FCL Building located at 634 W. DeKalb St. in Camden. Should you require special accommodations due to a disability, please notify our office 10 days prior to the event.

Jackie K. Jordan is a Horticulture/Specialty Crop Agent for the Clemson Extension. Contact her at 432-9071 or visit the Clemson University Home & Garden Information Center website at http://hgic.clemson.edu.

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