Spring gardening tips

Published 7:00 am Friday, March 20, 2015

Spring flowering bulb season is upon us. Some are already in bloom and others are poised for action. As the leaves begin to show up, consider adding about a cup of 6-8-8 or similar complete fertilizer per 50 square feet of planted area.
Sowing seeds for transplants is an enjoyable task if proper lighting is available. If sunlight is not adequate for your seedlings, “grow lights” may be purchased or cool white fluorescent bulbs can be used. Light fixtures can be placed one or two feet above the planting area. A few annuals to sow include marigolds, zinnias, ageratum coleus and salvia. Warm season vegetable seed may also be started indoors. Most seeds will become transplantable in 6 to 8 weeks. Melons and cucumbers may only take 4 weeks. Good quality potting soil or germination mix works best. Set warm season transplants out as soon as danger of frost is past.
Fall blooming perennials may be divided this time of year. Wait until new growth appears (to see clearly what’s alive) then divide and replant. Perennials may need to be divided every few years or so to prevent overcrowding. Those to consider dividing include coneflower, daylily, asters, canna and chrysanthemums. Once plants are reestablished, fertilize with 1 or 2 pounds of a complete fertilizer per 100 square feet of planted area.
Now is a good time to plant trees and shrubs and prune certain ones. Those that flower in the summer get pruned in the winter. An example is crepe myrtle. Roses are another example. Bush type roses should be pruned to about 18 inches on two or three canes. However, don’t prune them all the same height to create a more natural look. Cut them to an outside bud so the first growth will be outward for greater balance and productivity. Remember that all climbers are not the same. Ever-blooming types may be pruned now, but once blooming, climbers should have old blooms removed. Wait until the heavy bloom period ends before pruning them.
Spring blooming plants like azaleas, dogwood and ornamental pear should not be pruned now but rather wait until blooms are spent to start the process.
Soil preparation is very important. When selecting a new garden space, consider taking a soil sample to determine soil acidity and nutrient needs. Soil kits are available at your local Extension Service office. A common ingredient needed for most south Mississippi soils is lime at the rate of 50 to 100 lb. of dolomite lime per 1,000 square feet. Work the lime into the soil to a depth of 8 inches.
Spring is a good time to set out onion plants. These will make bulbs in May-June. Set the plants out about 4 inches apart in well-drained soil. It’s also time to transplant broccoli, cabbage, collards, Chinese cabbage and lettuce into well-prepared soil. Happy gardening!

By Eddie Smith

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