It's spring fever.  That is what the name of it is.  And when you've got it,
you want - oh, you don't quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so! 
~Mark Twain

Spring Chores in the Garden

Could anything be better than Spring in north Georgia! Dogwood blossoms, singing birds, and warm days invite us to spend time outdoors with Mother Nature. Anticipation of things to come is one of the best things about Spring.

Daffodils and crocuses send us their signals that it’s time to visit with them. There is something soothing about digging up the smell of fresh earth. Our gardens are our connection with the earth and nature and what better time than Spring to do some chores after being cooped up inside for too long. Can the words “chores” or “work” even be used to describe what we do when we spend time in our gardens in Spring? There are important things to be done and they include:

Early spring is time to fertilize perennials, shrubs, and trees. If you regularly add compost to your beds, you may have given most plants all they need. Organic sources of nutrients build the health of the soil by encouraging organisms like earthworms and beneficial microbes. Healthy, fertile soil is far superior to clay soil and a bag of fertilizer because the soil is “alive” with billions of microscopic creatures that help plant roots absorb water and nutrients. It’s a fascinating process of a symbiotic relationship between plant life and beneficial microbes.

When it is necessary to fertilize, remember that the 3 numbers on the fertilizer bag represent in order: nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. Evergreens and the lawn benefit from a fertilizer with a higher first number like 16-4-8. Flowering and edible plants will perform better with a lower first number and higher middle number like 6-12-12 or something similar. Perennials and annuals benefit from slow release fertilizers like Osmocote or Dynamite. No matter what you’re fertilizing, don’t overdo it. Excessive fertilizer leaches from the soil during rains and ends up in the watershed. Always read the label and do what it says!

Begin dividing overgrown or crowded perennials as soon as they begin to show new growth. Don’t delay this chore, once the plants are up and rapidly growing, it’s getting too late to divide them. Perennials can also be divided in the fall once the weather has cooled in you don’t get around to doing it in early spring.

Once spring blooming bulbs like daffodils and tulips have finished flowering, it’s time to fertilize them with a slow release fertilizer formulated for blooming plants. Once they’re finished blooming, they begin storing nutrients for next years use. Don’t cut off foliage until it’s no longer green.

Prepare beds for summer annuals by amending soil with organic matter.

Remove all dead foliage and stalks from perennials that go dormant in winter. Evergreen perennials will benefit from pruning out tattered, winter-worn foliage. This is a great time to start a compost pile if you don't already have one. Add debris, clippings, and pulled weeds (without mature seeds) to the pile.

Cut liriope (monkey grass) back to a few inches above the ground to remove tattered leaves in early March before new growth emerges. A lawn mower raised to its highest setting is a great tool for trimming large areas.

Rake the lawn to remove twigs, leaves, and debris, another great addition to the compost pile.

Apply crabgrass pre-emergent to the lawn in spring. March 15th (or when the forsythias are in bloom) is the general time to apply it. Don’t wait until late spring because the crabgrass will have already sprouted. Pre-emergents only work by preventing weed seeds from sprouting.

Start flower and vegetable seeds indoors for transplanting into the garden after the threat of frost has passed. Seedlings need to be at least 6 weeks old before transplanting. Harden them off the last few weeks by putting them on the porch out of direct sunlight during the day, bringing them back in at night. Gradually expose them to sunny conditions. This method strengthens them and gives them time to adjust to changes like wind and sunlight.

Clean bird houses out that were used by your feathered friends the previous year.

Hang hummingbird feeders out by mid March. The males show up first and it’s usually in March. Don’t use mixes that include red food dye. It isn’t known if the dye is harmful or not. Keep bright red feeders out with a mixture of 1 part sugar to 4 parts water. Don’t fill the feeders completely at first because most of it will sour before there are enough hummers here to drink it all. It is not necessary to boil the mixture, but doing so will sterilize the water so that it will take longer for bacteria and algae to grow in the feeder.

The most important task? Have fun and enjoy your time outdoors. Don’t fret if things seem to be getting away from you as the weather warms. Our gardens can survive without us doing all the things we had planned to do. Accepting that some weeds will grow no matter how many we pull and that sometimes the garden has a mind of its own will allow you to enjoy your little piece of earth instead of feeling like a prisoner of it.

Spring Garden Care
Hall County Agribusiness of the year 2007
Garden Care
by the Season
Hall County Agribusiness of the Year 2007
- Full Bloom Nursery-
Hwy 283, Clermont, Georgia

) Phone: 770.842.2345

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Photo: from left: Billy Skaggs
(Hall County
Extension Director)
Kellie and Tim Bowen
(Owners of Full Bloom Nursery)

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“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt”.
      Margaret Atwood