Gardening Tips

In The Garden – March-April gardening tips

Helpful tips for gardening in the Triangle.

Flowers

• Don’t let weeds go to seed. Pull them now or apply a pre-emergent in your flowerbeds to keep weeds from taking over.

• When selecting summer annuals, look for short, bushy plants with green leaves, well-developed root systems and more buds than flowers. Wait until after danger of frost (around April 15) before planting in the garden.

• Wait until spring bulb foliage dies down naturally before removing it. Fertilize with bone meal after blooming.

• Divide and plant daisies, daylilies, liriope and more. Start planting perennials and water plants well to encourage root growth.

• Pruning back your butterfly bush to the 6 to 18 inch range forces new growth closer to the crown, and usually better flower displays.

Fruits and Vegetables

• Plant potatoes, onion sets, beets, and radishes, and transplant cabbage, broccoli and similar members of the cabbage family. These vegetables can withstand a light frost without damage. Plant other transplants after the last frost date. Wait until a cool cloudy day or late afternoon.

• You can direct seed sweet corn, pole beans, lima and snap beans, cantaloupe, cucumbers, summer squash and watermelons after April 15. Wait until the end of April to set out tomatoes, peppers and eggplant.

• Plant blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and muscadine grapes in late March or April. Fertilize berry plants and fruit trees.

• Try growing your veggie garden in containers if you don’t have space in the yard. Remember these need 6-8 hours of direct sun. Or try mixing edibles in with your existing landscaping.

Lawns

• Do not fertilize warm-season grasses like Bermuda and Zoysia at this time. Wait until the grass is completely green before fertilizing. Don’t fertilize fescue in the spring as this can cause disease problems.

• Cool-season grass mowing season starts as it warms up. Mow at a height of least 3 inches. Don’t take more than one-third of the grass blade off when you mow. Leave grass clippings on the lawn. They return nutrients to the soil and reduce the need for additional fertilizer.

• Apply pre-emergent herbicides for control of weedy grasses such as crabgrass.

Trees and Shrubs

• The sooner you plant trees the better chance their root systems have to grow before hot weather starts.

• Complete any major pruning of fruit or shade trees in March. Do not prune winter or spring flowering plants such as camellia, Daphne, or azalea until after they have finished blooming.

• Remember to pick up the camellia flowers after they drop to prevent camellia petal blight.

• Shape up evergreen shrubs in April, but avoid shearing, which encourages dense growth on the outermost part of the plant, leaving interior branches shaded and leafless. Hand prune from within, cutting back the longest shoots to a point where they join a main branch.

• Evergreens, conifers, camellias, dogwoods and azaleas need acid-loving fertilizer.

• Keep evergreens and young plants watered during dry weather.

Insects

• Look for cool season mites on junipers, arbor vitae, other conifers, azaleas, hollies, and camellias. These mites are often only noticed after the damage is done (interior browning of foliage in early summer) and when the pests are no longer present. If present, they will be very active in March. Spray as needed.

• Watch for fire ants once the weather warms up.

For a complete list of garden maintenance activities, visit the NC Cooperative Extension web site at www.ces.ncsu.edu.

For lawn care go to the NC State Turf Files at www.turffiles.ncsu.edu.