Gardening Tips

Helpful tips for gardening in the Triangle in March and April.

Flowers

• You can now dig, divide, and plant most perennials on a warm afternoon.

• Clean up your garden beds before too much new growth occurs. Press plants back into the ground if the cold weather heaved them out. Mulch 2 to 3 inches.

• 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 (approximately April 15) before planting annual in the garden.

• Divide, repot and fertilize houseplants before moving them outdoors for their summer vacation at the end of April.

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

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

• Don’t let weeds go to seed. Pull them and apply a pre-emergent in your flowerbeds to keep weeds from taking over. Weeds compete for moisture and nutrients needed by plants.

• Plant summer-flowering bulbs like iris, lilies and dahlias after the end of March.

• After danger of frost is past, remove mulch around the base of the rose to expose the graft and promote new growth. Rake off old mulch that often harbors black spot spores and insects. Remove weeds and reestablish border of bed. Apply a layer of shredded bark or mini-nuggets to keep the bed free of weeds and retain moisture.

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 in 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

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

• Do not fertilize warm-season grasses at this time. Resist all advertisements and wait until after the grass is completely green before fertilizing.

• Cool-season lawn mowing season starts as it warms up. Mow at a height of least 3 inches, preferably 3-1/2. 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.

Trees and Shrubs

• 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.

• 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.

• If the ground isn’t frozen, you can plant container-grown and balled and burlaped trees and shrubs. Make sure to water these.

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

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

Insects

• Watch 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.

• 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.