DIY Del Ray once again welcomes Eileen Powell, professional landscaper and garden consultant and author of The Gardener’s A-Z Guide to Growing Flowers from Seed to Bloom. Eileen has the following tips to ready your garden for spring and help make it look beautiful all season long.
It can be tricky figuring out the timing for some of the spring gardening jobs, especially in a year like this when spring arrived in February. One of the indicators you can use is the forsythia flowers. As soon as you see the first yellow buds opening, it’s time to get these jobs done.
1. Spruce Up Your Lawn
If you are prone to weeds, apply an organic gluten-based weed killer to the lawn. But, contrary to what Scott’s would tell you, spring is not the best time to feed lawns – that’s a job for the fall. Spring-fed lawns grow thick and lush and look terrific for a few weeks…until the first shock of heat and drought turns it sad, limp and gasping for water. For the rest of the season your lawn will be depleted, stressed and vulnerable to pests and disease.
If you feel the need to fuss with your lawn this spring, the best thing you can do is take soil samples to the Cooperative Extension Office for analysis to determine which nutrients it really needs.
2. Prune Roses
Cut back hybrid teas (the roses with the long stems) to 15-18 inches, leaving three to five healthy stems. Knockout roses (the bushy “shrub” roses) can be cut to any height, but because of their vigorous growth it’s hard to keep them shorter than their natural height.
3. Cut Back Ornamental Grasses
Liriope can be cut back hard with shears or a weed whacker; taller grasses, like Miscanthus or Pennisetum, should be cut with shears or hand pruners to about 12 inches.
4. Feed Your Bulbs
All bulbs should be fed once a year, but if you leave it until the fall, as many books suggest, you will have forgotten where they are. As soon as you see the leaves starting to emerge from the soil in spring, apply a bulb fertilizer (Bulb Tone is my favorite) and gently rake it into the soil.
5. Start Some Seeds
Spring is the season for starting plants from seed – such a fun and rewarding job! If you start vegetables indoors now, you’ll have healthy young plants ready to pop in the garden right after the last frost date (April 15).
Choose varieties that suit your particular objectives: tomatoes that mature early or have the best flavor; the most heat-tolerant lettuce, spinach or peas; specialty Asian vegetables that cost a fortune at Whole Foods; or diminutive varieties of common vegetables for small spaces.
Many annuals are a cinch to grow from seed. Spend a buck ninety-five on a packet of cosmos, marigold, alyssum, nicotiana or zinnea seeds, and in as little as six weeks you’ll start to see blooms. All of these plants can be started in the garden by following the simple instructions on the seed packets.
And an extra tip — Peas can be planted when forsythia come into bloom, but hold off on the tomatoes until the soil is really warm, around late April to early May. And don’t be tempted by the plants you’ll see in the nurseries before then!