Gardening Matters

I saw this year’s first fully bloomed daffodils this week. To my unscientific estimation, this is a bit earlier than we usually see them. I am taking this as a harbinger of the coming springtime and the need for me to get my keister off the couch and out into the yard.

I usually start the springtime garden work with some feelings of being overwhelmed. When I look at my yard I see so many things that need to be raked, trimmed, fertilized, pruned, dug up, re-located, staked up and generally weeded that I get feeling like I am facing some impossible Sisyphean task.

This lasts a few days before I am able to start breaking down my list of tasks into manageable chunks. I’ll start with small areas of the yard and do what is needed there, then I’ll move on to other areas and before I know it, most of my work is done or I have rationalized a reason to ignore certain chores. (I’m really good at such rationalizations.)

Last year I cleared out a large area that had been taken over by vines and privet. Well, actually I didn’t do the clearing, but I did pay for it to be done by fit and able younger men.

I now have this wonderful blank canvas to paint with new plants and shrubs. I’m basically thinking of using lots of ferns and small stands of woody shrubs such as azaleas, Florida anise, camellias and other shade-loving flowering bushes.

I’d also like to put in mass planting of heucheras, foam flowers and a few patches of some traditional wildflowers that would be suitable for that area of my years. I’d love a small drift of May apples and a Mountain laurel or two.

But enough about me. Here’s some things at Walter Reeves suggests you can do to get started on your own garden chores.

Get a soil test. You can’t know how much lime or fertilizer you need without getting a soil test to see the level of key nutrients in your soil. Most lawn service companies do not do soil tests, but they then go adding lime and fertilizer all willy-nilly without regard for what you really need. Do yourself a favor, get a soil test done. Contact your county extension office (DeKalb Co. at 404-298-4080; Fulton Co. at 404-613-7670) and request a soil kit and instructions. The cost is $10.00.

Now is the time to plant peas, onions and asparagus if you haven’t done so already. Broccoli, cabbages and Brussels sprouts can be planted now, too.

Use the remaining cool weather period to build some raised bed gardening boxes. The internet is chock full of designs and instructions for doing this. It will improve your garden yields and the health of your plants.

Cut back butterfly bushes by up to two-thirds to encourage increased growth and blooms this summer.

Set your lawn mower on its highest setting and trim up any monkey grass (Liriope) that has gotten unsightly this winter. It will come back nicely with the warm weather in March and April.

If you have shrubs that you think are in need of pruning, do yourself a huge favor and check out Walter Reeves’s pruning calendar before you start lopping away at your bushes. Go to walterreves.com and use his search box to find his pruning calendar. If you have any doubts about when to prune specific bushes, this is the place to get clarification on an often confusing topic.

It is going to be in the 20s tonight and snow is occasionally blowing in the air when I look out my window while writing this, but spring is just around the corner and we can all look forward to one of God’s great gifts, springtime in Atlanta.

Now get to work.

Jeff Coghill has been gardening in DeKalb County for more than 35 years and has probably killed at least one of each kind of plant he has tried before getting another one to thrive. He is a gardening volunteer at the Dunwoody Nature Center and works closely with members of the DeKalb Master Gardeners group. He can be reached at gardeningmatters@hotmail.com.

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