Upper South

March, 2009
Regional Report

Prune Berries, Grapes, and Other Fruits

If you want just one large crop from everbearing raspberries in late summer, cut off all plants at ground level. For June-bearing raspberries and blackberries, remove canes that fruited last year. To prune currants and gooseberries, remove the oldest stems, suckers, and low stems, plus shorten main branches by one-half. For grapes, cut off the old fruiting arms, then choose and tie up four new canes and prune each back to six buds. Choose four other new canes and prune back to two buds to form renewal spurs.

Test Old Seeds

Wondering whether to use leftover seed from previous years? Test germination before planting them in the garden. Depending on the quantity of see, put at least ten or so seeds on half of a piece of moistened paper towel. Fold the towel over the seeds and keep warm and moist for several days up to a week. Ideally, at least 75 percent of the seeds should germinate. If fewer, either discard the seed or sow more thickly than normal. At least by testing the seeds, you'll know what to expect.

Little by Little, Uncover and Trim

Since there will still be freezing weather and possibly even snow, you don't want to remove all the winter mulch and top growth on perennials, but on those intermittent warm days, begin the process. Part of the charm of ornamental grasses is leaving them intact during the winter, but it's time to cut this growth back to the ground. For very large grasses, the tool of choice is a chainsaw. Any tops left on other perennials over the winter can be cut back now. You might want to consider keeping some small pine branches handy to lay over tender new growth if a severe cold spell is predicted.

Give the Lawn Some TLC

Fertilize lawns, either following manufacturer's recommendations on the package or using 3 to 4 pounds of actual nitrogen per 1000 square feet. If there are any damaged or bare areas, reseed these spots until early April. Rake off any loose or dead grass or weeds, then lightly loosen the soil with the rake, a hoe, or a small tiller. Use a grass seed mixture that is formulated the your sun or shade conditions. Some seed mixtures come packaged with a "built-in mulch," but if not, light cover the area with straw. If grubs or weeds are a problem, apply control now.

Indulge in Sweet Peas

One of the most glorious of garden scents is that of sweet peas. Being plants that flourish in cool weather, sow the seed any time that the soil can be worked in spring. Prepare the soil by working in composted manure and a high-phosphorus fertilizer. With a knife, nick the seed on the side away from the "eye." Dig a trench 3 inches deep and space seeds 2 inches apart. Use pea inoculant and cover with a half-inch of soil. As the plants grow, gradually fill in the trench. When the trench is full, mulch along the row, keep the plants evenly watered, and provide support for the vines.

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