Upper South

April, 2009
Regional Report

Prepare for Cold Spells

Spring, unfortunately, is not one straight, upward line, but a series of warm and cool periods. Some of those cool periods can even include frost. Many of the perennials, trees, and shrubs in the established in the garden can readily survive. Frost can be devastating to newer plantings and to fruit trees, as well as to frost-tender annuals. Wait until the frost date (usually early May) to plant the tender annuals. For others, depending upon how cold the weather is predicted, put cardboard boxes, old sheets, or other material over the plants.

Plant and Care for Roses

Hydrate bare-root roses in a pail of water for a day before planting. Dig a hold 2 feet wide and as deep. When planting, set the graft union of budded roses 2 inches below the soil line. Remove winter protection and prune established roses by removing dead or damaged canes, cutting back to green wood. Spread rose food around established and newly planted roses. Many gardeners also like to add a half-cup of Epsom salts around roses in spring.

Give Bare-Root Plants TLC

Open the package of bare-root plants immediately and inspect the contents. Transplant as soon as possible. If not possible to transplant right away, pot them up and maintain in a sheltered spot.

Prune and Prune Some More

Except for spring-blooming shrubs and trees, this is an ideal time to prune trees and shrubs. For those blooming now, prune as soon as flowering is over. The main goals in pruning are to remove branches that rub together, those that mar the symmetry or appearance, and to thin out the interior of plants. Always make pruning cuts on an angle, preferable just above an outward facing bud. Unsure of how to prune a certain plant? There are many sources of information on the Internet as well as excellent books on pruning.

Enjoy Rhubarb

Rhubarb is the first "fruit" of the gardening year. Discard the leaves, which are poisonous, and use the stems to make classic desserts like pies and cobblers. Rhubarb is also excellent made into chutneys or relishes to serve with pork, chicken, or fish. It freezes well, or it can be used to make jams and marmalades, especially when combined with strawberries. Rhubarb is easy to grow, but requires several years to become established. Choose a sunny site with well-drained soil enriched with compost.

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