Mid-Atlantic

March, 2011
Regional Report

Cut Back Shrubby Dogwoods For New Growth

We prize the colorful, new growth on red-osier, Tatarian/red-twig, and gray shrubby dogwoods and their cultivars. To stir young stem growth, prune hard in spring. When its buds swell, the red-osier is best cut back to the ground. For the Tatarian/red-twig dogwood, remove one-third or more stems to make room for new red twigs. The gray dogwood holds a nice contrast -- older gray wood and newer reddish-brown twigs. Prune away some of the oldest stems and thin out some young stems. That will open up the dense shrub and stimulate colorful new branches.

Clip Twiggy Leadwort

Hardy plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides) is an autumn favorite. Its deep blue flowers last long into fall. Its pointed oval leaves bring rich mahogany-red to the late season garden. Now, come spring, its thin brown stems are a twiggy mess. Shear or clip off them all off. Then be patient. Leadwort is slow to green up.

Repair Turf

This winter has likely left many lawns with mud patches and damaged spots. There are two ways to regrow green on a bare patch. Reseed or apply a piece of turf. Both start with cutting a circle or half-moon 4 to 5 inches deep around the damaged area. Lift up that turf piece, shaking the soil off the roots back onto the ground. Add compost. If sowing seed, even out the top, toss on seed, apply another inch of compost, then firm the soil. For turf, add less compost, leaving enough room for the thick turf piece. Press turf into the compost. Water well with a fine spray daily till you see sprouting grass or the turf looks established.

Seed Grass

To reseed or apply turf to a larger area, rough up and rake the soil. Remove weeds by hand. To reseed, select grass seed appropriate for the light and moisture conditions. Mix grass seed with compost and apply so there's one inch of seed/compost mix over the entire area. For turf, rough up and rake the soil. Weed. Mix compost with the original soil. Lay turf so it's level everywhere. Water well for 30 minutes, soaking with a gentle spray. Water daily till grass sprouts or turf roots are established.

Clean Up Winter Debris

Remove branches, leaves, dead stems, and other debris from garden beds, shrub borders, and the yard. Leaves can go in the compost pile. Put branches and garden debris in paper bags for municipal yard waste pickup. Branches tend to be too large to decompose quickly enough for the compost pile and residual pests on other debris are likely to survive home composting's low temperatures.

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