Upper South

April, 2013
Regional Report

Make It Beautiful

It should go without saying that as the weather warms, you'll want to be outdoors, and this is the ideal time to get your garden in tip-top shape. If not already completed, finish cleaning flower beds and borders, removing the faded tops from perennials and all weeds. If any pruning is needed, do it now, except for spring-blooming trees and shrubs (prune these right after they finish blooming). Edge your garden areas as necessary and apply a complete fertilizer or compost and at least 2 to 3 inches of dark hardwood mulch, which helps improve the quality of your soil.

Plant, But Plan for Protection

Vegetable and herb transplants we've started indoors as well as those filling garden center shelves all entice us to get them planted into the garden. But, there's still a chance for frosts throughout the month of April. For the most frost-sensitive plants, like basil, it's best to wait to plant until all danger of frost is past. Cool-weather crops, such as cabbage or broccoli, are fine to plant now. Although tomatoes and peppers will be killed by frost, it's possible to plant them now if you provide some type of protection. You can use commercially available plant covers or make a homemade version from gallon milk jugs.

Don't Rely On Your Memory

The flowers of spring-blooming bulbs are all the more glorious because of their appearance after the gray days of winter. Once you start growing a few of them, most of us want to add more. But, come fall planting time, how well can you remember where the now-dormant bulbs are planted. Don't risk digging into already existing bulb plantings. Take photos and make notes now of your bulb plantings so that you'll be able to tell exactly where they are in your garden. And while you're at it, make note of types of bulbs or colors that you want to add.

Experiment With Container Plantings

Containers overflowing with plants are a great way to experiment with different color combinations from year to year as well as the ever-widening variety of annuals becoming more available. There's also a trend to add trees, shrubs, and ornamental grasses as well as herbs to container plantings. Have you tried any of these yet? Be sure to also experiment with containers in different parts of your yard, even in borders as beds, as well as the more traditional areas around decks and patios. To make container plantings more sustainable, try adding super-absorbent polymer water crystals to the potting mix, which aid in water retention and reduce watering frequency.

Do Your Research

Thinking about adding plants to an existing garden area or creating a new area this spring? In choosing what to plant, it's easy to succumb to whatever is in bloom or looks good at the garden center. If you're doing this on your own, without the help of a professional designer, it's important to choose what is best for your garden, not what randomly catches your eye. Evaluate your site, especially in terms of soil type and light conditions. Have a general idea of what type of plants you want. Then, go window shopping, jotting down plant names that you think will work. Now go home and read about them in books or on the Internet. Only then are you prepared to make the best selection that will grow successfully in your garden.

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