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Seasonal Tips: Big Projects

by Nellie Neal

Early spring’s the time to prune and fertilize evergreens to encourage new growth. Healthy plantings need only a trim and annual fertilizer to keep them growing. If that hedge looks sparse or only has leaves at the tips of each stem, rejuvenation is in order. Cut evergreen shrubs back by as much as half, or cut out dead limbs at ground level. Use a complete tree and shrub formula fertilizer after pruning and again in early summer to stimulate recovery.

Flowering shrubs set their buds for next year soon after blooming, so plan to prune them as the flowers fade.

As temperatures warm and lawns begin to green up, put fertilizer on your shopping list for turfgrasses and ground covers. Choose a complete formula, preferably with both fast and slow-release nitrogens to get lawns and evergreen groundcovers through the next three months. If you have flowering groundcovers, select a slow release fertilizer with less nitrogen in its formula.

Get a jump on cutworms, slugs, and snails that can destroy newly transplanted flowers and vegetables. Prevent their access with old fashioned barriers: put a collar on ‘em. Half-inch strips of cardboard wrapped around the little stems of peppers and tomatoes will keep cutworms from gaining a death grip. For clumping plants like petunias that slugs and snails adore, use a styrofoam plate collar. Slit the plate from one edge to the center and slide the plate around the plant. Keep the collars on until plants harden off.

In many parts of the country, spring delivers everything you need to start a terrific compost pile. Some trees, like red oak, seem to hold on to their last leaves forever, or at least until new growth pushes them off in early spring. At almost the same time, the lawn needs its first mowing. Combine the two, sprinkle the leaf pile with an organic nitrogen, and keep moist but not wet. For easy turning, put your compost pile in one bin and turn it with a fork into the other.



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