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Coastal Gardening

Getting plants ready for the early spring

By Bob Hearle

It’s hard to believe that this is the fifth column and spring has arrived early. The Bradford pears burst into bloom literally overnight, bringing a welcome relief of color. The redbuds followed quickly thereafter.

We still need to be cautious about overnight temperatures reaching into the lower 30s, especially for new seedlings we are trying to harden off. Continue to check your seedlings for moisture and light. When the first two true leaves appear it is time to consider moving them outdoors in preparation for planting.

Review your soil analysis and begin to prepare your beds for spring by applying the appropriate fertilizer and working it into the soil.

Fertilize winter blooming plants with a slow release 20-20-20 fertilizer and apply a balanced fertilizer to your spring flowering bulbs when leaves appear. A balanced, complete fertilizer is one containing nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium in equal amounts. How much of each depends on the soil analysis. If your soil is “excessive” in one of the nutrients do not add any more. My garden is excessive in phosphorous and so I will add 15-0-15, containing no P.

Move your houseplants outdoors when all danger of frost is over. Here it would safely be after April 15. Repot those that are pot bound and use the same container with fresh soil. Remember some house plants have very specific soil requirements, if you are not sure check with your local garden center. Check for aphids and spider mites. Spray with Insecticidal soap and rinse with water.

Warm weather lawns - St. Augustine, centipede, zoysia and Bermuda - should be cut low and collect the cuttings. Dethatch if more than 1/2-inch thick. Use a metal rake or for large areas rent a power de-thatcher. Use a fertilizer with pre-release to prevent weeds from starting.

Plant your perennials when they become available or arrive by mail. Also those you grew from seed when there are two true leaves showing.

Fertilize with a slow release balanced fertilizer. When your soil is somewhat sandy the slow release helps to slow down leeching (loss) of fertilizer in heavy rains. Remember to fertilize and prune spring flowering shrubs after they bloom. (See previous column on pruning.)

Once your plants have become established in the garden remember they need fertilizing, again with slow release, and watering. Tomatoes need to be root watered with a soaker hose or drip irrigation. They do not like being watered from over head.

These are some of the more important immediate things to do for a successful gardening season.

Bob Hearle is a certified master gardener who lives and gardens at Pawleys Island.

Previous columns

  • Reading your soil test
  • Prune plants for health and to promote growth
  • Seed propagation
  • Introduction / Soil tests

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