Author Linda Cobb
Master Gardener Linda Cobb

Linda Cobb is a garden writer and certified Master Gardener who lives in Spartanburg, South Carolina. She is the author of My Gardener's Guide: Easy Steps to a Better Garden.

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Our Garden by Linda Cobb

Spring 2016

After a slightly mild winter, I am ready for spring. I can tell that it is around the corner! Here are a few important tips to get you started for the spring prep that needs to be done.

Winter is leaving the building and springtime is knocking at the door.  You must get ready for spring and here is how you do it.  First you will need to clean up all the garden beds.  It is time to cut down all the spent dead foliage on your perennials and trim them back making them look cleaner and neater.  After the garden is all cleaned up, and the beds raked, it is time to take a brief walk thru the garden to see how it looks.  Make a mental note of where there are spaces that need some new plants. 

Also look at what perennials need dividing.  Now is the best time to divide some of those huge daylilies and hostas.  Lift them out of the ground, and unceremoniously chop them into three of four pieces.  You can plant two of the pieces and give away the third piece. That is the gardener’s golden rule, to share.

Prune the roses reducing the size by half.  Remember that pruning those shrubs tightly will make them bloom better this summer.  Be firm and merciless about what to trim off.  Remember the more you cut the more the shrub rose will grow and bloom.  Also take out the dead canes in the middle of the shrub.  Here is an important tip for those ever popular knock out roses.  Trim the top one-third off of them every Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day religiously!!  Then feed the knockout roses one cup of 10-10-10 for each shrub or bush.

Now is the time to cut off all of the wintered over hydrangea blooms.  I leave mine on the bush throught he winter for winter interest and the birds.  They use that material to build nests.  Speaking of the birds, I am sure that you have noticed how loud they are right now.  That is a sure sign of spring.  I clean out my birdhouses with long kitchen tongs and scrub out the bird baths and fill them with fresh water.  I have made my visit to Wildbirds Unlimited and purchased the giant bags of Supreme Bird seed mix along with some thistle seed for the yellow and red finches.  I will keep my birdfeeders clean and filled.  I go out and check the holes in the feeders every so often, as bad westher can clog up those holes and when no bird seed comes out the birds will cease to feed there.  I want to invite nature into my garden.

What is a trace element?  It is things like copper, iron, boron.  These nutrients come down in rainfall and they are very beneficial to our plants.  So to be sure my plants are getting enough of them I only use trace element fertilizer.  It does make a difference, big time!  It is time to feed and prune your standard hybrid tea and English roses.  After cutting them down to three to four feet, feed each bush with one half cup of Epsom salts.  Throw it on the ground and let it dissolve into the soil.  It will help them to wake up and grow.

Spring is the time to feed those perennials, and other flowering shrubs. This perennial feed formula is so strong that once a year is all that is needed.  In a large wheel barrel, mix in by volume (a bucket of each to measure) one third peat moss (that is the buffer), one third cottonseed meal (that is a long term organic feed), and one third 10-10-10 with trace elements.  Mix it all up with a shovel and apply to your perennials.  It is very important to remember to not get any of this mix on the leaves of your plants.  Scatter it on the ground without touching any leaves.  Let’s talk about how much feed formula and who gets it.  If you are a cone flower or daylily sized plant, feed it one half cup per bush.  If you are a peony feed three fourths of a cup.  If you have clematis vines that will not bloom, feed one cup to the vine.  Weigela and especially all hydrangeas get this miracle feed potion.  The feed should be dug into the ground and then watered in.  But if you are organized you can apply it and then mulch over it without digging it in.  Annuals should be fed a little 10-10-10 with trace elements one a month April through October.

Finally and most importantly it is time to mulch all your garden beds.  I put down 2 inches of mulch every spring without fail.  I use nothing but TRIPLE GROUND HARDWOOD MULCH.  This is very small pieces no bigger than my fingernails.  Over the course of the year,it breaks down and goes into my soil, enriching it.  I have terrific soil.  You can dig in my garden with a teaspoon anywhere because I have been doing this for 24 years.  Using tiny hardwood mulch benefits your soil as well as protects the plants.

After you finish all of these chores, sit down and take a break.  Close your eyes and dream about how great your plants are going to look. 

Posted by Linda on Feb 04, 2016

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