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Do last-minute chores now

By Sharon Omahen
University of Georgia

Spring has "sprung." But if you hurry, you can still work in those last-minute winter gardening chores.

"This is the last call for many winter garden jobs," said Willie Chance, a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension agent in Houston County. "Try to do these chores as soon as possible, before your plants really start growing."

These "winter" gardening chores include controlling pests, fertilizing plants and even transplanting.

Check for scale insects

"Now is the time to control scale insects on branches of shrubs and trees," Chance said.

Check for overwintering infestations of scale insects on evergreen plants like camellias, cleyeras and hollies. If you find them, he recommends using a dormant oil spray. However, if your plants have begun to bud or leaf out, he said, use other insecticides for control.

Mulching isn't just a winter-preparation chore. Chance recommends adding a 3- to 4-inch layer now to control weeds and keep the soil moist. Add mulch to fruit, vegetable, shrub and flowering plants.

"There are many sources of free or inexpensive mulch," he said. "So you have no reason not to mulch."

Fertilize and trim

Fertilize pecan trees now with a fertilizer containing zinc. "Pecans require zinc to make their leaves stronger and to help in kernel development," he said.

If you use 10-10-10 fertilizer, apply 1 pound to new trees and 4 pounds per inch of trunk diameter (at chest height) to older trees. Spread it evenly around the tree, well beyond the drip line, or the point to which the branches reach.

Fertilize bulbs, too, as soon as they come up. After they bloom, let the foliage die back naturally.

"This allows the bulb to store energy for next year's blooms," Chance said. "If you want to move bulbs, mark where they're growing and then transplant them after the foliage dies back."

If your landscape includes liriope, remove the old foliage. "You can use a mower set on the highest setting or a weed eater," Chance said. "Cutting liriope back removes the old, ugly and blighted leaves."

Removed the old foliage before new growth starts. To check for new growth, look in the center of the plant for new leaves.

If your landscape includes mondo grass, also known as dwarf lily turf or monkey grass, don't mow it. "Sheared mondo grass foliage doesn't grow back as well as liriope foliage," Chance said.

Prune and transplant

Prune crape myrtles, chaste trees (Vitex), hollies, roses and other summer-blooming shrubs as soon as possible. Many other shrubs can be pruned now, too.

Wait until spring-flowering plants, such as azaleas, camellias, forsythias, quince and spireas, have finished blooming before pruning them. And even then, you shouldn't shear these plants, he said. Selectively remove branches to maintain the beauty and shape of the plants.

"Prune trees as little as possible," Chance said. "Don't give them an overall shearing. This can ruin their shape. Instead, remove individual branches completely back to where they're attached to the main branch."

If you have nandinas in your landscape, you know they grow like bamboo, with long canes and leaves at the tops of the branches.

Chance suggests pruning nandinas by cutting one-third of the canes at one-third of the plant's height. Prune another third at two-thirds of its height, and leave one-third alone.

"This should make the plant bushy," he said. "Mahonia and Aucuba can also be pruned this way."

You can still transplant trees and shrubs, Chance said. But do it as soon as possible. "Fall is best time to transplant, but now is OK, too," he said. "The later you wait, the lower their chance of survival."

For more information on these and other lawn, landscape and garden topics, contact your local UGA Cooperative Extension office at 1-800-ASK-UGA1.

(Sharon Omahen is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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