Garden Tips for the Month

Spring is the time to fertilize your permanent plantings. Most ornamental trees, bushes, lawns and ground covers will respond well to fertilizer right now. In good years, abundant spring rains green up the hillsides and bring out wildflowers, gardeners don’t have to water as much, and salts are leached out of our soils. On the other hand, heavy rains also wash soluble nutrients, especially nitrogen, down to lower levels–sometimes out of reach of roots. In that case, fertilize the basic landscape with a complete granulated fertilizer high in nitrogen. If you have a straggly ground cover that’s never quite covered the ground, a sprinkling of granulated fertilizer as soon as the weather warms will do wonders. Water it in thoroughly or apply it when the weatherman says that it’s going to rain.

This doesn’t mean you should simply fertilize everything in sight. Many plants fall into the broad category of specialty plants because they require special handling. Some specialty plants, including cacti, succulents, and native plants, have little or no need for fertilizer. Others, like azaleas, ferns, roses, fruit trees, and vegetables have unique requirements. Ask one of our knowledgeable garden center experts about the best amendments for your own garden’s individual needs.

There are other exceptions, too. Old overgrown gardens in rich soil sometimes become virtual jungles, feeding on their own refuse. To fertilize a garden when there’s no sign of nitrogen deficiency–like stunted growth, yellow leaves, or disease–may simply contribute to more growth. Growth requires constant pruning, and once invasive plants have become established, you will wish you had never planted them at all. Feeding them would make their growth even more unrestrained.

Plant new permanent specimens. Spring is one of only two optimal planting times each year, when gardeners plant almost anything grown in the permanent landscape, such as trees, shrubs, vines, and ground covers. The other is autumn. Planting in fall is traditionally considered to be just a bit better than planting in spring, but after a year or two you’ll never know the difference.

Now through early summer is the time to look your garden over: objectively look at its strengths and weaknesses; replace troublemakers you don’t like; and add permanent specimens where needed. Choose drought-tolerant plants over heavy water users if you can, and be sure to group plants according to their needs for water, sun shade, and soil type. Before purchasing any plant, research its requirements and growth habits.

We would be happy to help you select the best plants, amendments, and fertilizers for your specific landscape. You’ll be on your way to building a better garden this year!