March winds are blowing. Daffodils have popped their bright and sunny heads out of the ground. The Japanese magnolia — saucer magnolia — is blooming. Forsythia is dancing in the breeze. Quince blooms have been spotted. The 2022 calendar says Sunday, March 20, is the arrival date of the spring equinox or the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Hold on! Please do not start buying everything in the garden center, yet.
The weather during March is unpredictable. I kept my recess coat at school until after Blackberry Winter. That is the term my grandfather used for the cool temperatures when the blackberries were in bloom. I have no scientific knowledge to back it up, but I have observed it to be about the last wintry weather. I noted that it thundered in February. Will we have frost in April? There will be plenty to do in the yard and gardens before it is time to plant most of your annuals in the garden and flower beds.
You have time to plant roses, azaleas and hollies. Fruit trees can be added to your orchard. Cold weather annuals like sweet William, English daisies and pansies can also be planted. Cool-season vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale and cabbage, can soon be planted. Get the ground prepared to plant spinach, lettuce, radishes, beets and greens.
Do you use monkey grass, mondo grass or liriope in your landscape? Penny and Josh always knew trimming was a spring break project. Trimming is not mandatory but is recommended. You will notice the tips are often brown and just do not look very neat as it ages. Trim before the new leaves appear to avoid dull edges on each new leaf. It can be trimmed back with the lawnmower on its highest setting. If you prefer a bit neater project, hand-trimming with your sharp hand clippers will work, also. Cut back to about three inches. Hand pull the spring weeds and apply about 2-4 inches of mulch to keep weeds from returning.
Pruning may be needed to maintain or achieve desired shape, aesthetics, or proportion of woody-stemmed plants in the landscape. Your forsythia, quince, lilacs, spirea, azaleas and other spring-flowering shrubs should be pruned right after blooming and before new growth begins. Evergreen shrubs should be maintained and trimmed in late winter or early spring before new growth appears. Avoid pruning shrubs after midsummer to avoid winter damage of new growth, which can be stimulated by the trimming. Remember to enhance the natural shape of your shrubs and trees, which can usually be done with tip pruning. Remove crisscrossing branches. Dying or dead branches may be pruned anytime during the growth cycle. Remove diseased or insect-infested branches, also to prevent the spread of infection. A well-clipped plant is continually being rejuvenated.
If you applied a heavy winter mulch, pull it away from the plants gradually as they show signs of growth. The mulch will continue to protect the plants from the sudden changes in Mississippi temperature and the chill of the wind.
As those beautiful daffodil blooms fade, remember to leave the foliage in place. The drying greenery is feeding the bulb for next year.
Happy spring gardening!
Former elementary teacher and avid gardener Olivia Sansing lives in the New Hope community and shares timely tips on behalf of the Lowndes County Master Gardeners.
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