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Spring’s here!

Time to get busy in the garden

Spring awakens our primal urge to get outdoors and plant something. Garden centers are filled with flowers and greenery galore — some old favorites and new varieties. It’s easy for me to overbuy, and at this stage of my life, getting everything in the ground can be a daunting task.I must remind myself at every turn not to overdo it.

As spring begins, there’s much to do in the garden to rejuvenate older beds and replant things that may have succumbed to the winter chill. Take stock of what needs replacing, filling in bare areas that may accept an exciting new plant.

I walk around my garden, pen and notepad in hand, taking stock of needs and wants for the gardening year. Tasks may include cleaning up winter debris, pruning dead wood and stems and planting and mulching beds.


• If you haven’t taken a soil sample within the last three years, do so now. Soil test kits are available through your Mississippi State University Extension Service office. The cost is minimal compared to the excellent service the Extension Soil Testing Lab provides.

A diagnostic printout will be e-mailed to you within a few weeks. As the lab receives requests from many farmers and homeowners, the earlier you send in your sample, the sooner you’ll receive results.

• March also is a good time to divide flowering perennials, which should be done every three to four years. Wait until new growth so each division will have roots, stems and foliage.

• Cut back liriope using the highest setting on your mower. Liriope fronds tend to decline each year and will look much better trimmed back each spring. Fertilize and water well.

• Trim ornamental grasses like muhly and pampas to 12 inches and fertilize lightly, being careful not to cut off tips of any new growth. Divide if too large.

• Fertilize azaleas, camellias and other acid-loving plants with acid-forming fertilizer, 8-8-8 or 16-4-8. It’s important to use fertilizer specifically for azaleas, as standard fertilizers may contain nitrate nitrogen that will damage the roots of this plant. Prune after booming.

• Fertilize palms and sagos with a special palm food that contains magnesium and other nutrients they need. Poor nutrition is one of the main problems affecting palms in this area.

• Use slow-release nitrogen fertilizer in a formula of 12-4-8 or 16-4-8 on your lawn after green-up at the end of March. Weed-and-feed formula is not recommended. Timing for weeds and grass growth is different, so trying to treat them both at the same time is not effective and a waste of your garden budget.

• Before you start digging in your beds, try some simple bending and stretching exercises. Throwing out your back or pulling a hamstring will delay your garden fun.

Written by Darlene Underwood

Darlene Underwood is a Mississippi master gardener, national
accredited flower show judge and Garden Clubs of Mississippi
third vice-president. Reach her at

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