Monday, May 20, 2024

Get It Growing: Spring showers to summer flowers checklist

by BPT Staff
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By Heather Kirk-Ballard | LSU AgCenter Horticulturist

As we transition from the lower temperatures of winter to the vibrant energy of spring, gardeners throughout the state are rolling up their sleeves, ready to nurture their green spaces into lush, blooming spaces. This comprehensive guide is your ally, from prepping your lawn for its first spring cut to ensuring your vegetable garden flourishes into the heat of the summer season.

Both your lawn and landscape beds demand attention to keep weeds at bay. A combination of selective herbicides or organic alternatives such as citrus and clove oil can effectively combat broadleaf weeds. Remember, a successful spring garden begins with diligent winter weed control. Ensure your beds are mulch-rich with a 2-to-4-inch layer to conserve moisture, deter weeds and maintain soil temperature.

As we move into warmer weather, it’s time to grow your warm-season vegetable crops. Vegetables are demanding and thrive with extra nutrients. A side dressing of a nitrogen source, thoroughly watered in, will encourage robust growth. Whether growing from seeds or starting from transplants, be sure to amend vegetable gardens with nutrient rich composts that will support the growth of produce.

Vegetable plants benefit from and require more frequent fertilizer applications throughout the season because they are producing, making them heavy feeders. Slow-release fertilizers can be incorporated at planting time for extended nutrient release. Side dress with calcium nitrate at the first and third bloom set. Additionally, some growers use liquid fertilizers every other week.

Right now is a great time to get those vegetable gardens growing. It is also a great time to plant fruit trees and shrubs. According to extension specialist Kiki Fontenot, these are the vegetable plants you should be planting this month and what you should be doing.

Plant snap bean and butter beans. Butter beans and lima beans require a little more heat to germinate and grow nicely, so April is a great month to get them growing.

Radishes, collards, cucumbers, eggplants, cantaloupes, okra, Southern peas (field peas), peanuts, pumpkins, winter squash, summer squash, sweet corn, sweet potatoes (late April), tomatoes (transplants), peppers (transplants) and watermelons are also great to be planted this month.

Like butter beans, okra really needs warm soil to germinate, so you may need to wait until the middle of the month or even later. You also can soak okra seed for a few hours in water or scratch the surface with sandpaper to help with germination.

As temperatures climb, ensure your climbing vegetables have the support they need. Also keep an eye on moisture levels, adjusting your watering schedule to promote deep root development.

In the lawn, beyond the basic mowing that kicked off in March for many gardeners, ensure your grass is as weed free as possible to give turfgrasses a fighting chance. It is also the time to address any nutrient deficiencies with appropriate fertilization, ensuring your lawn comes back to life with vigor. Soil tests are the best way to determine if you need to fertilize. Many homeowners unnecessarily fertilize their lawns every spring and summer. Another task to consider is dethatching and aerating your lawn to promote healthy spring growth.

This is an excellent time to plant flowering trees and shrubs for a colorful summer display. Apply mulch around trees and shrubs to help conserve moisture, taking special care with spring-flowering varieties like azaleas and camellias, pruning and fertilizing them only after they’ve completed their spring bloom. Apply acid-loving fertilizers for shrubs such as camellias and azaleas.

Encourage a bustling ecosystem in your fruit garden by attracting pollinators with flowering annuals, perennials and native plant selections.

Vigilance against pests is crucial; opt for horticultural oils as a natural defense. Monitor your plants for signs of stress and adjust care accordingly.

For those battling insect pests such as aphids, an early application of neem oil or horticulture oil will safeguard your trees through summer. Roses require a keen eye for aphids, thrips and cucumber beetles, especially for gardens near vegetable patches. Remember that many insecticides can be harmful to pollinators, small mammals and birds. Look for organic options and always follow the label.

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