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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

home : features : inside & out September 14, 2014

3/8/2013 10:00:00 PM
Column: Take 7 tasks to a successful landscape
Courtesy photoWith its fragrant, sassily ruffled blossoms there is nothing shy or retiring about “Flirty Skirts Pansy.”
Courtesy photo
With its fragrant, sassily ruffled blossoms there is nothing shy or retiring about “Flirty Skirts Pansy.”
Ken Lain
The Mountain Gardener

This weekend many schools begin their spring breaks, and at the Lains' house spring break has a specific meaning to our resident teenagers. They know that they get to help wrap up spring garden tasks essential to kick off the planting season. There are things I do every spring to get ready for the growing season, and they don't take long to knock out with the help of my in-house volunteers. As usual, this year's goal is for all of these chores to be completed by the end of March.

Here, related in order of importance, are my seven springtime tasks for a successful landscape.

1. Prune - Finish pruning everything in the yard including roses, fruit trees, and summer blooming shrubs. Then rake up old leaves, cut back dead growth on perennials and remove dead leftover annuals and vegetables from beds and containers.

2. Prevent weeds - Apply "Crabgrass & Weed Preventer" before the next weather system hits. This granular seed killer will keep the worst of the early spring foxtails, dandelions, horehound, and crabgrass from emerging in rock lawns and flowerbeds. Preventer must be applied before the weeds emerge or it will be too late to be effective. One bag will treat 5,200 square feet, so plan on one for the backyard and one for the front.

3. Kill bugs - Aphids were really bad last fall, and they are hibernating in our landscapes waiting for warm weather to bring them back to life. These pests are easily eliminated with an application of liquid "All Season Spray Oil." All fruit trees should be sprayed before their spring bloom. Roses and anything else that had aphid issues last fall should get oil-drenched while the hose end sprayer are in hand.

4. Feed plants - "All Purpose Plant Food" 7-4-4 is my go-to food for most things in the yard. This all-natural plant food contains cottonseed meal, bird guano, sulfur, iron and a little magic ingredient for a kick that will make for the brightest landscapes and the most abundant flowers. In my landscape, even the native pine and junipers are treated to this hearty meal.

At the same time that garden beds are fed, I administer "Soil Sulfur." This magic mineral greens up evergreens and enhances the fragrance of the early spring bloomers such as lilacs. If you are uncertain about what, when, and how to feed your garden, stop by Watters and ask for the free handout of my "4-Step Program to Feeding the Landscape."

5. Dress beds - Top dress flowerbeds and shrub and tree roots with a 2-inch layer of premium composted mulch. A springtime layer of mulch will insulate the roots from cold nights and the drying effects of our spring winds. This simple act keeps weeds at bay and encourages better root formation.

6. Kill scale - Native pine scale has already begun its dastardly assault and will take over its victims by the end of March. Watch for signs, then treat and eliminate this pest with my strategically designed "Plant Protector." One liquid treatment serves for the entire year and it doesn't take an arborist to do the work. A bottle of Plant Protector and a two-gallon watering can is all that is needed. The product takes 30 days to be completely absorbed so early treatment is a no-brainer.

7. Plant Flowers and veggies - Go ahead and plant early spring flowers and vegetables as soon as the soil is ready. Cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower plants, garlic and onion sets already have arrived at garden centers. Pansies, violas, dusty miller, English primroses, poppies and early spring blooming perennials also are ready to be planted. All of these plants thrive in the warm days and chilly nights of spring.

That's my to-do list of spring gardening essentials. Favor your garden with these minimal maintenance tasks and you'll find your spring flowers brighter, evergreens greener, and your spring growth more exciting than ever!

In my garden, if all goes as planned, my potatoes, garlic, broccoli, and onions will be planted along with some early spring pansies and kale to spruce up those empty flowers beds and containers.

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

Plant of the Week is the Flirty Skirts Pansy. "Shy" pansies? Not with Flirty Skirts! These blooms seem to beam up at us! The frilly, cheery blossoms fill the air with their true pansy scent, delivering a lot of enjoyment for the gardening dollar. This is the perfect accent plant for flowerbeds, hanging baskets, strawberry pots and containers of all sizes. In a window box, Flirty Skirts presents itself for close up viewing pleasure. Wherever you decide to use this pansy, plant it with the confidence that its flowers will continue through the remaining winter weather, right up until temperatures become too warm for it to thrive.

Until next week, I'll see you in the garden center.

Throughout the week, Ken Lain is at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Road, Prescott, and can be contacted through his web site at www.wattersonline.com. Ken says, "My personal mission is to help local homeowners garden better in our mountain landscapes."

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