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Gardening Tips: March

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Garden Pond Start Up:
With spring just around the corner its time to get your pond or water feature ready for summer. The first thing is to clean out as much of the organic materials that have fallen into the water as possible (leaves, twigs, and any other plant debris). Pull all filters and flush them with water or replace worn or damaged filters if necessary, install pump and turn on. Spring is the best time to pot or repot water lilies and other aquatics plants.

Spring Clean Up:
With spring approaching, it is time to get out in the garden and start cleaning up. Cut back perennials of all dead growth remaining from last season. Also cut back all ornamental grasses that are still left standing from last year. Cut all the larger grasses to about 8 to 10 inches from the ground. Also cut back liriope to the ground; this plant looks much better if it is cleaned up every spring and left to come back as new shoots. Clean up all leaves and branches that have fallen on lawn and bed areas, being sure to clean up all leaves in and under all plants to get ready for the coming growing season.

Pre-emergent herbicide:
With warm weather coming, it is time to apply pre-emergent herbicide to lawn and bed areas to help control weeds. The timing on this is very important; the fertilizer needs to be applied before the ground temperatures warm enough for germination, usually indicated by the early blooming of the forsythia. Another important fact about pre-emergent herbicide is that it needs to be watered in soon after it is applied. The longer it lies on the surface, the more it will degrade and break down. This product can be applied up to a month or so before weeds start to germinate. This product lasts about 60 to 90 days, depending on weather and irrigation. After that, it can be re-applied; check the label to see how much material can be applied to an area in one season without burning plant material. Also check the label for the list of plants which will be harmed by these herbicides. Some plants are very herbicide sensitive. When this product is applied and watered in, it will move into the top couple of inches of soil and form a weed barrier. This herbicide will help to kill weeds right after germination, when the weeds are very small. It can be applied at any time throughout the growing season, but it will not affect weeds that germinate before the application. This spring application is very important, as well as a fall application before the end of August. Germination of weeds slows down though the hot, dry summer months.

Pruning roses:
When all winter protection has been removed, it is time to prune roses. Start by cutting out any dead or broken branches back to a healthy bud. Use of hand pruners, loppers, or a hand saw will help in this process. Always be sure your tools are sharp and clean. Cut through the stems without crushing them. The use of rubbing alcohol sprayed on pruner blades and saw blades will help to disinfect the tools to prevent spreading disease from one cut to another or from one plant to another. Most shrub roses should be cut back to about 18 to 24 inches in height, at a fresh bud; this is the best time to do this. This makes it easy to control the vigorous growth habit of the plant.

Dividing perennials:
Many perennials and ornamental grasses grow in a clump form. As these clumps increase in size, the nutrients may not reach the center of the plant, which will start to die from the center out. To keep these plants vigorous and blooming, a technique known as division is used. Dividing perennials and grasses provides a healthier and longer plant life. When do I divide my plants? This depends on the type of plant and its growth habit. Any clumps that have tripled their size within a 2 to 5 year period are ready for division; no need to wait until the plant starts to die in the center. Spring is the best time to divide, just as the new growth is emerging because the roots can be disturbed and do not have much top foliage growth to support. Also, the weather is cool and there is adequate moisture in the soil; the root systems are full of stored energy, which will help the plant recover from this transplanting. Start by digging at the drip line of the clump. You will need to dig down and under to remove it from the ground. There are two basic methods of dividing; one is to cut the plant apart, the other is to gently pull the plant apart by hand. You will be able to determine which method to use by closely examining the clump after it is dug out. One good method of separating a real fibrous clump is to insert two garden forks back to back and pulling them apart to separate the clumps. These clumps should be divided down to at least 25 percent of the original clump. Each new division should have 2 to 3 new shoots and a good mass of roots. Discard the woody, old center and only replant the best of these new divisions. Plant these new divisions at the same depth as the original clump. Water in well and keep them watered for the first couple of weeks until the plants show new growth.

Low Voltage Lighting Maintenance:
It is important to check your lighting system to maintain its good operating condition. Lamp burnout creates dark spots in the landscape, which alters the lighting portrait and may create some safety issues. When a bulb burns out, the voltage changes to the remaining bulbs, shortening their life expectancy. Lamp light depreciation happens gradually over time. The light output decreases and changes the lighting portrait. Group bulb replacement will help eliminate this and also prevent lamp burnout. Clean all leaves and debris away from working fixtures. Clean lenses, repair, straighten and adjust fixtures. Check or replace faulty photocell(s) and reset timer(s). Make any adjustment to fixtures due to maturing landscape. Do any needed pruning of shrubs or foliage plants around light fixtures. River Valley Landscapes is a professional lighting design and installation company and offers many lighting maintenance packages to keep your lighting systems working properly.