Should I be Concerned about Early Bulb Sprouting?
Because of recent mild winter weather, daffodils and other bulbs are already well along. Even if we get additional cold weather, they will not be damaged. Likewise for early bud development and plant growth. Many of my perennials are starting to grow (Delphinium, Coreopsis, Columbine, Candytuft, Rock Cress, etc). Heather is in full bloom.
Time to Attack the Moss
Moss Control products such as “Moss-out” and “Rid-moss” are reasonably effective in controlling moss in lawns and shrub beds. They not only kill moss but turn grass blades and other leaves dark green. I usually apply them at twice the recommended rate and make sure all areas are completely covered. I also like to apply lime or any soil sweetener at a rate of 10 pounds per 1000 square feet at the same time. Moss thrives in wet acid soil. Lime sweetens the soil and makes it more difficult for moss to survive.
I now use ferrous sulfate in place of moss out because it has a much higher percentage of iron (which kills the moss). Ferrous sulfate is not readily available to home gardeners, but most landscape contractors can apply it. My rate for applying both products is usually not much more than the retail cost of moss out and lime materials alone. It provides an inexpensive way to get the job done, without all the time and effort needed to obtain and apply these dusty, dirty materials. For example, the average 2000 square foot lawn can be treated for about $50.
It is very important to brush or blow any moss control product off of concrete areas immediately after application. If the granules become wet, they will stain concrete with small rust colored spots.
Moss Out for Roofs and Structures contains a natural zinc compound which is non-staining and non-corrosive to wood, concrete, asphalt, and metal.
If you did not apply lawn fertilizer last October or November, now is an excellent time to get your first application on. Make sure there is some iron in your lawn fertilizer, just for its greening effect. For lawns, I prefer a 2-0-1 Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium ratio, such as 20-0-10.
February through March is an excellent time to apply fertilizer to all your permanent plants just as they are starting to make new growth. I generally use lawn fertilizer for trees and shrubs, and general purpose fertilizer such as 16-16-16 for flowers and vegetables. I do not use special fertilizers for acid-loving plants. Our soil is naturally acid. I just avoid putting lime on them when I am liming other plants. I normally apply lime every other year at a rate of 5 pounds per 1000 square feet to trees, shrubs and flowers except for acid lovers such as heather, azalea, rhododendron, andromeda and blueberries. Vegetables get lime every year at a rate of 10 pounds per 1000 square feet. We can also apply fertilizer and lime at reasonable rates.
Dormant Spray Time
An application of dormant oil or horticultural oil (several brands are available) while woody plants are still dormant can prevent or greatly reduce later pest problems. If you have had problems with mites, aphids, scale, or other insects on some of your trees and shrubs, dormant oil will smother over-wintering insects and their eggs. Most pesticides are not effective on insect eggs, but dormant oil is a safe, non-toxic way to eliminate pests before they become active.
Training Young Trees and Shrubs
Most homeowners assume that trees and shrubs do not need any pruning until several years after they are planted. However, a few selective pruning cuts on plants that have been planted only a year or two can greatly reduce problems in later years. For example, most trees are strongest and healthiest if they have only one trunk or central leader. . Most of the upright branches in the upper part of the tree have weak, narrow branch angles, which are subject to later breakage and damage when the tree gets older. Shortening or removing branches which are about to grow past the main central trunk will restore central leader dominance. Begin shortening extra long branches of shrubs while they are small. Don’t wait until they have grown past walkways and windows before pruning. I am available for free consultation to help you determine which young shrubs and trees may need some early training.
Bare Root Plants
Roses, fruit trees, and other bare root or root wrapped plants appear in nurseries and garden stores in February. These plants are often cheaper than equivalent sized plants in normal soil containers. If you want to plant bare root plants, shop early. Roots and branches can dry out after several weeks on shelves. Avoid plants with long sprouts. It is best to plant before buds break or as they are just starting to grow. When selecting fruit trees, remember that even semi-dwarf trees can grow to 20 feet in height and width. Some fruits require more than one variety to assure cross pollination and fruit set. This includes most apples, some pears, a few peaches and apricots, some plums and most sweet cherries. If you don’t have enough room for more than one tree, consider a tree with more than one variety grafted onto it. Another approach is to plant two trees in one hole. They grow up as two half trees