Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Lower South
April, 2011
Regional Report

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The arrival of new growth and catkins announce that frosts and freezes are past.

Spring Transitions

The mid-spring transition is a unique time in the garden and landscape. The arrival of warm weather brings changes, assuring us that the danger of frost is past and the warm season is really here to stay. In the South, one of the more cautious plants is our beloved pecan tree. While most other trees send out their leaves early in the spring, pecans are a bit late to the party, a characteristic that saves them injury from a late frost or freeze.

Our sluggish warm season turf grasses are finally waking up and putting on some new growth. Mowing season is about to begin, although some folks have been mowing the winter weeds already!

In the vegetable garden, our cool season crops are soon to be singing their swan song. Lettuce, spinach, arugula, and other greens are ready to bolt in the final act of setting seeds for next year's crop. Those warm season vegetables such as tomatoes that we set out early are at last convinced that it is time to grow, as the warm soil and balmy breezes shift them into high gear.

Trees are sending out their catkins, those dangly, pollen-producing structures that often resemble "pipe cleaners." The dusting of pollen from various species covers sidewalks, cars, and pretty much anything that will stand still for a while.

Many types of evergreens are casting off their old leaves with the arrival of new growth. The Southern magnolia goes through this cycle, dropping it large leaves and alarming gardeners who worry that something must be wrong. Such a transition is simply part of the natural cycle.

It is also worth mentioning that there is considerable variation from one tree to another in just how dramatic these transitions can be. As I write, I can see one live oak in our landscape that goes almost bare before the new leaves arrive, while its neighbors bring new growth on while gradually dropping the old.

The parade of wildflowers is underway, with one species taking center stage and then giving way to the next in line. Spring blooming trees are also taking their turns as the early bloomers begin to wind down and others bursting forth to take their place.

All this transition is our cue to prepare for the hot weather that is just around the corner. It is time to replenish mulches and control any warm season weeds that have begun to sprout before they start to get delusions of grandeur!

Spring rains are fairly dependable in much of the Lower South, but we all know that we will be irrigating up a storm soon. Drip irrigation is a wonderful way to water efficiently without wetting the foliage, which encourages foliar diseases. If you haven't installed drip in your garden beds, now is a great time to do so.

While temperatures are still mild we are all motivated to get outside to work in the garden. Take this as a "last call" to undertake any landscape renovations you may want to make. In another month or two, such projects will be better left until fall when things cool off again.

All this talk of flowers, vegetables, and garden projects has me eager to leave the keyboard and head outside!

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