Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Lower South
March, 2001
Regional Report

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Nothing says spring, and smells so wonderful, as a deciduous magnolia tree in bloom.

The Onslaught of Spring

It's impossible to stay indoors in spring. Dogwoods, redbuds, azaleas, wild plums, deciduous magnolias, flowering quinces, fringe flowers, fruit trees, and forsythia are announcing spring's arrival with waves of colorful, and sometimes fragrant, blossoms. Add to these the parade of blooming bulbs--from early narcissus to the midspring irises--and you've got the proverbial riot of color.

Brief Southern Spring

While northern neighbors are anxiously awaiting spring, we in the South are already in full swing. Some say it's unfair, but remember that southern summers are sizzling hot and often not fit for person or plant. Instead of one long growing season, we have two short ones (spring and fall) with a scorching blast called summer in between.

Planting Veggies

I have been busy planting the vegetable garden. Now that the danger of frost is passed, I'm seeding warm-season crops such as beans, corn, cucumbers, cantaloupes, peppers, pumpkins, and squash and setting out transplants of peppers and tomatoes. in cooler areas you can still get in a last planting of cool- season crops such as lettuce, mustard, collards, parsley, Swiss chard, radishes, and turnips if you plant soon.

Spring Flower and Bulb Care

Some of our spring bulbs have completed their bloom cycles, but don't cut them down yet. Leave foliage on to give them a change to reenergize the bulbs for next year. Wait until the foliage yellows and then cut it back to tidy up the planting.

I have just finished pruning the old dead tops on my perennials to the ground and dividing those that need invigorating. The warm weather stimulates plants to grow rapidly, so I also add fertilizer to the roses, perennials, and vegetable gardens to keep them all growing strongly.

Lawn Patrol

If your turf has some bare areas, now is a good time to set out plugs or sod blocks of new grass. Space plugs about a foot apart, and they'll grow together and fill in by the end of the season. If you are going to establish a new lawn from seed, act quickly. Warming temperatures and periodic rainfall make this a great season to plant southern turf grasses, but soon it will be too hot and dry for new lawns to survive.

Lawn Alternatives

I have an area with thin soils over a rock outcropping in deep shade. Lawn grasses don't want to grow there, so I'm looking at alternatives. This spring I'm bringing in some soil/compost blend to create planting beds to replace struggling turf. The shadiest spot will get some ferns, while in the thinnest and driest soils I'll plant ornamental grasses. Both are low-care perennials that will grow in less than ideal soils.

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