A lot has changed in the last two months, but plants are still growing and will need your attention.
Here are some tips for cutting, pruning and maintaining some common plants for spring.
Harvesting Roses
• Harvest roses early, before the sun bakes them (before 10 a.m.).
• Take a five-gallon bucket with floral preservative and clean sharp shears.
• Choose stems whose buds have not fully opened.
• Make the cut just above the first five segment leaf set.
• Immediately place the stem in the water bucket, being sure to remove the foliage below the water line. Be sure buckets are cleaned with a half-teaspoon of bleach.
• If possible, condition the roses in fresh preservative water overnight in a refrigerator away from citrus.
• Place stem in clean vase with floral preservative.
Submerged, Oxygenating Plants
Submerged plants are included among pond plantings to gobble the nutrients feeding undesirable algae and to add oxygen. Growing in sand-filled pans set on the pond bottom, they quickly develop stems 2 to 3 feet long. Allow 6 square inches of container surface for every bunch of submerged plants, and use a separate container for each variety. To plant, gently press the ends of each bunch 2 inches into the sand. Add sand to within an inch of the rim, and top that with rinsed gravel. Water the containers to displace trapped air. Never fertilize; their job is to take nutrients from the water.
Koi and goldfish can nibble the submerged plants to death. Cover the pans with plastic mesh domes; the plants grow through the mesh and the fish graze without harming the roots.
Pruning Guide for Evergreens
• Dead or damaged wood on evergreen conifers can be removed at any time.
• Flowering broadleaf evergreens that bloom on new wood should be pruned in late winter or early spring before growth begins.
• Flowering broadleaf evergreens that bloom on old wood, such as azaleas and rhododendrons, should be pruned immediately after they bloom and before they initiate new growth to avoid cutting off buds being initiated for the following season.
• To slow or dwarf a broadleaf evergreen, after its main spurt of growth, remove up to a third. You can cut the main stem back to the first side shoots, but do not take off more than has grown the last year or two.
• To encourage dense branching in evergreens whose growth is initiated by candles, cut the candles back by half when growth is complete. Prune the tips of yews, junipers, and hemlocks lightly any time during the growing season.
• To establish a shape, prune evergreen shrubs and hedges when they are 3 to 5 years old.
Thatch & Dethatching
Grass clippings left on the lawn are returned to an elemental state by microorganisms in the soil and recycled as nutrients. A quarter-inch layer of clippings is good; more is not. Clippings build when overdoses of pesticides kill the soil microorganisms, and when soluble high-nitrogen fertilizers and excess watering push grass growth.
Your lawn could need dethatching if it feels spongy to walk on. Cut a pie-shaped plug of turf that includes dirt with the roots. If the spongy layer between the grass and the soil measures more than a half-inch, dethatch. The best time to dethatch a cool-season grass is in early fall. A convex rake with short knife-like blades in place of tines can be used to dethatch a small lawn. For a big dethatching job, a gas-powered vertical mower and power rake attachment is needed. If the thatch is thick, make two passes at right angles to each other.
(Editor’s Note: Ken Morgan is the owner of Robin’s Nest Floral and Garden Center in Easton, Md.)