When planting new azaleas, be sure to find a location with morning sun and afternoon shade.

This month really kicks off the gardening season most years and this year is no different.
Plants are ready to break out of their trays and flourish in the ground.
The weather wakes up perennial flowers and shrubs.
And, unfortunately, the weeds and pests show up for the party, too.
All in all, for gardeners, it’s an exciting time for many reasons.
Planting Annuals and Biennials Seedlings started indoors
1. To prepare seedlings started indoors for life in the garden, harden them off for five or six days in a sheltered spot out of the wind and direct sun. The soil they are growing in will dry out more quickly outdoors, so be sure to check and water as needed. Seedlings fresh from a greenhouse should also benefit from a few days in a sheltered spot before being planted in the open garden.
2. Prepare the garden soil by amending with composted manure or Leafgro. These products provide organic matter necessary for all vegetables and flowers to grow and thrive. Also use Espoma’s Lightening Lime especially in the planting areas of peppers and tomatoes as this product is high in calcium and will help to prevent blossom end-rot.
3. When you bring home more flats of seedlings than you have time to plant, water them well, and place them out of direct sun until you are ready to transplant. Check the soil moisture daily; remember that six-packs are very small with little extra soil, which will dry out in a matter of hours when left out on a hot and windy day.
4. When you head to the garden to transplant your seedlings, take along a pail of water with Plant Starter by Bonide. This product will allow your plants to resist transplant shock and adapt quickly to their new growing environment.
5. Make planting holes with the end of your trowel for as many seedlings as you will be putting in the area. Cut apart any seedlings that have grown together with garden shears.
6. Before setting a seedling in its hole, gently unwind roots circling the root ball, and cut off those matted at the bottom. Set the seedlings upright in their planting holes, starting with the hole farthest from you. Add half a cupful of water to each planting hole.
7. When the water has drained, fill the holes with soil, and firm the soil around each seedling. The seedlings should be set in tightly enough so they resist a gentle tug. Pinch out the central stem and branch tips of the seedlings to encourage branching and more surfaces where flowers may develop.
8. Water the area with a sprinkler for half an hour. Apply a two-inch layer of mulch all around the seedlings.
Planting Herbs and Vegetables Seedlings started indoors
1. Prepare the garden soil by adding composted manure or Leafgro. If you are going to plant tomatoes, it is suggested that you also add Lightening Lime, which is high in calcium and prevents blossom end-rot in tomatoes, peppers and squash.
2. Check the soil pH to make sure it is between 6.0 and 7.0. If you need to raise pH, add lime, to lower add garden sulfur, in both cases add five to 10 pounds per 100 square feet.
3. Before transplanting herb and vegetable seedlings to the open garden, set them in a warm, sheltered spot outdoors to harden off for a few days.
4. Wet the seedlings thoroughly with tepid water containing a water-soluble fertilizer. I recommend Bonide’s Liquid Plant Starter.
5. Dig a generous hole in the bed.
6. Pour a little water into each planting hole. I also suggest using Espoma’s Bio-tone Plus to help the roots grow and prevent transplant shock.
7. Loosen roots that may be binding the root ball. Set each seedling upright and straight in the planting hole so the top of the root ball is just above the soil surface.
8. Back-fill the hole with soil and press it down firmly around the plant.
9. Water well.
Spring Flowering Bulb Care
1. Daffodils and Jonquils will perennialize well by allowing the foliage to remain undisturbed until it has withered away. Do not tie up or bind up the foliage, as doing so cuts off light and oxygen the bulbs need to nourish the flowers for next season.
2. Allowing the foliage of tulips to yellow about halfway down before trimming them back will help to perennialize these bulbs and allow for proper nutrition.
3. It is a good idea to feed all bulbs after bloom time, in order for the plants to achieve bigger and more blooms. I suggest using Espoma’s Bulb-tone at the rate of four to six pounds per 100 square feet. Repeat this application again in early September.
4. If you plan on moving or dividing bulbs, the best time to do so is after the foliage has died away. So as not to damage the bulb, use a flag or some other type of marker to show the exact location. Be sure to move them before September to allow them time to root out properly before winter.
5. Daffodils, narcissus, and Jonquils are safe from deer damage, but tulips and crocuses are not. Use a deer repellent if this is a problem. I recommend using Liquid Fence; you will get about 30 days of protection.
Spring Azalea Care Tips
1. Azalea Leaf Gall is a gray-white growth that envelops azalea leaves in early June. In early spring, spray the leaf buds with a lime-sulfur spray just as they are about to open. One spray will end the problem for the entire year and prevent the need to prune away unsightly growths.
2. Leaf spots may develop in late April if the weather is cool and rainy. If spots develop on the tops of leaves, apply Bonide Infuse or Mancozeb. One application will usually halt the disease before more leaves are infected. Repeat every two weeks.
3. Make a soil pH test in early spring to verify that the soil is in the acid range, usually between 4.5 and 5.5. Azaleas can extract food from the soil only when the pH is in this range. To lower pH, use Espoma’s Soil Acidifier; and to increase pH, use Garden lime.
4. Azaleas generally do best with small amounts of energy such as nutrients provided by compost (composted manures or Leafgro) that is worked into the soil around the dripline in early April. Also, Espoma’s Holly-tone applied at the dripline to increase flower production and stimulate growth. Use pine bark chips, nuggets, or pine straw as a mulch rather than hardwood mulch, which will also help with acidifying the soil.
5. Lacebugs are a real problem in our area due to the high humidity levels we experience. Three generations of lacebugs (mid-June, mid-July, and mid-September) may attack the leaves of azaleas. To determine if you have them, check the bottom of the leaves to see if you have pencil-dot chocolate brown spots, the signs that lacebugs are siphoning sugar from the leaf tissue. If a few leaves show signs of lacebugs, you could have thousands since they are microscopic and invisible to the naked eye. We suggest using Bonide’s Rose and Flower every eight weeks. This product will not only feed your plants but also protect them from lacebugs and other sucking insects as well. Use 8 tablespoons per foot of plant height.
6. When planting new azaleas, be sure to find a location with morning sun and afternoon shade, and use Espoma’s Bio-tone starter, which will help the roots establish themselves and prevent the plant from going into transplant shock.
(Editor’s Note: Ken Morgan is the owner of Robin’s Nest Floral and Garden Center in Easton, Md.)