Despite “season creep,” Nature reminded me today that Spring has not officially arrived yet. At 7:26 a.m. it’s 38 degrees F and snowing. Despite this wintry mix, I still have Spring fever. It reminds me of the ”More Cowbell” Saturday Night Live sketch with “famed producer Bruce Dickinson” played by Christopher Walken. I find myself saying: “I got a fever! And the only prescription…is to get outside and garden.”
Fill your prescription for Spring fever after this unexpected unpleasantness passes with this short “to do” list of gardening activities.
- Buy seed potatoes and cut them into egg-sized pieces containing one or two eyes. Allow the cuts to dry and callous for a day or two before planting. Plant them when the soil temperature remains above 50o
- Set out transplants of broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower as well, up to four weeks before the last spring freeze.
- Sow seeds of carrots, lettuce (leaf and head), garden peas, mustard, radishes, rutabaga, and spinach.
- Sow warm-season vegetables in flats or trays—try eggplant, New Zealand spinach (a heat-tolerant substitute for spinach), pepper, and tomato.
- Vegetables that resent any root disturbance, such as cucumber, muskmelon, summer squash, and watermelon, should be sown in individual pots or peat pellets.
- Sweet potatoes are started from “slips”—shoots that sprouted from last year’s crop. Purchase them as transplants or start your own by placing a sweet potato in a glass half-filled with water. Place it in bright light. Detach the plants from the mother root when they are 6 to 8 inches long, pot them up, and then plant them in the garden about three weeks after the last freeze.
- Sow parsley and dill. To encourage parsley seeds to sprout more rapidly, soften the seeds by soaking them overnight in warm water. Refer to the Planting Chart — Dates to Plant in SC for more information (hgic.clemson.edu).
- After flowering, the leaves of your spring-flowering bulbs will turn an unsightly yellow. Temper your urge to remove the leaves, or braid them into attractive ponytails. The bulbs need the leaves to harvest energy that’s channeled to the bulb for next year’s flowers.
Perennials and Ornamental Grasses
- Dig up, divide, and replant established perennials if they’ve become too crowded and flowering has been sparse. Some fast-growing perennials need to be divided between one and three years after planting—these include aster, astilbe, beebalm, boltonia, garden mum, garden phlox, rudbeckia, Shasta daisy, and many others. To avoid interrupting flowering, dig up summer- and fall-blooming perennials when the new growth is a few inches high.
- Divide ornamental grasses before new growth emerges. Cut back the old culms to within 4 to 6 inches of the ground and use a sharp shovel or large knife to slice one or more wedges out of the crown. Immediately plant them elsewhere.
- Dense shrubs should not be planted close to the foundation or siding, or in front of foundation vents because they can obstruct air flow around and beneath your home, which can lead to moisture problems. Prune these shrubs or move them to another area in the landscape. If you move them to south- or west-facing walls to insulate your house from summer’s heat, keep them away from foundation vents and at least 4 feet from the foundation.
- Keep shrubs away from the compressor on your split-system air conditioner. While the shade cast by the shrubs can reduce energy consumption, they should be planted far enough away so they won’t obstruct air flow or service.
Bob Polomski © 2017