Ready, Set, Go Play In The Dirt!
March 2020 Issue
by Eddy Holye
''Remember that children, marriages, and flower gardens reflect the kind of care they get.''
−H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
Whether your idea of gardening is an elaborate design element in your landscape or simply caring for a single house plant, sunny spring days and blooming azaleas are an inspiration to connect with nature. Whether you have a green thumb, or you’re a novice, now is the time to get started.
The Lowcountry is filled with transplants from the North who move here because of the beauty and incredible weather. Unfortunately, gardening up North is very different from gardening here. For example, the forsythia, rhododendrons and lilacs that flourish in a cooler climate simply don’t do well here. It can be an expensive learning curve, so the best advice is to seek the advice of local experts.
Start with your soil. For good growth, all plants need fertile soil and adequate water. Soil constantly changes, as nutrients are used by plants, and decaying organic materials replenish nutrients. To improve your soil, you need to know some things about your soil—the physical and chemical attributes, as well as the requirements of specific plants. According to Carol Guedalia, a horticulturist at The Greenery, you can take a soil sample to Clemson Extension reps at the Beaufort County Government Center in Hilton Head from 9:30-Noon and for only $6 have it tested. For information about how to collect a soil sample, visit hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/soil-testing. The main Clemson Extension office in Beaufort County is located at 18 John Galt Road in Beaufort.
It’s time to prune roses and other shrubs, but don’t prune flowering shrubs like azaleas, gardenias, spirea and camellias until after the flowers are gone! Pruning is as important as fertilizing, watering and weeding. Remove all dead and diseased limbs and cut them back to healthy wood above a bud. You also want to prune branches that cross-rub another branch to prevent disease.
Add mulch to your beds now. Mulch conserves moisture by slowing evaporation. It also saves on weeding and adds organic matter and nutrients to the soil as it decomposes. It dresses up the landscape and helps to protect plants from cold and frost.
March is a busy month of garden care. It’s essential to rake around camellias and azaleas because they don’t like debris build-up around them. You also want to spray them with chelated iron spray if they look stressed with pale and limp leaves. Add one tablespoon to a gallon of water. You can also spray palms.
If you have citrus trees, be aware that there is excessive phosphorus in our soil. Now is the time to feed them with a product like Citrus Tone.
It’s time to start seeds indoors, whether summer blooming annuals flowers, or vegetables to put out at the end of the month. Cool season vegetables may still be planted, but it’s also time to plant summer vegetables like corn, beans and squash.
If you love to cook, then you can also start planting perennial and annual herbs like dill, basil, chives and thyme.
Perennial bedding plants may also be put out now. Try gerbera daisies, pinks, shasta daisies, stokesia, coreopsis and perennial salvia. Plant summer flowering and foliage bulbs and tubers, as well. These include caladium, canna, gladiola, lilies.
For your lawn, it’s recommended to thatch or aerate in March, but wait until April to fertilize. Don’t forget to also get a soil sample here to determine what exactly your lawn needs.
Once you’ve done all this work, how do you keep the deer from munching away on your plants?
First, test what you’re planting before you commit to a big expense. Carol said that deer have a heightened sense of smell, and one product that works well as a repellent is Liquid Fence. “It will make them smell stinkyness before they smell lusciousness. If they smell the lusciousness, they have a built in GPS that will bring them right to your plants. So apply Liquid Fence, reapply tomorrow, a week from tomorrow, a week from that, and then every three weeks during our vigorous growing season.”
Last, one of the best tips Carol offered is to create a gardening calendar for yourself that includes when tasks are performed, the products you used, and the successes (and failures) you had.
By the way, for you indoor gardeners, March is the time to repot your houseplants with fresh soil and compost.
Ready, Set, Go play in the dirt!