Spring is in the air

By Billy Corriher

Barbara Burnett has hundreds of different varieties of plants in her back yard. And though her flowers and shrubs take up a lot of her time, she doesn't mind the work.

"It's so wonderful out here with the birds singing and everything," she said. "It'll be beautiful once it's all in bloom."

Over the last 22 years, Burnett has spent many afternoons working in her Jonesboro back yard, which was even featured in a book on decorating gardens.

Her many varieties of plants line the sides of a wooden path that extends over a goldfish pond.

Burnett said she's been gardening most of her life. Her father shared his love of plants with her.

"I worked with him some, and I just got hooked," she said. "I think it's in your genes."

Burnett said she's been busy the last couple of weeks preparing for spring, getting her flowerbeds prepared and planting some seeds and bulbs early.

"There's always something to be done," she said.

Brent Wilson, one of the owners of Wilson Bros. Nursery in McDonough, said many people are also putting down mulch and getting vegetable gardens ready for planting.

"We're also just starting to sell annuals," he said, explaining that it's best to plant annuals at the beginning of April, when there's less threat of a frost.

"If people plant them now, and we have a frost, they're going to die," he said.

David Satterwhite, manager of Walker Nursery Farms in Jonesboro, said many people will soon begin planting perennials like daylilies.

"Everybody's starting to do a combination of annuals and perennials so they don't have to do as much planting every year," he said.

For people preparing flowerbeds for annuals or perennials, Satterwhite said he recommends tilling the soil 4 to 6 inches deep.

But, he said for individual trees and shrubs, planters need to make sure they dig holes that are twice as wide as needed.

"You want to allow room for the roots to grow and have a good environment," he said.

When determining what fertilizer to use, Satterwhite said gardeners should consult an expert.

Satterwhite said plants need to be watered two or three times a week in the spring and every day in the summer. He said it's also important to make sure plants have adequate drainage so they are not always soaking in water.

"Very few plants like wet feet," he said.

Satterwhite said the beginning of spring is the time to begin planting some vegetables, like cabbage or lettuce.

"I think it's still a little early for tomatoes," he said.

Now is also the right time for pruning roses and crepe myrtles and preparing lawn grass for spring, Satterwhite said.

Clint Waltz, a lawn care expert at the University of Georgia Experiment Station in Griffin, said late March is the time to apply pre-emergent to prevent crabgrass from growing in your lawn.

If you have weeds already, Waltz said it may be too early for herbicides because plants are in a "tender stage."

"Now is when grass is most susceptible to herbicide damage," he said. "It's a very precarious time for many of our grasses."

Waltz recommends mowing down any weeds. He said it could be too early to mow grass, except for tall fescue.

Waltz said it's also probably too early for fertilizing most varieties of grass, because there could be another frost on the way.

"Although the weather feels great, it's not the best time for fertilizing grass," he said.

Waltz said it's all right to apply lime to grass in the early spring, but fall is the ideal season for putting it down.

It's also a little early for watering lawns, unless your tall fescue grass is showing drought symptoms, Waltz said, adding that the public should be prepared for a dry summer.

"We're heading toward a water deficit period," he said.

Wilson said Wilson Bros. Nursery is selling a lot of drought-tolerant plants this year.

"Those are real popular items now," he said.

Planters are also buying a lot of Indian Hawthornes, which look like azaleas but can flourish in the sun.

People are also interested in the new knockout rose, Wilson said, because it blooms from April to November and is resistant to disease.

"This is the first rose we've seen that's disease-free," he said. "It's the best rose there is."