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Gardeners get ready for spring

By Ed Brock

Spring is slowly springing and gardeners like Pam White are getting ready to get back into the dirt.

White loves spring.

"Everything comes alive in spring, including us," said White, a resident of McDonough who works at Walker Nursery in Jonesboro.

White has laid down lime, soil amendments and compost in her vegetable garden. She's fertilized her lawn of fescue grass.

"We have the best lawn in the neighborhood," White said.

As the world starts to shake off winter's frost some of the experts have tips for anybody with a green thumb, or not so green thumbs.

Forest Park's recently hired horticulturist Alex Grover has been pruning the city's crepe myrtle and weeding in preparation for his first spring on the job.

"I'm working on ordering our flowers for the spring planting," Grover said.

Now is a good time to do some planning about what will go in the garden this time, Grover said. It's also a good time for gardeners to get their hands dirty, literally, by turning the earth with a tiller or shovel.

"While you're turning it over it helps to add some compost leaves or go to the store and buy some compost leaves," Grover said.

And if you have some left over piles of leaves from the fall you can start a compost pile for later in the season.

At the end of March people with Bermuda grass lawns should break out the lawnmower.

"Cut it real low so you can see the green come up quicker," Grover said.

May 1 to 15 is the time to start planting annual flowers, but some perennial flowers, like pincushion flowers, salvia and perennial pinks, can go in the ground right now.

"It's a great time to plant those," Grover said.

Customers have been coming in to Pike's Family Nursery in Stockbridge for trees, shrubs, pansies and more, Assistant Manager Allen Davis said.

Davis also recommended laying down some "pre-emergent" material on lawns now.

For those who need a little more education on the good earth, the Clayton County Extension Service offers its Master Gardener Program.

Started in 1979, the Master Gardener Program offers 40 hours of horticultural training by Extension Service personnel in exchange for 50 hours of volunteer work, according to the University of Georgia College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences Web site. That volunteer work can include community gardening and beautification, operating information booths at fairs and festivals and helping with various demonstrations and clinics.

During the 20 sessions of training the would-be master gardeners study landscape design, propagation and turf, nuisance wildlife control and other subjects designed to qualify them to assist local extension agents. Participants usually take a mid-term exam and are required to pass a final exam as well.

The cost of the program in Clayton County is $100, which includes a $10 membership fee, handbook and other material.

The Clayton County Extension Service starts its class in January and it ends in March, but residents can apply now for next year's course and they should receive the application in August, said Extension Service Agent Winston Eason.

Call (770) 473-5450 for more information on the Clayton County class.

Henry County's Extension Service's Master Gardener class follows the same schedule as Clayton County, said Master Gardener Lerendeen Smith. The cost of the class this year was $100 but Smith said she didn't know if next year's class would cost the same.

Call (770) 954-2060 for more information on the Henry County class.