It looks like the worst of winter has pretty much curled back up and gone into hibernation for another year. As we move into spring, we can safely assume the fear of frost damage and hard freezes are over too, and begin cleaning up and protecting your garden. The following tips & steps will help you begin the process.
1. Frost Damage – Selectively prune the damaged material off the plants with hand pruners. Some plants like Ruellia, Lantana and Wadellia may have to pruned back to just a few nubs, which is ok; because it will grow back. By pruning off the dead material, it will actually grow back quicker and healthier.
2. Weeds – Rye grass will start to green up and, along with the warmer days, you will see an invasion of weeds, mostly clover (Oxalis) with pretty yellow flowers. Don’t be fooled by this clever disguise. This is really a noxious weed that turns into spiny burrs and attaches to everything in sight. To get rid of these, use a “weed and feed” that is designed for rye grass. It will selectively kill most of these weeds without hurting your fragile winter lawn. We want to keep this turf around for a couple more months.
3. Insects – The insects will start to appear on many of the softer tissue plants. Even oleanders are susceptible to aphids. Do not be alarmed. Nature usually handles these pests, but if you want to hasten the process, grab your water hose, attach a pressure nozzle, and simply spray the little buggers off. Make sure you hit the underside of the plants, as this is their favorite hideout. If you have an area that requires a gentler touch, use an organic insecticide such as “safer soap,” which is, as the name implies, nothing more than a diluted detergent in a spray bottle which works quite effectively on garden pests. Try to stay away from the harsher insecticides, as they destroy everything, including those beneficial predators like ladybugs and praying mantis. Keep those good guys around.
4. Slugs & Snails – Spring flowers will also start to resume growth. Keep an eye out for slugs and snails because they can cut a flower down to a stump in just a few hours. You may never see them, as they sneak in at early morning hours and go back underground as the day warms up. I have tried many traps and devices for these guys, but my favorite is an old beer bottle. Leave a couple of swigs in the bottom and place the bottle in the ground at a 45-degree angle. Make sure the opening is at grade level so the little garden killers can slither in. Then, when they’ve had their fill of their favorite brew, they can’t get out and eventually drown in their own vice. What a way to go!
Now that you got a handle on the bugs, frost and weeds, you’re ready to go out and enjoy the garden. Relax and take advantage of our beautiful early spring.