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Late Winter & Early Spring
Garden Preparation
by W. George Schmid

Playing dart board with the older grandchildren over the Christmas holidays reminded me that hitting the bull's eye requires careful aim and  a steady footing. The dart will hit the target only if the aim is properly located. In aiming, location is everything. If you want to hit the bull's eye in your garden this spring,  it will be just as necessary to carefully aim your preparations and just as steadfastly follow through with those preparations in the proper locations. Applied to your garden work, the aim represents location and timing and the sure footing is the thoroughness and persistence of your work. The bull's eye you hit will be a fine garden in spring and one that will outlast the summer drought. Here are the basics:
  1) Visit the garden often during the first warm days in February and early March. When you notice hostas breaking ground, mark their location and keep mulch ready for late freezes. I use spun-bonded fabric like Reemay which gives you a five-degree advantage when you cover the shoots. That is the difference between frozen tips or healthy ones. You must remember the locations, though.
  2) As soon as the tips emerge, start your bug control procedures. If you have foliar nematodes apply systemic insecticides to the plants that showed infection the summer before. Again location, location, location! You must remember which plants were infected. If you damage was caused by weevils who eat notches out of the leaf margins, mark the locations of damage. Weevils usually concentrate their work in certain locations. Remember those locations and treat the soil with beneficial nematodes after spring warm-up and before the weevils become active in mid-May to mid-June. By remembering locations you can reduce the amount of chemicals when they are applied to infested spots only.
  3) Apply fertilizer and lime. Time-released fertilizers like Osmocote are temperature release types. Once the temperature reaches a certain level, usually around 60 degrees, the osmotic action begins and the fertilizer is released slowly. Get your timing right. Apply the fertilizer after the soil has warmed up. This may coincide with the hostas breaking ground. If you use chemical fertilizers (like 10-10-10), wait until the hostas show and be careful in the application. These are quick-release fertilizers which dissolve with application of moisture and it is prudent to avoid contact with leaf surfaces or hosta shoots. Additionally, heavy spring rains can literally wash these fertilizers away. So again, timing and location is important. 

4) Sanitize! You should have removed all of your dead hosta leaves last fall. They harbor insect eggs, fungi, and virus. Get rid of them, but do not put them on the compost pile. They are garbage! Clean up your beds. Where hostas are grown only do not use mulch. Hostas are super hardy. Clean beds discourage slugs and snails. If you use mulch make it dry pine needles or pine bark. Do not bury the hostas under too much mulch. Also, you will notice problems much faster when the beds are clean. Weeding becomes easier because you can apply pre-emergent weed controls early and just at the right time. In locations where annual weeds were a problem the year before, pre-emergents work well when applied properly. Again, it is important to remember where: location, location, location (and timing, of course)!

Copyright © 2010 Georgia Hosta Society  
April 3
General Meeting, 2:00 PM
Education Corner 1:00 PM
Annual Spring Auction

April 9, 2016 - General Meeting and Spring Auction

W. George Schmid


  5) Be vigilant! Late winter to early spring is no time to become a couch potato and forget about the garden just because "nothing grows." Fungus may be growing and obliterating your hosta crowns, bugs and slugs may be growing,  eating away at your tender growth, and cold weather may be sneaking up on you before you get your coverings out. If you are on the couch by all means turn the TV on and watch the weather channel at least once a day, and go out into the garden and be vigilant. See what is going on!

The secret to hitting a bull's eye is to aim and be steady in locating your throw. In your garden the same rules apply. The aim (read timing and location) and persistence will give you the bull's eye now and then even if you are an average shooter. The same applies in your garden, so hit it this spring!

The above article is excerpted from Georgia Hosta Notes , the quarterly newsletter of The Georgia Hosta Society.