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February is ideal for early gardening chores

Posted: February 24, 2013 - 1:08am

February is the optimal time of the year for chores such as pruning roses and overgrown plants and applying pre-emergent herbicides.

Major pruning of most roses needs to be completed by bud break. Roses respond to pruning and grooming by producing flowers in greater quantity. For most roses, heavier pruning yields larger, more attractive flowers. Major pruning is done in early spring before growth begins, while grooming is done throughout the growing season.

Dead or damaged stems should be trimmed whenever present. The type of rose will determine when it should be pruned. Climbing roses bloom in the spring on old wood; therefore, these plants need to be pruned after flowering. Hybrid teas and Grandiflora roses are large plants that grow rapidly. These plants need to be pruned heavily. Leave four to six of the best “canes,” and prune them 24 to 30 inches from the ground.

The Knockout rose is a vigorous-growing plant that needs to be trimmed down 2 feet below the desired height for the growing season. If the Knockout rose has become too large and unruly, cut the entire bush down to 1 or 2 feet high.

Renewal pruning on shrubs also needs to be done this time of the year. This pruning needs to be done when shrubs outgrow their space or when they become leggy with sparse growth on the bottom of the plant. Renewal pruning means cutting the plants back 6 to 12 inches above ground level. When renewing plants, timing is more important than technique. The best time to prune is before spring growth begins. In the Augusta area, this time period is usually the end of February or early March.

This type of pruning will encourage a large amount of new growth by early summer. As the shoots begin to regrow and reach 6 to 12 inches long, tip them back. The terminal bud on a shoot produces a hormone, auxin, which inhibits the development of lateral buds along the shoot. When the terminal bud is removed, the lateral buds near the cut end become active and grow. This will encourage lateral growth.

Most evergreen, large-leafed shrubs can be pruned this way. Azaleas, Ligustrums, Cleyera and Holly respond to this type of pruning. However, it is important to note that boxwoods usually don’t respond to or recover from to this type of major pruning.

February is also a great time to apply pre-emergence herbicides to control summer weeds, mainly grassy weeds such as crabgrass and goose grass. These weeds will start germinating when the soil temperatures at 4 inches deep reach 55 degrees. These temperatures usually occur around the first or second week in March.

When applying herbicides, read and follow the directions on the label. This will yield better results and lessens the chance of harming the turfgrass or environment. Try to keep the herbicide off hard surfaces and out of flower beds. When looking for an herbicide, read the active ingredient listed on the label. Many of these herbicides can be found under more than one brand name. Common active ingredients in herbicides include pendimethalin (Halts manufactured by Scotts); prodiamine (StaGreen Crabgrass Preventer); dithiopyr (StaGreen Crabex); benefin plus trifluralin (Hi-Yield Crabgrass Preventer); and benefin plus oryzalin (Green Light Amaze). These are herbicide-only products.

It is too early to use a weed and feed product to fertilize turf grass unless the fertilizer does not contain nitrogen. If applying other pre-emergent products containing fertilizers, look for the formulation 0-0-7. Remember, no nitrogen at this time.

Tripp Williams, Columbia County’s agriculture and natural resource extension agent, can be reached at (706) 541-4011, or trippj@uga.edu.

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