by Kerry Ann Mendez


Spring is around the corner and many have a bad case of spring fever. Here are a few timely tricks to jump-start our flower gardens.   A well balanced snack can make a huge difference. As spring temperatures rise, plants surge into new growth, relying on energy stored in roots. A granular fertilizer, in the neighborhood of 5-5-5, can generate head-turning results. The fastest and easiest method for applying fertilizer is with a spreader, or hand casting, right before it rains. That way, any granules that landed on emerging foliage (which can burn leaves) will be washed off to waiting roots below. Be sure to follow package directions for application rates. More is NOT better! Spring is also a terrific time to deal with that dreaded ‘four letter word’ – weed. You’ve heard the saying, ‘A weed in time saves nine’, but this truth is ‘exponentially increased’ if weeds are ‘subtracted’ from the garden in early spring before their ‘multiplication factor’ kicks in. Late March is typically when perennial weeds start waking up and annual weeds begin germinating. Attack while you have the advantage. Hand weeding is easier while the soil is still moist from winter precipitation. A stirrup hoe (or circle hoe) is one of my favorite tools! It’s light weight, easy to use, features a long handle to eliminate bending over, and has sharp edges that slice weeds of at the soil’s surface.   You can also use weed killers – organic please!  Post-emergent products (applied to weeds after they’ve sprouted) include Burnout II, Nature’s Avenger and EcoSmart Organic Weed and Grass Killer. Be careful not to spray any of your flowers or the result will be the same, dust to dust, so to speak. Many organic pre-emergents (these target seeds) typically include corn gluten, vinegar or lemon juice.  Concern, Espoma, Bradfield Organics and WOW are sources for excellent products.   Now for the fun part – shopping for plants that add a blast of color to the spring landscape. Proven Winners’ new Anytime Pansiolas are to die for.  Anytime Pansiolas feature the best traits of BOTH a pansy and viola. They tolerate heat better, blooming throughout the summer. Sweet! The series features four dynamic choices: ‘Quartz’ Pansiola (soft lavender-blue and white); ‘Sunlight’ (bright yellow); ‘Sugarplum’ (purple, white and yellow); and ‘Dove’ (glowing white). All have a graceful semi-trailing habit and are hardy to zone 5. Pansiolas are brilliant in containers, hanging baskets and in the landscape. Bring some pots inside as well to celebrate spring. For more ideas on how to make your garden the envy of the neighborhood, get your garden-gloved hands on a copy of the Proven Winners 2015 Gardener’s’ Idea book.

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