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Quick tips help green thumbs get jump start on spring gardening

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Little, colorful signs of spring blooms are coming out.

Gear up for spring with the May 4 Garden Celebration at Scott Hall at the Johnson County fairgrounds in Franklin.

 Admission is $2 per person, or donate a nonperishable food or toiletry item for the Interchurch Food Pantry.

As you head outdoors, here are some tips for lawn and garden care during this time of the year. These are compiled from various free Purdue publications written by specialists Zac Reicher, Clark Throssell, Rosie Lerner and Michael Dana. For more information, visit www.the-education-store.com.


It is best to fertilize grass lightly in spring and early summer. Applying high rates of nitrogen in spring stimulates excess leaf growth at the expense of root growth. Not only does this force you to mow more often, it reduces turf quality during the summer.

High rates of spring and summer nitrogen also can stimulate disease, weed and insect activity. If you are applying some spring fertilizer, avoid products with mostly “quick-release nitrogen.” Herbicide for crabgrass prevention should be applied before it emerges.

Landscape plants

Trees and shrubs that flower before the end of June should be pruned immediately after flowering.

Flower buds develop during the previous season’s growth, thus the flowers for the current year’s bloom developed last year and overwintered in the bud. If pruned before spring flowering, the

flower buds will be removed, thus eliminating flowering.

Remove winter coverings from roses as soon as new growth begins, but keep mulch nearby for protection from late freezes. Prune and fertilize as needed.

Apply superior oil spray to control scale insects and mites on landscape plants and fruit trees when tips of leaves start to protrude from buds.

Allow foliage of spring flowering bulbs to remain in place after blooms fade. Leaves manufacture the food reserves, which then are stored in the bulb for a repeat showing next year.

Indoor plants

Apply fertilizer to houseplants according to label directions as days grow brighter and longer and new growth begins.

Foliage plants require relatively high nitrogen fertilizer, while blooming plants thrive on formulations that are higher in phosphorus.

Keep Easter lilies in a bright, cool location, out of direct sunlight.

Water as soil begins to dry. The yellow pollen-bearing anthers inside the flower can be removed by pinching to prevent staining of the petals.

Vegetable gardening

Ideal conditions for growing vegetables include full sun, well-drained soil, away from trees and shrubs, close to a source of water and reasonably level ground.

If you are short on space, try interplanting a fast-growing crop with a slower growing crop, so that by the time the slower grower needs more space, the faster one has been harvested. For example, mix radish and carrot seeds together when planting. If your soil is too compacted or poorly drained, consider making a raised bed garden.

Sarah Speedy is the agricultural natural resources extension educator through the Johnson County Purdue Extension. She has a master’s degree in animals and public policy from Tufts University, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Purdue University.

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