Advance work can reap rewards

It’s not too early to start preparations for spring growing
By: Gloria Young Home & Garden
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Spring is still a month away, but with sunny days on the increase and trees beginning to bloom, it’s time to think about the garden. Tending to these basic tasks now will help ensure thriving lawn, plants and trees when winter is over. Fertilizer Gardening expert Brad Roeder, owner of Yamasaki Nursery in Auburn, puts this at the top of his list. Apply fertilizer to lawn, plants, flowers and trees, he advised. “The plants will start coming out of dormancy and you’ll want to have food available for them,” he said this week. “(Not fertilizing now) would be like a basketball player eating a pre-game meal during the second quarter.” There are some all-purpose fertilizers for those who don’t care to spend much time in the garden. However, for the average gardener and specialists, there are specific fertilizers that work best for different types of plantings. “If you’re a novice gardening, anything is better than nothing,” Roeder said. “But if you take gardening more seriously, it’s best to specialize.” Pre-emergents Weed control comes into focus as winter wanes. “As temperatures warm up, the weeds will sense it and they’ll start popping up like wildfire,” Roeder said. Applying granular pre-emergent is easy — simply sprinkle it throughout the yard and garden area where things are growing. And it doesn’t have to be watered in. “Typically it is non-water soluble,” Roeder said. “So it won’t matter if you do it before or after it rains.” Your local garden center can provide specific advice on the fertilizer and pre-emergent brands. Irrigation This is a good time to make a thorough inspection of the sprinkler system, getting it ready and tuning it up. “Test everything,” Roeder said. Over the winter, freezing temperatures can break pipes or damage sprinkler heads. “If your irrigation system and been quiet all winter, parts may have stiffened up or dried debris may be creating clogs,” Roeder said. Run your sprinkler system through each cycle and visually inspect each sprinkler head for damage. Then replace parts as necessary. Cleanup Go through the garden and clear away debris so the new growth will have an easy growing path, advises Kim Wright, owner of Avantgarden in Downtown Auburn. That includes raking and cleaning up leaves and downed branches. Trim and prune The type of plant will dictate fall or spring pruning needs — if you haven’t yet pruned fruit trees and rose bushes, it’s getting a little late. But better late than never, Wright said. Give rose bushes a treatment of dormant oil spray to kill any mites that have lived through the winter. Also cut back plants that look ratty, diseased or unhealthy. Refresh “With containers, lots of times I’m freshening them up with spring annuals so they look good now,“ Wright said. For those who didn’t plant bulbs in the fall, there are plenty in bloom now at local nurseries to add color to the garden. Plant them in the yard or keep them in a kitchen window. “After they fall over, you can plant them right away,” Wright said. “They’ll just die back and come back next year.” Make a plan Although it’s too early to plant vegetables, this is a good time to start planning what to grow this season and where you’ll put things, Roeder said. Gloria Young can be reached at