Spring is well underway in our region and with warmer temperatures this is the best time to be in the garden. It’s time to head outdoors to clean out and prepare our garden beds for the growing months ahead. Here are a few gardening tips to launch the spring season successfully:

Do a spring inspection:

Now is the time to see what damage has  been done by the brutal cold we had in  December. While most of the plants  should be budding out, some may not  have made it through the freeze. If that  is the case, go ahead and pull those dead  plants out now. 

Inspect your hardscape – walls, fences,  sheds, gutters. Have any shifted, bowed  or rotted? Now is the time to repair any  damage before working on the beds. 

This is a good time to plan and build new  raised gardens, widen existing ones, and  tidy up your beds’ edging.  

Test your garden soil: Experts recommend testing your garden  soil every year. You may learn your soil  is very high in phosphorous, so you  would want to avoid adding fertilizers  with phosphorous. You may find out  your soil is too alkaline, but want to  grow acid-loving shrubs like azaleas and  hydrangeas which would mean adding  aluminum sulfate to your soil.  

Detailed instructions on how to collect  and submit a soil sample, along with soil  recommendations, is available at the  LSU AgCenter office (318.408.0984 or  www.nwlamg.weebly.com).

Feed your soil: 

Once you know what your garden  soil needs based on the test results,  implement those changes for the best  possible growing season. It is also good  practice to top-dress the soil with  an inch or two of compost or a good  manure in early spring.  

March is a good time to fertilize  most shrubs and trees. Although, you  want to wait to fertilize any spring  flowering shrubs until the flowers  have started to fade. Non-flowering  shrubs can be fertilized now. Most  ornamental shrubs and trees like a  slow-release, well-balanced ‘shrub  and tree’ type fertilizer. If you are  unsure what to use, ask your local  nursery professional or extension  agent.  

If you didn’t feed your roses in  February, March is also a good time to  feed roses. 

Fertilize established perennials after  new growth appears with a good  flower fertilizer or organic plant food. 

It’s time to prepare the veggie garden  for spring planting. You will need to  work into the soil a half inch layer  of composted organic matter such  as composted manures to feed your  freshly planted vegetables.

Do some pruning 

Our growing area is Zone 8b which  means most pruning should be  completed by now. 

Perennials should have any old, dead  growth removed as soon as possible.  

Prune your roses immediately if you  have not already done so. Pruning this  late will not hurt your rose bushes but  may delay blooming.  

If you haven’t already done so, prune   your crape myrtles, but only if they are still   dormant and have yet to leaf out. 

Groundcovers and ornamental grasses can be cut back now. This includes mondo grass, liriope (monkey grass), and pampas grass. 

Now is also the time to prune back  any plants damaged by the winter  storm. Woody plants such as azaleas,  camellias, and Ligustrum took a hit.  These plants, although normally  evergreen, likely lost most of their  leaves. The brown leaves have fallen  off by now, and most of the woody  stems are green and very much alive.  You may have cane dieback, which   will need to be pruned. To find out  how much dieback your plant has, use  a sharp blade (or your fingernail) to  lightly skin the bark to reveal the wood  underneath. Start at a branch top and  observe the color under the skinned  area. Damaged wood will be brown.  Work your way down until the skinned  area becomes green. This indicates  healthy tissue. Prune off the tissue  above the green area.


Shrubs can be planted now. 


For your vegetable garden, continue direct sowing  seeds of lettuce, garden greens, beans, squash,  melons, and okra. Seedlings of tomatoes, peppers,  and eggplants should be in the garden now. Be  prepared to provide frost protection if a cold snap  threatens. 


Now is a great time to plant strawberries,  blueberries, blackberries, pomegranate, and other  fruit trees. 


These flowering or foliage plants return year after  year once planted. There are many varieties that  do well here and bloom in the spring, while others  bloom in the summer, fall or even winter. Some  favorite perennials to plant now include peony,  garden phlox, Lenten Rose, daylily, yarrow, Shasta  daisy, and salvia. Not only do these grow well in our  area, but they also multiply and can be divided and  moved to another bed or shared with a friend. 

Taking the time to complete a few essential spring  garden tasks will bring you benefits for the rest of  the season. Plus, it just feels amazing to get back  outside and into the garden!