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Late Winter Gardening To-Do's

daffodils
Always plant a mixture of daffodils to enjoy blooms in the early, mid and late spring.

As the warmest winter in over a century comes to an end the garden is looking very different than it usually does. Some plants are growing or blooming up to 2 weeks earlier than typical. Tasks normally reserved for March needed tending to in February but do not despair, there is still time to catch up.

First off, it is time to plant the peas out in the garden and sow tomato and pepper seeds inside to set out in the early summer. March is the time to sow leafy and the cool season crops of broccoli, kohlrabi, cabbage, etc., plus beets, carrots, radishes and turnips.

To learn what to grow in the early season in your area, reference this guide from Virginia Tech. Note: it is broken down by last frost dates page by page.

Another task that needs tending to is the pruning of shrub and bush roses, which in many cases have already broken bud and started to grow. Always leave the climbing roses until after they bloom, they are pruned differently. At Maymont, we typically prune the roses in mid-late February and this year we tackled the task a little earlier.

Daphne odora
I grow Daphne odora in a pot so I can move it in and out of my garage for protection against the coldest nights of winter.

A task we completed in January was to cut back the Liriope (Monkey Grass) to 3-4” in height. This should be done before it begins to set out new growth--so time is running out, particularly this year!

Looking toward the summer, it is important to cut back the summer flower shrubs such as Butterfly Bush, our native white bloom Hydrangea arborescens (not the blue or pink flowering), Rose of Sharon, Caryopteris, our native Clethra alnifolia, and other bushes that bloom on new growth. Do not cut back spring flowering plants such as azaleas, rhododendrons and forsythia or you will be removing flower buds and diminish their beautiful display.

To protect overwintering insects/pollinators it is usually best to wait to finish cutting back the old growth in the border from last year. But with the weather warming quickly, it is time to do so. Remember to remove the old leave debris as well to reduce transferring diseases from season to season.

Another task I have taken on this spring is to inspect the trees and shrubs for new buds. After last summer’s severe drought it is best to remove dead or weak wood to promote strong growth elsewhere on the plant.

Round Leaf Stewartia
This Round Leaf Stewartia suffered in the 2019 drought but is thankfully now full of new buds.

Soon grass cutting season will begin, so take time to sharpen the blades and service the mower so the cut is clean. Do not lower the blade so the lawn is scalped, the taller the leaf blade, the deeper the roots will grow and the more drought tolerant the lawn will become. At Maymont, we keep the cutting height between 3-4 inches.

Finally take time to enjoy what is blooming! Celebrate the daffodils and other spring blooming plants. Savor the fresh asparagus, lettuce and spinach while taking time to plan out the summer and fall vegetable garden. Take pictures and make notes on where to plant bulbs this coming fall or where a trellis can be added for vertical gardening. Would an evergreen in a specific location round out the winter landscape? Make a note on your calendar for planting in the fall.

Happy Gardening! Peggy