Spring fever has struck and the garden centers are booming! When choosing your summer annuals select plants that haven’t started blooming. The new plants will become well established, grow faster and produce a larger bloom later. Also keep an eye out for borrowing pests like gophers and moles who can quickly destroy a lawn or garden! 

Watch out for Pests!  Aphid, Snails, and slugs continue to be a problem. Keep up your pest patrols and treat when needed. Sow bugs and earwigs can also be a real problem as they prefer the soft, sweet flower petals so prevalent this time of year. Baits and traps are a great way to control these pest as they do little harm to the beneficial insects in your garden. Ants in your garden do little damage themselves, however, they can “farm” many other damaging insects. Mealy bugs, soft scales, aphids, and whitefly can all be serious garden pest that ants can use as livestock. Each of these pests have natural insect enemies which help keep the populations in check, but because these pests provide food for the ants they intern provide protection for these pests from its natural enemies. Not all ant colonies are running a protection service but, if you see ant trails going up into your plants look closely for one of these pests. If you discover a pest problem, ant control is one of your first steps in controlling the problem. Root weevil and western cucumber beetle are both serious problems in our area are difficult to control and can be a major source of frustration for local gardeners. The application of commercially available predatory nematodes to your garden soil greatly help to reduce the populations of the pest by killing the insects in the egg, larvae and pupae stages. If you decide to use nematodes, remember these are live animals and they are very sensitive to sunlight and dry air. Be sure to use fresh stock and water them into the soil quickly after application. Early morning applications are best. 

What to Plant!  Plant your summer annuals and perennials now. Begonias, foxglove, petunias, Vinca rosea, marigolds, lobelia and impatients to name just a few. Give these plants a balanced fertilizer to promote plant growth. Plant your frost sensitive plants late this month/early next month to give the maximum establishment time before the cool fall temperature return. Citrus, bougainvillea, hibiscus, plumaria, jacaranda, mandavilla and other tropical varieties will benefit from this early planting.

To be Fertilize: Azaleas, camellias, rhododendrons, and gardenias with an iron chelate containing fertilizer. New annuals and spring bulbs should receive a balanced fertilizer to promote plant growth. Vegetables should also be fertilized to promote plant growth (fertilize to promote flowering and fruit formation once your plants gain some size). Notes:

Should I prune? Yep!  Prune back your spring flowering plants once they finish blooming. Frost damage should be removed on those plants that were “burned” during winter. Cut these plants back to healthy tissue. Prune back overgrown shrubs and hedges (remember to taper the hedges so sunlight can reach the lower limbs). Remove spent flowers from spring bulbs and reduce water as leaves begin to yellow. Do not remove the bulb leaves until they turn brown as they are needed to produce food for the bulb so it can bloom the following year.

What about lawns? Rust may become more of a problem this month. Red thread is another turf disease that is favored by the spring weather. Both of these fungal diseases can be successfully treated by applying a high nitrogen fertilizer. The nitrogen speeds the plants growth and the disease is mowed away. Watch for dry spots in the lawn and increase your watering when you notice them. Signs of dry soil include dark areas like shadows on the lawn, persistent footprints and rolled leaf blades. If there are only a few small dry areas, spot watering is recommended to avoid over watering or wasting water. Broadleaf weeds can be selectively treated with several different herbicides (always follow label directions) or hand pulled if the problem is minor. Mower height settings are also important as part of weed control. By mowing at the upper end of recommended mowing height for your grass variety you can greatly reduce weeds. Sharpen your lawnmower blade. A sharp blade will help your lawn resist disease, use less water and keep your lawn looking its best. Renovate lawns if needed to fill in thin areas or establish a new variety. Aerate and/or dethatch to reduce soil compaction and increase microbial activity.