Celebrate the New Year by planning gardens, pruning trees

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With the New Year just getting started, our gardening chores still need to be done, as the growing season does not wait for us.

Start the New Year by planning what flowers you might want to plant this year, due to good results last year in your garden or other gardens you saw.

Clean up beds of old flowers or vegetables that are still there, as they provide places for insects and disease to harbor over the winter.

Prune fruit trees and grapevines now as you prepare for next year's growth. On fruit trees, remove any broken limbs or limbs growing through the middle of the plant or water shoots that just grow upward, especially on pear trees.

If you want to keep the height at the same level, make sure you cut limbs that go too high at a junction of another limb. On grapevines, remove last year's growth except for a short spur of three or four inches ,where new growth will occur - as grapes are produced on new growth.

In the lawn, spray for weed growth to remove any winter weeds that are appearing now and in the future.

Mow the lawn to remove any leaves that might have fallen, but do not drop the mower height. If you mow too low, grass roots will be exposed to cold temperatures; this also allows more sunlight to reach the ground and allow weed seeds the opportunity to germinate.

If you have not limed St. Augustine, Zoysia or Bermuda grass in the past year, do so this year as these grasses like a higher pH.

As we get closer to spring and warmer temperatures arrive, do not put out any weed and feed fertilizers in February or early March. If you need to do a weed control, apply a product with no nitrogen in it - for example, 0-0-24, which has potassium for root growth, but no nitrogen to force it to green up.

It is not healthy for any lawn to apply nitrogen and force it to green up, because then we could have a cold snap with frost and it would go dormant again. This can cause winter kill, especially on centipede lawns.

Green-up of the lawn is controlled by soil temperatures. When soil temperatures reach the high 60s, the grass will green-up and start growing. We normally get to 70-degree soil temperature in early to mid-April, and this is the time to apply nitrogen fertilizer to your lawn.

Do not be fooled by warm temperatures in February or March. Just wait until April to apply nitrogen.

Edward Poenicke is a retired Chatham County extension agent. This article is provided in collaboration with Lawn Doctor of Beaufort County.

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