Lawn Care & Fertilization

1. Lawns across the state are starting to green. As noted in previous posts, a late winter feeding of nitrogen fertilizer could revive tall fescue lawns. Tall fescue lawns require no further fertilizing unless they are managed under irrigation and a professional lawn service. Warm-season turfgrass varieties, like Bermuda grass and Zoysia, are fertilized beginning two weeks after green-up. These lawns can be fertilized monthly until late summer, or as needed based on a soil test. Dethatching or verticutting is a standard practice with dense St. Augustine grass lawns. Beware that centipede grass can be injured with fertilization. For more information on lawn management, request or download a copy of the “Lawn Maintenance Calendar” from the North Carolina Cooperative Extension for your turfgrass type.

2. Broadleaf weeds are always a concern in lawn care. There are numerous herbicides on the market for eliminating troublesome weeds. Use them with care and according to the label directions. High winds in the spring can move chemical spray drift to a neighbor’s vegetable garden and wreck havoc. Homeowners can remove individual clumps of perennial weeds by hand or spot spray a small section of lawn effectively. Renovation and total lawn spray applications are best left to professional lawn care companies.

Landscaping & Ornamental Gardens

1. Planting container grown trees and shrubs is high on the list of landscaping chores during April. All woody ornamental plants are best planted before hot weather arrives, especially in the warmer Zone 8 region of the state. Pay attention to irrigating newly planted shrubs and trees throughout the first summer. Fertilization is not a major issue during establishment of landscape plants, and can actually cause more harm than good. Specialty fertilizers containing organic nutrients, compost or slow release fertilizers are best suited for woody plant maintenance.

2. Multiple sowings of cool season vegetables ensure a longer harvest season. We often think of this practice with vegetable gardens, but not so much in annual flower gardens. Hold back some seed in a packet for a late sowing for summer cutting gardens. Also keep in mind that some biennial flowers, such as delphinium, poppy, and calendula should be sown September.

3. Landscape roses should be pruned in the spring, and it is not too late to thin mature shrubs or remove weak, diseased branches. Air circulation and sunlight are key elements in successful rose care. Fertilize them monthly with a specialty fertilizer, such as a bloom booster product, or on an “as-needed” basis to keep them vigorous. Begin fungicide applications regularly in beds where blackspot disease has been a problem. Soap or horticultural oil spray applications are helpful to eradicate damaging aphid populations.

4. Once your spring-flowering shrubs have finished blooming, begin pruning overgrown plants. Some people seize the opportunity to rejuvenate old plants by pruning them hard. Remove old branches by cutting them at ground level. Young branches can be topped back one-third or more. Fertilizing old hedges after pruning is a general practice.

5. There is growing concern about invasive plants in our woodlands. Evergreen plants that are considered invasive in the wild include certain species of English ivy, Japanese honeysuckle, Elaeagnus, Mahonia, and Nandina. The spring season is a good time to remove these using a pick or shovel. Systemic herbicides may also be an option and are applied directly to cuts made in branches or stumps. Some labels allow undiluted chemical application for this purpose. As for vining weeds, mow or prune back vegetation and apply an herbicide to the regrowth soon after new leaves appear. Repeat as necessary, thus preventing seed formation and starving the plant’s root system.

Fruit & Vegetable Gardens

Download this printable PDF, which features tips and advice on readying your fruit and vegetables gardens this spring.

For more than 30 years, Toby Bost has been a resource to North Carolina gardeners and growers as an agricultural extension agent, a trainer for master gardeners, and an author. His books include The Successful Gardener Guide: North Carolina, North Carolina Gardener’s Guide, and The Carolina Gardener’s Guide. He can be reached through Our State magazine at

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