Home & Garden

3 key timing moves to a better and brighter yard

A tree is covered by green ivy, but a blooming tulip tree lends it color.
A tree is covered by green ivy, but a blooming tulip tree lends it color. Mark Hames

Don’t say you didn’t yearn for this. It’s spring.

Energy rises. Enthusiasm builds. And the fun begins. Because almost everyone’s a gardener in spring.

Whether you garden on a large or small scale, in pots and baskets or raised beds or plain old ground, March, April and May are critical months for getting things planted and tended well.

So let’s get started. Spring officially starts Sunday, at 12:30 a.m. We’ve divided the next few months into three task zones to help you stay organized and on top of the busy season.

Now until mid-April

Perennials, notably clumps of chrysanthemums, daylilies and Shasta daisies, begin growing early. It’s a good time to dig, divide and replant them.

Finish planting cool-weather vegetables such as leaf lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage by early April.

Snip off spent blooms of daffodils, but leave the stems and leaves to help build buds for next year’s flowers. Do not fold or do anything that will break the leaves and hasten their turn from green to yellow, then brown.

Consider a garden ornament. Huge selections of bird baths, gazing globes, statues and colorful, large pots await in garden centers.

Plant roses, either as bare-root ones sold in plastic bags or plants set out in large pots.

With azaleas in full bloom in garden centers, make your choices now so you can pick the color you like best. Other tempting things are also in bloom, such as pieris, forsythia, spireas and more.

Mid-April to early May

Start sowing seeds of green beans, melons, corn, cucumbers, pumpkins and squashes in mid-April.

Once soil and air warm up, usually by late April, set out tomato and pepper plants.

Beware of slugs headed toward leaf lettuce, pansies and other munchables. Catch these pests in traps or shallow pans of beer.

Begin checking vegetable plants every day to pick off harmful insects and notice if leaf spots are developing.

Start planting your summer flower beds with annuals and perennials, chosen for the amount of sun or shade. Aim for color and variety. Choose perennials for a succession of bloom through the year. Use annuals, such as marigolds, begonias and impatiens, for long-term bloom and wonderful colors.

Start planting your pots. Baskets, boxes and pots await a new season of summer flowers. Make them different from last year’s, at least in color. Don’t forget an allamanda or mandevilla to climb your sunny lamp post or mail box post or a trellis.

Pinch tips of chrysanthemums once they reach 6 inches tall. Pinching every month or so until early July will encourage denser, attractive plants and more flowers.

Getting deeper into May

Sow seeds of okra and lima beans, which require warm soil.

Keep setting out young vegetable plants, including tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers and melons.

Once the soil is warm, put mulch on the vegetable garden to reduce evaporation and hold back weeds.

Sow seeds outdoors of zinnias, cosmos, cleomes and morning glories. Set out young plants of moonvine to enjoy in the evening starting about August.

Start practicing deadheading – the removal of spent blooms from annuals and perennials. It makes annuals bloom longer and everything look better.

Finish filling pots for steps, patios and balconies with pentas, geraniums, heliotropes, lantanas and begonias. Choose based on the amount of sun or shade.

Prune azaleas, rhododendrons and other spring-flowering plants as the flowers fade.

Nancy Brachey: nbrachey@charlotteobserver.com