It’s time to start on summer yards

Published 11:27 pm Saturday, March 15, 2008

Well now that we have more time for outside activities, everyone seems to be getting more and more involved in maintaining a colorful lawn and landscape.

Like I have said in previous weeks now is the time to begin preparing for warm season yards and gardens for the next several months. Here are some questions we received multiple times this week in relation to these issues.

When will the azaleas begin to bloom?

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There are several hundreds of different varieties of azaleas available to blend into any outdoor setting. In the next few weeks we will begin seeing the dynamic annual bloom of most azaleas.

However, with new varieties on the market, you can now have azaleas blooming several times a year. The variety Encore offers azalea lovers opportunities to have blooms in the landscape spring, summer and fall.

After the spring bloom, they will set more buds and produce a few blooms throughout the summer. In August they put on more blooms and look great if the moisture is right, however summer blooms usually wilt rather quickly due to higher temperatures. They bloom again in late September and October and these should hold up better due to the cooler weather.

Fall blossoms are not as showy as the spring blossoms, but they definitely bloom enough to make an impact in the landscape. Azaleas do best in an acid soil with a pH between 4.0 to 6.0. They perform poorly in wet soil so be sure to raise your beds or use an area with good drainage. Organic materials added to the soil will aid in root development and try to select a site that offers plenty sun with some afternoon shade.

Should I begin fertilizing my yard now that it is warming up?

As soon as the weather begins to warm and daylight savings kicks in it is only natural to want to begin fertilizing and give your lawn a jump start on spring.

However, this does have negative consequences. Right now your warm season lawns are still dormant, with spurts of warm weather it seems as if they are beginning to emerge. Keep in mind warm season turf grasses, like nearly all yards in Natchez, go dormant once temperatures begin dropping. By fertilizing now your yard may see some benefit with warm weather because the roots are shooting stored carbohydrates up to the surface.

However if we get another freeze, and we will, the lawn will go back into dormancy. The stored carbohydrates have now been exerted and now the grass will have to work harder in April once warmer conditions are here and freeze risk are gone. So what happened? By fertilizing early and then receiving a late freeze, you just set back your lawn for the initial spring green up and who benefits from the fertilizer, any remaining weeds! So I would recommend you put out a pre-emergence herbicide now if you feel compelled to put something on your lawn to eliminate weeds and wait until you mow two or three times to apply your fertilizer.

David Carter is the director of the Adams County Extension Service. He can be reached at