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Now is time for post-frost garden assessments

If you waited to prune cold-injured plants, it was a wise decision. It should be safe to trim the plants now.

While some of your plants may look dead, the roots may have survived and should foster new growth.

If you aren't sure whether a plant is dead or just badly damaged, wait a few weeks and look for new growth. You can prune it by about one-third now and get rid of some of the unattractive, foliage-less branches, but you may be surprised at which plants will recover.

Some plants are just plain dead and can be pulled out. Sunflower, pentas, basil, tomatoes and a variety of other tender perennials and annuals have been removed from my garden. Some dropped seeds and will come back with a little warmth and water. Others will have to be replaced.

After you're certain what's dead, begin planning for the replacements. This may be a good time to buy hardier plants with a better chance of survival when cold weather hits.

If you do want to replant tender plants, group them together so cold weather protection will be easier.

While you are outside taking inventory of your plant material, you'll probably notice a proliferation of weeds. The frigid weather did not slow them down at all. Pull, hoe or spray them as you come across them.

Now is also the time to take inventory of common landscape mistakes, and the Pinellas County Extension Service has some tips.

Check your mulch to make sure it's not piled against tree trunks. The mulch should be spread out under the canopy of the tree or shrub, at least 2 inches from tree trunks. Mulch that's too close to the trunk can cause rot or house insects.

Don't overprune palms, the extension service says. Leave as many fronds as possible on the tree, pruning only as high as the 3 and 9 o'clock positions.

Give them space. We've all seen plants right next to the house. The extension service says plants should be installed at a distance that allows a 1-foot clearance between the wall and the mature plant. This area provides space that helps insulate the house from hot and cold air, allows for termite inspection, house repairs and painting.

Mow to the proper height. This will lead to healthier grass. Bahia and nondwarf St. Augustine grass varieties should be mowed at a 3- to 4-inch height. Mowing low doesn't mean you can mow less often. Only one-third of the leaf blade should be removed each time you mow. Grass mowed higher has deeper roots and better drought tolerance.

Don't overwater. Overwatering is a common landscape mistake listed by the extension service. Grass should be watered deeply and infrequently — three-quarters of an inch of water each time. Shrubs and trees should be watered on a separate zone from turf because they don't need to be watered as often. Water early in the morning for best results, as wet foliage often leads to fungal disease.

Now is time for post-frost garden assessments 03/05/09 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 5:57pm]

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