It’s time to prune spring-flowering shrubs

Q. I haven’t pruned my quince or forsythia shrubs this year. Do I still have time or is it too late? – LB, Los Lunas

A. Since the two types of shrubs you mention are spring-flowering, I hope you remember the rhyme I often taught, “prune after flowering”.

I’m confident they’re both finished flowering for you, so yes, if you need to prune these guys, you need to do it soon. I mean very soon.

Spring blooms set the next spring’s bloom on new growth. If you wait too long in the season, you will cut off all of this year’s growth and, in turn, cut off next year’s blooms.

Go ahead and trim your spring blooms now, but promise you won’t drag out the process. Do it.

After pruning, give each a plentiful glass of water and fertilization to encourage needed new growth. If any of your shrubs are really thick, you can remove several of the older, innermost canes so the plants have better air circulation, keeping them even healthier.

Having a very crowded multi-caned shrub sometimes calls for trouble. Mites and aphids will thank you for providing a comfortable, protected place to live.

So yes, if you need or want to prune any spring flowering shrubs you have that have finished giving you this year’s bloom, prune them now.

Q. We inherited a house that has a Bermuda grass lawn. None of us have ever had a lawn with this type of grass and we need to know what we should do for it at this time of year. Thanks! –LL, Albuquerque

A. First, I want to explain that the Bermuda lawn you inherited is classed as a warm season grass. This means, for the most part, that it will be green and actively growing during warmer times of the year.

So here’s what I’m going to suggest. If the lawn has been “inactive” for a year or more, you go out with a stiff-toothed rake and briskly rake the lawn to remove any old matted growth. I’m not saying you want to rake the devil, but you want to fluff it up and remove the “excess” thatch that will come with a good rake.

Next, you’ll want to offer the lawn a tall glass of water. Remember, the city has water suggestions in effect now, so be aware of when and how you water.

As soon as this initial watering is complete, apply a lawn fertilizer with a fairly high nitrogen content. How do you determine the right fertilizer using the numbers? Easy. There will be three numbers on a bag of fertilizer. Let’s say you find a lawn fertilizer that has the numbers 28-15-3. The first number in this calculation is nitrogen. It is used by plant life to grow healthy green growth upwards.

The second number is the phosphorus content of the fertilizer. Phosphorus is primarily used for healthy root development. The third number is the potassium content. Potassium is needed for plants to take up and use other minerals. Keep their insides healthy, so to speak.

Since you want to wake up and feed a lawn, you need a fertilizer that has a high first number in this calculation. Most packaged lawn foods will automatically be high in nitrogen. This is what you want.

Apply the fertilizer according to the label suggestions and water in quickly for two to three minutes to deposit it on the lawn. With the onset of heat this month and with fertilizing and offering water weekly, your Bermuda lawn should green up fairly quickly.

Also, since Bermuda (in theory) uses less water than many other grasses, you shouldn’t have to water as often.

So rake carefully first, water the area, fertilize, water a little to settle the food, then enjoy the green you will soon be rewarded with.

Happy digging!

Tracey Fitzgibbon is a Certified Nurseryman. Send garden-related questions to Digging In, Albuquerque Journal, 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109, or features@abqjournal.com.