By Lynn Barber

Spring in Hillsborough County means we’re past the last chance of frost, local area gardening festivals are occurring and we can dive into our landscape beds. This is a good time to shape and reduce the size of landscape plants, but not Gardenias and Azaleas until after they have bloomed. For ornamental grasses, cut the stems to 4-12 inches above the ground.

Recycle your landscape clippings in your compost bin. Learn how by attending a composting workshop at the UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County. Check your inground irrigation system for leaks, plant interference or misdirected heads. Consider registering for a water-wise/microirrigation workshop at Extension http://bit.ly/1Ucf2zk.

It’s time to apply organic mulch to your landscape beds if you have less than 2-3” in depth. Pull the mulch away from the stems of your plants to decrease the potential for pests/disease. Mulch is a great landscape addition because it adds nutrients to the soil when it decomposes, retains soil moisture, regulates soil temperature and suppresses weed growth. Weeds thrive where there is a lack of mulch, too much water and excessive amounts of fertilizer.

Consider taking a soil sample to determine the pH in the area you want to plant. For more information about soil testing, please see http://bit.ly/1XBRHqJ “Soil Sampling and Testing for the Home Landscape or Vegetable Garden.” Soil testing for pH only is done at our office for $3 per sample.

Fertilize vegetables, perennials and palms. Check the Central Florida Gardening Calendar, http://bit.ly/1kr51jN, for information on what to plant and do month by month. View the Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide, http://bit.ly/O5ElFt, for information about soil preparation, adjusting the soil pH, fertilizing, irrigation and drainage, pest management, no-pesticide approaches, using pesticides wisely and which and when vegetables can be planted.

For assistance with horticultural questions, call 744-5519 or visit us at the UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County, 5339 C.R. 579 in Seffner.

More gardening information is available at http://bit.ly/24eDILT and http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.  Remember to reuse, reduce and recycle.