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Monday, April 5, 2021

Advice From the Experts

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Local gardening pros give us the scoop on planting for spring

Spring has finally sprung, and community members are itching to get their fingers in the dirt! Two local gardening supply stores make it easy for gardeners — experienced and amateur alike — to get their bleak, winter-weary yards back into full bloom and ready for the new season.

Akins Nursery, located on 5901 E. Kings Highway in Shreveport, is one of those local shops eager to help beautify the city — one home at a time. “Akins Nursery has been the go-to place for many years in our community,” Sheila Womack, retail manager of over 20 years for Akins Nursery, said. “I love meeting new people and seeing our regulars come into the store.”

Womack has also done landscaping for Akins for about five years. “My favorite part of my job is serving the community and making Shreveport beautiful — that’s important to me,” Womack said.

One unique opportunity for new gardeners is to bring photos to Akins so they can help pick out appropriate shrubs and plants for your space. “Take notes of how much sun or shade you have in your yard so that you can get the best selection for your flower beds,” Womack advised.

Another quality local gardening source is Garrison’s Home & Garden, located at 6905 Greenwood Road in Shreveport. Formerly known as Garrison’s Greenwood Gardens, they rebranded in 2013, after becoming True Value Home & Garden Showplace.

Mark Walton, coowner of Garrison’s, loves the connections he makes with customers over the years.

“I’m now helping the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of some of our original customers.” Walton said.

For locals who are wanting to “branch out” into gardening for the first time, but need some really lowmaintenance pieces, Walton recommends shrubbery such as boxwoods and dwarf yaupons. For bedding, he suggests periwinkle, zinnias and dark-leaf begonias to start.

Womack also some advice for new gardeners. “Prepare your beds first by weeding — yuck! — and getting soil in,” Womack said.

“Poor bed preparation is a common mistake,” Walton agreed. “Quality landscapes begin with a good foundation, which is good soil.”

“Holly-tone from Espoma is a great tree and shrub product that we sell, and is a time-release product,” Womack said. “It’s a great fertilizer to add to your routine!” Sometimes with gardening, it’s as much about the “what not to do’s” as it is the “to do’s.”

“One of the biggest mistakes our new gardeners make is planting plants too deep,” Womack cautioned. “Be sure to only plant as deep as the container and about one and one-half to twice the width of your pot. Also, when it comes to trimming shrubs, a good rule of thumb is waiting until after your shrub blooms, then you can cut them back — not before because they’re setting their buds.”

But even experienced gardeners are feeling a little uncertain this spring, after the recent week-plus of snow and below-zero temps.

“Our region experienced the worst plant damage in history,” Walton said. “As far as the nursery goes, we protected our plants with fabric cloths, and they did really well. We also have a large, heated greenhouse.”

Many locals are cautious about the potential damage done to their returning plants after the extreme frost and wondering if there’s anything that can be done about it.

“Mother Nature was pretty hard on our plants this year,” Womack said. “Be sure to scratch the stems of the branches to see if there is any green. If there is, it’s alive.”

Walton agrees. “Look for signs of new growth and prune back to the new growth line. A dead plant will have no green beneath the surface,” Walton advised.

“The most important thing for this particular year is to be patient,” Womack said. “Be patient with your plants, and patient with the local growers, too. Remember, everyone took a hit.” She also warned that product and delivery times might be a little behind right now as suppliers recover and get back on schedule with stock.

But despite the unique challenge of the season, several truths remain timeless, and Womack puts it perfectly. “Plants are therapy,” Womack said. “So get outside and enjoy your yard, make Shreveport beautiful, and shop local!”


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