A GROWING CONCERN: The lion of winter is on its last roar

IT ISN’T THAT I wanted the snow and hard frosts that occurred this past week.

But I have always tried — in this column and in private conversations — to warn people of our typical weather pattern in late February and early March.

In my 22 years here on the Peninsula, only once did we not have our coldest — or second coldest — weather of the season between February 16 and March 10.

This is why you do not clean up, rake clear or trim down to the ground level your perennials or prune too early your roses, vines or berries.

The cold winds of February and the lion of March can cause severe frost damage.

It won’t be long before we can start our springtime gardening in earnest.

So if you are seeing, like I have noticed, some of the annuals appearing at the outlet stores, do not buy them for planting in the yard — yes you heard me — do not plant these in the yard … yet.

Purchase them only if you have a greenhouse or sheltered glass enclosure because the soil has not warmed up enough, and you’ll only end up back at the nursery buying replacements.

We are at the first day of late-late winter, so let’s review a to-do list of jobs that are appropriate right now for your gardens on the North Olympic Peninsula.

Purchase Moss-Out

The next few days when we begin to warm up, sprinkle the powder formula on the ridges of your roofs. The soft rain will bring the chemical down and across the shakes, in an attempt to thwart their growth. Depending upon the severity of moss, this may be a spring and again in fall chore, to get the upper hand of the mosses growth. Keeping moss at bay on the roof is a constant “weeding” action, as our low light levels and moist air not only keeps moss growing in the woods, but on the roof tops, undermining the shakes and leading to a rapidly declining lifespan of the shelter over your head.

Gutter done

If you are going to the Port Angeles High School gymnasium, for the Home and Lifestyle Show today, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., you can ask about gutter guard systems to prevent leaves from clogging up your downspouts — an installation to keep you off of a ladder and possibly falling around concrete patios and hard surfaces. I just took a leaf blower to my downspouts, and it is amazing how quickly the winds fill your gutters back up with leaves, those pesky devils.

Dormant oil sprays

Now is your last opportunity to apply this very targeted spray for use on your orchards, berries, nuts and fine woody ornamentals. But you can only spray before leaves and/or buds open, with a 45 to 50 degree calm day, and wearing long sleeves, protective hat and goggles, staying up wind so as not to coat yourself in the process.

Bare it down

These next two weeks are last call for bare root plants, roses, and fruit trees.

Can You Dig It?

Right now is the perfect time for transplanting and dividing your perennials or moving your rhododendrons. Pull up that flax, split apart irises or rejuvenate a strawberry patch in the process. Taking hostage of your hostas and moving those plants around is perfect for late-late winter projects like today and tomorrow.

Mulch and re-mulch

Dry weather will return very soon. For now your soil is wet and the mulch you buy is even wetter.

Wet mulch on top of moist soil locks in moisture until the end of July.

Rich topsoil or bust

What flower bed or veggie garden can’t use some more rich topsoil?

Top dressing with an inch or two of soil smothers weeds as well.

And as we just read, now is the time to add lime (lime, lime and reread the line about lime). Lime is the miracle drug of fine ornamentals.

Add fertilizers and additives

In the next week or two you’ll be tilling and cultivating and shaping these soils into lovely borders and accentuated mounds in your landscaped beds.

Feed the beasts

Your lawn, trees, roses, orchard (especially your orchard) flowers, all of your plants will soon have their highest nutrient requirement as leaves, buds and new branches begin growing, and it takes 3 to 6 weeks with this soil temperature for the nutrients to become readily available to your hungry beasts.

Shop seed packages

In a couple more weeks you’ll be direct sowing into the ground, so get your veggie seeds, annual seeds, sweet pea and other seeds. Visit online websites after it becomes too dark to work outside, and have the seed show up conveniently on your doorstep just in time.

Tool list

Shovels, trowels , pruners, ladders, hoses, wheelbarrows, rakes, gloves, knee pads, spreaders — all of these items and far more will be needed very soon.

Purchase them, or get them repaired now, before you need them and before the repair shop keeper rolls their eyes at yet another customer who waited until busy season to get it fixed.

One of my gardening buddies loves their crevice tool, for cleaning out the debris and wiggly worms from the control joints in their concrete patios and sidewalks.

It looks like a pick to clean horse hooves, but is sharper and narrower and makes quick work of the tiny pebbles and moss, trying to make a bed for weeds to germinate in.

One of my favorite tools is a back pack “professional” leaf blower, that has a vibration isolation pack, packing a ton of blowing power in an easy to operate non-bone jarring manner.

Easy to start, light weight to lift, and making a difficult job seem fun.

Buy one of these and make sidewalks clean, remove gravel with ease, lift and toss wet leaves when other blowers can’t budge them.

The downside to having one of these? Your pesky son-in-law will always be borrowing it.

And the chore that you loved to do in 30 minutes time will quickly be discovered by your wife that it wasn’t your skill — because she’s always using it now.

So before time runs out (that’s a clue to check to see if you set all of your clocks ahead an hour this morning), run out and get all of those chores done, before the last 9 days of winter is gone, and the fluffy little Lambs of March, march in.


Andrew May is an ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email [email protected] dailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

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