A GROWING CONCERN: Get your garden marching orders

THE “IDES OF March” are nearly upon us and we had an extra leap year day to prepare for the soon to arrive, official start of Spring (Tuesday, March 19). And if you’ve been looking out into your yard, the bulbs, weeds and certainly the lawn are all leaping forward.

So let us all leap into this month’s to do list.

1. Pestilence prevention.

Now is the time to destroy those things that wish harm to your garden.

I have already seen slugs destroying emerging perennials.

Shot weed is already in bloom (the weeds that, when they are mature and dry, shoot seeds into your eyes when touched), and dandelions are in flower, so get on those weeds with spray, pulling, hoeing, digging down and removing them along with their tap roots.

Spread germination inhibitors, and do not overlook the munching mice, for they will eat your tender shoots down to the ground when you’re inside your home and sitting cozy.

And please put out “pet safe” slug bait.

Attend to these concerns ASAP!

2. Dormant sprays.

We’ve often discussed the great advantage of 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 are popping out.

For many trees, leaves and buds are just a few weeks away (or fewer) so use a dormant oil spray now and 7 to 10 days later.

3. Divide and conquer.

March is a great time to divide and rejuvenate many of your perennials, which perform poorly when they get too crowded.

Ideal candidates for this chore would include irises, daisies, daylilies, peonies, asters, sedum, ornamental thistle, coreopsis, ornamental grasses, lupine, delphinium, coral bells, astiblbis, yarrow and ajuga.

Dig and lift the clumps out gently, wash and tenderly separate them, then transplant them in a new spot.

Make sure to water everything extremely well.

4. Prune, prune, and prune some more.

Many of your plants are in need of their seasonal haircuts.

Begin with roses, taking grandiflores down to 12 to 14 inches, and floribundas down to 18 to 22 inches. Chambers can come down to 24 inches.

Reduce your shrubs and English-type by 30 percent to 40 percent.

Vines such as herbaceous clematis, honeysuckle and sweet potato vines can be lopped off a foot or two above the soil line.

Cut your colored twig dogwood down to ground level and your mounding spirea and potentilla to 3 to 6 inches.

Thin out all your hedges and shrubs.

Center core your shade trees and tall evergreens.

Prune your fruit trees and berries as well.

Begin first with your plums and cherries, because they bleed out as the sap rises.

Immediately after they bloom, prune all your early flowering plants like rhododendrons, lilacs, pussy willows, witch hazel, daphne, camellias, magnolias and forsythias.

5. Restoration pruning.

March madness also brings with it the perfect time to severely cut back those plants that require a restoration/ rehabilitation pruning.

Your spireas, potentillas, colored twig dogwoods, Russian sages, herbaceous clematis, honeysuckles and hydrangeas can be cut down just inches above ground level.

This type of pruning is required, as their blossoms only grow on new growth, and thick, healthy, lush foliage will result from your drastic pruning.

6. Lime away.

Lime is not only beneficial to your lawn, but to all your flowers, blooming perennials, deciduous shade trees, the orchard, vegetable garden and most non-indigenous ground covers.

This time of year, it can take 6 to 8 weeks for lime to work its magic due to our cool temperatures, so apply only pelletized lime (easy application and uniformed coverage).

7. Peas and sweet peas.

This month is the perfect time to try sowing peas for a very early harvest. Our weather here is pea-perfect, so please sow both edible and ornamental peas.

Always soak peas overnight in water-laced compost or old decomposed mulch. The microbes in these products greatly improves germination.

8. Mulch and re-mulch.

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

Wet mulch on wet soil locks in moisture for most of the summer. Mulch 4-8 inches or top dress 2 inches if you have an existing mulch cover.

As a great trick, mulching soon will smother and kill new emerging weeds.

9. Be a planting fool.

All sorts of trees, bushes, shrubs, vines, fruit trees, berries, perennials and ground covers are arriving at your favorite plant outlets now. Pick out and plant them as soon as possible.

The earlier you plant, the better. The ground is moist, temperatures are low and transplant shock is at a bare minimum.

Seek out bare-root items, too, because in the next few weeks they will all be gone.

10. Be edgy.

Before the grass rhizomes penetrate all other areas, go around your landscape areas and flower beds and give a nice edge to everything, saving hours of work come this summer.

11. Mower preparation.

Get your mower serviced, sharpened, oiled, tuned up and gassed up. In a few weeks, you will be mowing twice a week.

Dull mower blades shred grass, and the result is a brown lawn.

Starting your mower on the first pull is also very rewarding, so get it ready now and make sure the mower height is 3.25 inches to 3.5 inches.

12. Tool list.

Shovels, trowels, pruners, ladders, hoses, wheelbarrows, rakes, gloves, knee pads, spreaders — all these items and far more will be needed soon. Get them or repair them now before you need them, so when the job is on, you and your weaponry are ready.

Preparation is worth a pound of cure.

And of course, stay well all!

________

Andrew May is a freelance writer and 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. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email news@peninsuladailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

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