The two biggest things right now are planting and pruning. Here a client has photographed me planting new bare-root fruit trees to fill out his orchard. (Photo by Dale Hackney)

The two biggest things right now are planting and pruning. Here a client has photographed me planting new bare-root fruit trees to fill out his orchard. (Photo by Dale Hackney)

A GROWING CONCERN: Marching toward spring gardening chores

MARCH IS TOMORROW, and I know you want your to-do-list for the new month.

Now that the last several weeks of wicked wind storms, torrential rains, snowfall and ice forming temperatures have come to pass — and certainly now that February is almost a fleeting memory with springs arrival a few weeks away — let’s not dally another moment and get to one of my infamous “13 things to-do-list.”

1. Blowing in the wind. Prune away bent, cracked, splintered or mangled plant parts after storm damage. Left unkempt, these damaged areas cause problems as they provide the perfect habitat for disease and insects.

2. Cold to the bone. Frost damage is another concern. If cold weather killed buds or disfigured leaves, cut them out immediately because this lush, succulent material is highly prized by molds and mildews — this is an insect’s perfect breeding ground.

3. Don’t leave the old stuff. With heavy rains, cold temperatures and longer daylight, old leaves, perennial stalks and last year’s organic material are rotting away. If this festering goo is touching living plant material or is on top of newly emerging growth and sprouts, then that new growth will also start to rot away due to contact with it. So clean up ornamental beds.

4. A tuberous aptitude. These next several weeks are a perfect time to buy fleshy root, corms, bulbs and tubers for indoor forcing only! Items like canna lily, dahlias, calla lilies, tuberous begonias, tuber roses, caladiums and elephant ears all suffer being long finishing crops, meaning they take 70 to 90 days for good flower production. They also need warm soil conditions to grow robustly, and that takes until July 4 around the Peninsula. Start them indoors now so by June 1, they are already 90 days developed. In fact, go buy them this week or get them out of storage. Next week’s column will be on pot-forcing summer bloomers “101” article.

5. So sweet. If you truly want to get today’s value out of this column, go buy sweet pea seed right now. Place the seeds overnight in a jar of lukewarm water mixed with compost or some old decayed mulch (this inoculates the seed for dramatically increased germination) and plant a row along the fence, arbor or mailbox pole. Do this again in 2 weeks.

Then sit back and admire for months the heavenly scented floral display — they’re superb as cut flowers, too.

6. Eat your vegetables. And don’t stop with the sweet peas, because our weather is ideal for cool crop veggies and greens. Sow edible peas, Swiss chard, radishes, carrots, beets and seed onions during the next several weeks. You can germinate indoors as well.

7. Roses are red and very short now, too. Time to prune away your climbing roses (not ramblers) as well as the grandifloras, floribundas, hedge, English and miniature roses. Clip climbers down 60 percent or more, thin 30 percent or more your head roses as well as miniature roses, English roses and even patio or tree roses. As to your cut flower floribundas and grandifloras, take them down to a height of 12 to 16 inches.

8. But that’s not all folks. Since the clippers are flying, visit your aggressive vining plants and go at them as well. Thin your evergreen clematis right after blooming, and reduce your vining honeysuckle to only a few feet tall.

9. Lay into the lawn. For one of the last times this year, cut your lawn as low as you can go, then immediately fertilize with a bone blood meal 50/50 mix at 40-pounds-per-1000-square-feet. After a rain or two, over-seed that prepared area with a nice grass seed selected for your usage and light conditions. These seeds will germinate now in the bare spots it finds — or weeds will later.

10. Here a lime, there a lime. For all your non-acid plants let the lime fly. (Acid lovers, by the way, are rhodies, evergreens, camellias, hydrangeas, etc.) Your flowers, bulbs, perennials, roses, vines, lawns, orchards, decorative shrubs, deciduous trees and veggie plot will love a heaping dose of lime, used at 40- to 50-pounds-per-1000-square-feet.

11. Bulb care: Avoiding the banquet. As spring approaches, your glorious spring bulbs are already emerging as crocus, iris, snowdrops and miniature daffodils are already bursting forth with vibrant color. But beware — the slug eggs, mice, deer and gophers are all ready as well to scurry forth. Watch for their early arrivals in spring and take whatever precautions you choose, keeping in mind to please not poison or pollute what is not yours.

12. Beautifully bare. Bare-root plants are less expensive, heal in and grow better. They are many times bigger in size and more abundant in variety than their potted counterparts, and Mother Nature will water them for the next 90 days.

13. Vow to buy a wow. Since your going to nurseries and greenhouses quite often over the next few months, why not look around as spring heralds in. Many people’s favorite blooms are those of spring flowering plants. Make it your goal to find a plant somewhere that wows you this spring, then buy and plant it in your yard this year — we all need to be wowed at home.

And also, we all need to stay well!


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 (subject line: Andrew May).

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