A breathtaking waterfall and pond is one of the many spectacular displays at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show. (Andrew May/For Peninsula Daily News)

A breathtaking waterfall and pond is one of the many spectacular displays at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show. (Andrew May/For Peninsula Daily News)

A GROWING CONCERN: Spring into action before season starts

WELL, HOW FANTASTIC! I got once again, for the 23rd year, to escort a vibrant group of 48 gardeners to the Northwest Flower and Garden Show.

Of course, seeing all the plants, bulbs, perennials, bees, fertilizers and lighting got me really thinking how much work I (you) need to be doing because it is now March.

1. Prevent problems. Now is the time to destroy those things that wish to harm your garden. I have already seen slugs destroying emerging perennials. Shot weed is already in bloom (the weeds that when mature and dry, shoot seeds into your eyes when touched), and dandelions are in flower.

Get on those weeds and spray, pull, hoe, digging down and removing them along with their taproots.

Spread germination inhibitors and do not overlook the munching mice.

They will eat your tender shoots down to the ground when you are in your house and sitting cozy. And please put out pet safe slug bait.

Attend to those concerns ASAP.

2. Plant away. 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 possible.

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

3. Dormant sprays today. We often discuss the great advantage of very targeted use on orchards, berries, nuts and fine woody ornamentals.

You should only spray before leaves or buds are popping out. For many trees, leaves and buds are just a few weeks away.

Use a dormant oil spray now and then 7 to 10 days later.

4. Essential nutrients. Your lawn, trees, roses, orchard, flowers and all of your plants will soon have their highest nutrient requirements as leaves, buds and new branches begin growing.

It takes three to six weeks with this soil temperature for the nutrients to become readily available to your hungry beasts.

5. Lime, the miracle drug. Lime is not only beneficial to your lawn, but also your flowers, blooming perennials, deciduous shade trees, 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 for easy application and uniform coverage.

6. Restoration pruning. March madness brings the perfect time to severely cut back those plants that require restoration or rehabilitation pruning. Your spirea, potentillas, colored twig dogwoods, Russian sages, herbaceous clematis, honeysuckles and hydrangeas can be cut down just inches above the ground level.

7. Mulch mania. Dry weather will return very soon. For now, your soil is wet (very wet thanks to the snow) and the mulch you buy is even wetter. Wet mulch on wet soil locks in moisture for most of the summer.

Mulch four to 8 inches, or top dress two inches. If you have existing mulch, cover that anew if it needs the layered and improved look.

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

9. Wonderful 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 before planting. The microbes in these products greatly improves germination.

10. A garden divided. 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, day lilies, hostas, peonies, asters, sedum, ornamental thistle, coreopsis, ornamental grasses, lupin, delphinium, coral bells, astibles, 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.

11. Tool Time. Shovels, trowels, pruners, ladders, hoses, wheelbarrows, rakes, gloves and knee pads — all these items and 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. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

12. Get the mower ready. Get your mower oiled, serviced, sharpened, 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. Make sure the mower height is 3.25 inches to 3.5 inches above the grass.


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).

The 23rd annual Peninsula Daily News garden bus group at the opening day of the second largest flower show in America, the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle. (Andrew May/For Peninsula Daily News)

The 23rd annual Peninsula Daily News garden bus group at the opening day of the second largest flower show in America, the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle. (Andrew May/For Peninsula Daily News)

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