A GROWING CONCERN: Spring into action with gardening chores

NEXT MONDAY, MARCH 20, at 2:24 p.m., Spring officially begins here on the Peninsula!

What this translates to is a tremendous to-do list needing to be performed in the next few days or weeks.

With that said, I will dally no more and immediately impart to you a wheelbarrow-load of necessary labor.

1. Prune, prune and prune some more.

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

Begin with roses, taking grandifloras down to 12 to 14 inches, floribundas to 18 to 22 inches.

Climbers can come down to 24 inches.

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

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

Cut your colored-twig dogwoods down to ground level (3 inches) and your mounding spirea and potentilla 3 to 6 inches.

2. Thin out all of 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, azaleas, lilacs, pussywillows, witch hazel, daphne, camellia, magnolias and forsythias.

3. Divide and conquer.

March is a great time to divide and rejuvenate many of your perennials.

Otherwise, they will perform poorly when they get too crowded.

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

4. Feed the hungry.

All of your plants are begging for fertilizers.

Please do us all a world of good and use only organic fertilizers like blood meal, bone meal, kelp meal, compost, manures, leaf mold and worm castings.

Fertilize now, or it will take weeks to become readily available in the ground for plants to use.

5. Be a transplanting fool.

All great gardeners share one trait in common: They move plants around their yard constantly.

Plants have a habit of getting too large for an area and we have a habit of always wanting to add new varieties.

Dig the new hole first, then dig entirely around the plant to be moved.

Do not thrust the shovel in and rip it from the ground — do a perimeter dig first.

Water your transplanted plant very well, even if it is raining.

6. Sow the seeds of healthy living.

Late March is the perfect time to sow cool-tolerant crops.

Our weather is perfect for Swiss chard, beats, radishes, greens, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, cabbage, brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, leaks, turnips, parsnips, peas and onions.

Sow only a small piece of a row and then repeat plantings every two weeks to get an even harvest later.

7. My little sweet pea.

You’ve really got to try this cut-flower favorite of mine because there is no better place than the North Olympic Peninsula for this botanical wonder.

Make sure to soak the seeds overnight in a lukewarm water solution with a small amount of manure from the compost.

8. Your lawn needs you.

Do you want your lawn to love you? This week, you must first sharpen the mower’s blades, then cut your lawn as short as possible without scalping it.

Then, put down an application of pelletized lime, roughly 40 to 60 pounds per 1,000 feet.

Next, apply a nice organic lawn food such as milorganite.

After this, over-seed with a rye and fescue grass seed mix, which is both drought-tolerant and evergreen, unlike the Kentucky bluegrass, which goes brown in the summer.

Then let your grass grow long and set your mower height to 3.5 to 3.75 inches in height.

9. Be edgy.

Before the grass rhizomes penetrate all other areas, go around your landscape areas in flower beds and give it a nice edge.

10. Spoil your soil.

This is the month to top dress your soil and flower beds with additives like compost, vermiculite, perlite or even a new layer of topsoil.

Then till and turn the soil deeply, but never do this when the soil is wet or you will destroy your soil structure for years to come.

11. Mulch mania.

You need to mulch everything this month if you have not done so since last year.

Mulch cuts down on weeds, vastly improves your soil, retains water and creates a far better growing condition for your plants, and they end up looking fabulous.

12. Beware of the garden-snatchers.

Bugs, slugs, mice and weeds all want to take over your yard in March.

Be proactive. Put down “pet safe” slug bait, lay mouse traps, pull weeds and look for insects, etc.

Do so now, and thousands of prodigy will be prevented.

But above all … please 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 news@peninsuladailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

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