11 March 2010

It's March - the Daffodils are Calling Us Outside to Play in the Dirt


Lisa Merrell - the tomato man's daughter - is starting tens of thousands of tomato seeds in her kitchen for spring sales. Her curious cat is checking her methods.

The daffodils are blooming, encouraging us to be outside with our hands in the dirt. The area’s last average date for frost is April 15, so it’s too early to plant tender annuals. However, you can be outside enjoying the sun and laying the groundwork for a beautiful spring.

This week you could -

Dig up and divide last year’s clumps of perennial garden phlox, and thin them to five shoots. Replant the clumps six inches apart.

Revitalize perennials. Cut clump with a shovel. Use a spading fork to loosen the soil and lift plant pieces. Save the healthy outer ring. Prepare the planting hole by loosening the dirt. Add fertilizer plus compost or peat moss. Replant one segment of the plant in the original location.

All perennial flowers – When young shoots are 4 to 6 inches tall, snip the stems near ground level. Stems will be stronger and flowering will improve. Snip just above a leaf node. The stem will branch out from there so cut above a bud that is facing out rather than toward the center of the plant.

Increase the size of peony flowers by removing side buds as they appear. Disbudding allows the top flower to become show quality and size.

Improve the soil in established beds. Add a layer of compost after removing all existing weeds.

Get a soil test at OSU Extension. Take eight to twelve soil samples from 4-inches down. Combine them all in a bucket and take a baggie full to your local Extension office. In Muskogee, they are at the Fairgrounds. Call 918-686-7200 for details.

Clean out the birdhouses for spring arrivals.

Prune and fertilize fruit trees and berry brambles. Spray peaches and nectarines with fungicide. Spray all fruit trees with dormant oil.

Make a small pile of tree and shrub prunings in a corner of the yard to shelter birds. Or, trim to use as support for morning glories and other annual vines. Grow gourds on a pile of twigs.

Use 6-inch tip prunings of shrubs to propagate new plants. Remove all but the top few leaves; dip the clean cut stem in rooting hormone. Place in clean sand. Remove the bottom from a clear plastic beverage container and place over the cuttings to use as a cloche. Put in the shade, keep watered and watch for new growth.

Cut and bring inside, stems of forsythia, flowering almond and other early blooming twiggy plants.

Fertilize spring blooming bulbs.

Re-seed and fertilize tall fescue, bluegrass, and perennial ryegrass.

Cut perennial ornamental grasses down to 6-inches, making room for new growth.

Clean out flower and vegetable beds. Remove weeds to the compost pile.

Apply fertizer with systemic insect and disease control to rose shrubs. Prune to 3 to 5 canes.

Summer and fall blooming perennials such as asters, daylilies, and sedum, should be divided now. Replant the extra pieces or give some away to a new gardener.
Start seeds for warm season flowers and vegetables inside. They will be a month old by April 15 and ready plant after being hardened off.

Plant cool season veggies such as broccoli, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, onions, carrot, lettuce, peas, spinach or turnips. Plant strawberries and grapes.
Dump out last year’s patio pots. Put the used potting soil into a flower bed or in the compost pile. Clean out containers with diluted chlorine bleach or vinegar.

Plant herbs and native flowers to attract beneficial insects.

Use a shovel or edging tool to edge beds, cutting off trailing weeds.

Repair walkways, outside furniture and trellises.

Or, better yet, go for a walk and have a picnic.

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