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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Spring Gardening Tips

Spring is almost here!  The vernal equinox is on March 20 and marks the beginning of spring in the northern  hemisphere.  Here are some gardening tips to get ready for the season from "The Yolo Gardener" Spring 2011 Newsletter--a quarterly publication by the UC Yolo County Master Gardeners, by Master Gardener Linda Parsons. Thank you Linda for these great tips!

Yum!  Can't wait for peaches this year!  Make sure to get out there and trim and treat your fruit trees before buds swell.  Image from edenbrothers.com.
SPRING CLEANING
  • Prune foliage and branches damaged by winter.  If you haven't yet pruned your roses and fruit trees this is the last month to get them ready for spring bloom.  Don't put it off any longer!
  • Take care of weeds now before they take over.
  • Remove old growth from perennials and dig and divide crowded plants. 
     FERTILIZING, COMPOSTING and MULCHING
    • Begin cultivating your perennials - loosening soil once it is dry enough - and add soil amendments such as compost, peat moss and organic fertilizer. 
    • Be sure to use fertilizer recommended for each plant type.  Too much nitrogen will make plants grow too quickly, producing weaker growth.
    • Care for roses and fruit trees by adding rose food and soil amendments, as well as a cup of alfalfa pellets and two tablespoons Epsom salt to each rose plant.  This will help the roses produce more basal breaks (new growth) and chlorophyll.
    • Mulch your garden to a depth of 3 inches to reduce weeds and require less watering.
      PLANTING
    • Start your plant selection: 
      • Pansies, violas, Dianthus, Iceland poppies, primroses and plant candytuft are all early blooming annuals.  
      • Bulbs, corns and tubers like cannas, begonias, lilies and dahlias can be planted now.
      • Some good shade plant selections include astilbe, columbine, coral bells, Dicentra, Foxglove, Hostas, Nepeta, Pulmonaria and ferns.
      • Primroses are one of the earliest spring flowers, and are often a common sight at Victorian cottage-style gardens. Image from hortmag.com
      • A good drought tolerant selection can include Russian sage, Muhlenbergia, rabbit's tail grass, Buddleia, echinacea, rudbeckia and gallardia.
    • Remember to lightly fertilize and mulch after planting!  Plants will do better if they are planted at or slightly above grade.
    Rabbit or bunny's tail grass is a great drought-tolerant selection, and it's cute!  Image from lilacsandroses.blogspot.com.
      DISEASE AND PEST CONTROL
      • Due to above average rainfall, there are going to be more insects and diseases this year, so keep an eye out for early fungal diseases and aphids.
      • March is your last opportunity to spray fruit trees with dormant (lime-sulfur) spray before buds swell to get rid of wintering fungus and spores.
      • Check plants regularly (especially roses) for black spot, rust and mildew.  Also check for slugs, snails and earwigs, as well as aphids, mites thrips and scale with the advent of warmer weather.  Keep these harmful insects in check by planting yarrow, alyssum, feverfew, dill, parsley, coriander, penstemon and asters to attract beneficial insects.
      • Visit ipm.ucdavis.edu if you want to use commercial pesticides.
      LAWN CARE
      • Check your irrigation system to make sure your lawn is getting enough water.  Increase the water amount as the days get longer and warmer.
      • Re-seed thin areas and begin your fertilizing and mowing schedule.  Try applying a light topcoat of compost to improve lawn growth and health.
       MAINTENANCE
      • Stake tall growing perennials and vegetables before they start bending over in late spring.
      • Later on in the season thin fruit trees, leaving four to five inches in between each fruit to help remaining fruit mature properly and to keep branches from being over-weighted which can cause splitting.
      • Deadhead spent flowers to ensure a long blooming season.
      • Plant containers with annuals and herbs.
      To read the unabridged version of this article go to their website and download the Spring 2011 newsletter here.  You can also sign up to receive this newsletter by entering your email address at the top of this page.

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