“How to” for Lawns – Mowing
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“How to” for Lawns – Mowing

Key Mowing Factors To Consider

How often you mow your lawn will depend on a number of factors. Firstly how much time you have to devote to your lawn’s maintenance. How fast your lawn grows, and this in turn will depend on whether you fertilise it regularly and whether it receives adequate water and sunlight. Normally, lawns should be mowed at least one a fortnight to keep them in check, so to speak.

One of the worst things you can do for a lawn and a big misconception is that you can or should mow your lawn very short in order to reduce the number of times you have to mow it. Grass generally will do much better when mowed at a higher setting. This is especially the case in the summer months, where short grass can often be burnt by the sun otherwise.

It is suggested that you should never be cutting or trimming off more than 1/3 of the length of the grass in a mowing session. If you have let your lawn go and it is far too long, it is recommended that you firstly mow it at a longer cut and then remow it at a slightly lower setting.

Other recommendations for mowing a perfect lawn

If it is still too long, then you can go over it again in a couple of days time. Although this is time consuming it is the preferred method for caring for your lawn. Needless to say like having your hair cut, you should maintain your equipment. In this case make sure your mower blades are sharp and in good condition.

GardenEaze recommend you remove any stone or other obstructions from the lawn before mowing to avoid any damage to the mower or lawn as these can damage the cutting blades.

  • Do mow in different directions, it does not matter which way – whether it is diagonal, horizontal, or vertically each time you mow your lawn. This prevents the grass blades from curving in a particular direction after numerous cuts.
  • It is well known that you should never mow when your lawn is still wet. The reason for this, however, is not so well known. There are actually two reasons for this. Firstly, you will not be cutting your lawn evenly and when it dries may be a lot longer than expected. Secondly, you can often cause fungus to establish itself.
  • For the lawn bowl look of a flatten smooth lawn larger lawn rollers can be purchased. To use these you simply roll them over your lawn after mowing in nice even and straight rows.
How to Grow Japanese Red Maple Trees from Seed
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How to Grow Japanese Red Maple Trees from Seed

Most Japanese Maple seeds ripen in the fall. Watch the tree and wait for the seeds to turn brown. The seeds are ready to be harvested when they are brown and can be easily removed from the tree.

The seeds are attached to a wing, it’s best to break the wing off before storing or planting the seeds. Japanese Maple seeds have a very hard outer coating as do many ornamental plants. Under natural conditions the seeds would have to be on the ground for almost two years before they would germinate. All that happens the first winter is the moisture softens the hard outer shell, and the second winter germination is beginning to take place.

In order for all of this to happen in the proper sequence so the seedlings actually sprout at a time of the year when freezing temperatures or hot summer sun doesn’t kill them, takes a tremendous amount of luck.

You can improve the odds by controlling some of these conditions, and shorten the cycle. Once you have picked the seeds and removed the wing just place them in a paper bag and store them in a cool dry place until you are ready for them. You don’t want to plant your seeds out in the spring until the danger of frost has past, here in the north May 15th is a safe bet.

If May 15th is your target date you should count backwards on the calendar 100 days. That will take you to about February 5th if my math is correct. On or about the 100th day prior to your target planting date, take the seeds and place them in a Styrofoam cup or other container that will withstand some hot water. Draw warm to hot water from your kitchen faucet and pour it over the seeds. Most of the seeds will float, just leave them in the water overnight as the water cools down. 24 hours later most of the seeds will have settled to the bottom of the cup.

Drain off the water. Place the seeds in a plastic bag with a mixture of sand and peat or other suitable growing mix. Even light potting soil will work. The peat or soil should be moist, but not soaking wet. Poke some holes in the bag so there is some air circulation, and place the bag in your refrigerator for a period of 100 days.

After 100 days you can plant the seeds outside. If you have timed it correctly, you should be at or close to your target planting date.

To plant the seeds just sow them on top of a bed of well drained topsoil or sterilized potting soil, and cover with approximately 3/8″ of soil. Water them thoroughly, but allow the soil to dry out completely before watering thoroughly again. If you water them frequently, not only do you stand a chance of the seeds rotting from being too wet, but you will also keep them cool, which will slow down the germination process.

Once they start to germinate provide about 50% shade to keep the sun from burning them. Snow fence suspended about 30″ above the bed will provide about 50% shade. Japanese Maples will tolerate some shade so it isn’t too important to transplant them too quickly.

Depending on how close together they are, you might be able to leave them in the same bed for one or two growing seasons. Don’t transplant until they are completely dormant.

Making Sure You Read Your Seed Packets
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Making Sure You Read Your Seed Packets

Very few consumers would buy a car or an appliance without reading information about the product. Purchasing a package of seeds doesn’t require a bank loan, but buyers still should read the packet carefully, says a gardening expert in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

“The picture you see on the cover of a seed packet is designed to show the plant at its very best,” says J. Robert Nuss, professor of ornamental horticulture. “Reading the package before you buy helps you to make sure the seeds are best suited for your garden.”

Nuss recommends gardeners of all skill levels take time to check some important information on the seed package.

Date

The date usually is listed on the back flap, typically bearing the phrase “packed for 1999.” “Don’t buy last year’s seed unless it’s free or so reduced in price that it won’t matter if many do not germinate,” Nuss says. “Some seeds are viable longer than others, but how the seeds have been stored has a major effect on germination.”

Purity

Packages of agricultural crop or grass mixes must list the percentage of each kind of seed if levels are higher than 5 percent. Weed seeds and the amount of inert matter (dirt, stones and chaff) must be listed as well. “Most packages of flower and vegetable seeds for home gardening contain 100 percent of the variety,” Nuss explains. “If you buy a ‘garden mix’ for a flower variety, read the percentage of seeds thoroughly. The highest percentage is listed first.”

Weight

The weight listing is invaluable in helping gardeners calculate costs and potential yield. Nuss explains that many seed packets are weighed in milligrams or listed by number per packet. “Seeds also are packaged by the ounce, so it’s important to remember that there are 2,800 milligrams in an ounce and 28 grams to an ounce,” he says.

Origin

Certain agricultural and vegetable crops grown in one geographic area may not do well in another. “If you buy seeds in Georgia, they may not do well if you plant them in Pennsylvania, unless they are specified for your region,” Nuss says.

Germination

“If listed on the package, germination information tells you what percentage of the seeds will produce plants under ideal conditions — which usually means in a laboratory,” Nuss explains. “Home gardeners can expect a germination rate of 75 to 85 percent when planting directly into the soil.”

Variety

Most packets of flower and vegetable seeds for home use list the variety and whether the seed is an annual, perennial or biennial. The package will note if the plant is a hybrid as well.

Culture

“Almost all seed packages have information on how and when to plant,” Nuss says. “The information should include the number of days until seed germination.” Vegetable packets list the number of days to maturity. Most packets list spacing recommendations and height and spread of the plant at maturity. Special care instructions and growth habits usually are included as well.

“Be sure to save the seed packet for use as a reference during the season or as a guide for next year,” Nuss says. “If you put the seed packet on a stake at the end of the garden row, chances are the weather will render it unreadable.”

Saving Seeds
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Saving Seeds

With proper storage, gardeners can save seeds for next year

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Gardeners usually have a few extra seeds or seed packages left over after planting their gardens, and a gardening expert in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences says leftover seeds can be stored to grow another day.

“Seeds are dormant living things that do not germinate to produce a new plant until warm temperatures and moisture break their dormancy,” explains J. Robert Nuss, professor of ornamental horticulture. “To keep seeds dormant, you must keep them cool and dry.”

Nuss says some garden seeds can be stored for long periods without much special treatment. He lists the relative shelf life of some popular plantings.

  • Five Years: Cucumber, endive and muskmelon.
  • Four Years: Cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant, pumpkin, radish and squash.
  • Three Years: Beans, celery, carrot, lettuce, pea, spinach and tomato.
  • Two Years: Beets and peppers.
  • One Year: Sweet corn, onion, parsley and parsnips.

Nuss says that relative seed shelf lives can be greatly improved by using several storage methods available to almost any homeowner. The key to storage is maintaining a constant temperature — preferably between 35 and 41 degrees Fahrenheit — and eliminating excess moisture.

“Moisture is the enemy,” warns Nuss. “Germination is hastened by high humidity and moisture, either in contact with the seed or in the storage container.”

He recommends the following storage methods:

Closed containers. “Use cans or glass jars with screw-top lids,” Nuss says. “Plastic 35 mm film containers are ideal for seed storage.”

Drying Agents. Placing an absorbent material in the container extends the life of the seed. “Dry powdered milk works well,” he says. “It attracts moisture from its surroundings, so don’t open the storage container except to use the seeds or change the drying agent.”

Nuss offers the following steps to create a powdered milk drying package.

Unfold and stack four facial tissues.

Put two heaping tablespoons of powdered milk on one corner.

Fold or roll the tissue into a small packet, sealing the ends with tape or rubber bands.

Place the packet in the larger container holding the seeds and seal the container. The drying agent should be changed every six months.

Store in a refrigerator or a similar cool spot. “Do not put it in the freezer,” Nuss says.

“This method is a great way to save commercial seeds or those you have collected from friends,” Nuss adds.

Safe Gardening
Gardening Wellbeing
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Safe Gardening

Bad backs and accidents can spoil the pleasure of gardening. Taking an ergonomic approach to gardening can help ensure that it is a safe and enjoyable hobby. It is important to make your own ‘risk assessment’ – sizing up the dangers and taking steps to avoid them.

According to 2004 data from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), about 300,000 people are hurt in their gardens each year seriously enough to go to hospital. 110,000 of these are children. Around 87,000 are injured actively gardening or carrying out DIY jobs in the garden.

The most common accident in a garden is a fall (115,000), but the biggest threat to people actually gardening is a cut (19,000), then falls (18,000) and being struck by things (12,600).

The UK’s Ergonomics Society says that gardening activities contain many of the risk factors associated with Cumulative Trauma Disorders, or “CTDs”. CTDs are a variety of disorders such as carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis that can develop as a result of repeated “micro-traumas” to the soft tissues of the body. Certain movements can cause tendon irritation, obstruction of blood flow through arteries, or compression of nerves. The repeated and combined effect could cause or aggravate a larger problem.

Knowing how to avoid these problems is important, particularly for older gardeners or long term gardeners who may be at greater risk. The kind of things they need to be aware of are not so different from the precautions manual handling workers need to take, including how to bend when working at ground level and not bending unless absolutely necessary, for example by re-potting at table height.

Another alternative is to use long-handled gardening tools such as hoes, spades and rakes. Yet Another is to work below shoulder level whenever possible or if working about shoulder level to perform the task for five minutes or less.

Gardening can be extremely beneficial in terms of the exercise and pleasure that it brings. Ergonomist and gardener,Colette Nicolle says, “There is nothing like digging up those weeds to relieve stress and later admiring the outcome of all your efforts”.

The Ergonomics Society which is the professional organisation for ergonomists/human factor specialists has five tips for gardeners:

  • Gardening is a source of pleasure and exercise but don’t overdo a session. Have plenty of breaks, particularly if you are digging, bending, stretching, carrying, etc
  • Be aware of the dangers from garden equipment. Don’t leave tools or hose pipes in places where they are likely to cause an accident
  • Try to do some research before buying garden tools and equipment and think hard as to exactly what you want the item for and how often you will use it because these factors should influence your purchase
  • If possible, have a feel of tools before you buy because handle size, weight, length of spindle etc are all key when it comes to using a tool
  • Think about who uses the garden when designing features such as a steps, paths or ponds. Will it include elderly people or young children, as a steep drop from one level to another can be an accident waiting to happen.

Flowerpots can be lethal

RoSPA’s Top Ten list of most dangerous garden tools is:

1. Lawnmowers, (6,500 accidents in the UK each year)
2. Flowerpots (5,300)
3. Secateurs and pruners (4,400)
4. Spades (3,600)
5. Electric hedgetrimmers (3,100)
6. Plant tubs and troughs (2,800)
7. Shears (2,100)
8. Garden forks (2,000)
9. Hoses and sprinklers (1,900)
10. Garden canes and sticks (1,800)

Many mower accidents occur when people cut themselves cleaning the blades, while lots of people trip over flowerpots or are injured moving them.

Men have more accidents in the garden than women and, apart from children, people aged 30 to 60 are most likely to come a cropper.

Sarah Colles, RoSPA Home Safety Adviser, said: “Gardens are places where people want to relax and perhaps that’s why so many accidents happen there.

“Simple measures such as putting on gloves could prevent many of the cuts. Wearing strong shoes and trousers when mowing the lawn rather than shorts and sandals can help.

“Electric mowers and other power tools must always be used with an RCD – residual current device – which will cut off the power quickly in the event of an accident. Maintenance must never be carried out while the mower is plugged in. It’s best not to have children around when mowing the lawn.

“Chemicals should be stored out of sight and out of reach of children and tools should always be tidied away after use.”

Gardening for Stress Relief

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Gardening Wellbeing
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Gardening for Stress Relief

In its purest form, gardening is about connecting with the earth and resetting our clocks to the simple, natural rhythms of life. Try as we may, we can’t really speed up a tomato plant and make it grow by our time table. We must adapt and in doing so, gardening offers us a gentle reminder about what’s really important in life: food, water, warmth, a bit of loving attention, and some room to grow.

Gardening is one of the fastest growing pastimes in the U.S., as well as one of the healthiest. Beyond its spiritual aspects, gardening can be a great stress reliever. Digging, raking, planting, pruning, and harvesting are physical activities that provide a constructive outlet for tensions that build up in our bodies. Gardening activities draw on your endurance, give you flexibility and strength, build muscle and strengthen the heart and lungs, as well as helping with weight control.

And with numerous studies showing us that regular physical activity reduces your risk of premature death, heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, adult-onset diabetes, osteoporosis, stroke, depression and colon cancer, it’s clear that we all must take responsibility for ourselves and do what we can to stay healthy. So if you think you might enjoy gardening, here are some ideas to get you started:

Start small and plant things that you will enjoy. If flowers make you happy, plant a few flowers. Over time you will find what works and what doesn’t. Don’t worry too much about the best way to do things. The most important thing is to just get started.

If you are hoping to reduce stress through gardening, it’s important to make sure that working in the garden doesn’t simply create additional stresses. That means, take it easy. Keep your gardening to-do list short. Stretch before and after working in the garden to minimize aches and pains. Take breaks to sit back, rest and appreciate what you’ve accomplished. Listen to music while you work.

If a large garden sounds like too much work or you don’t have the room, think about trying Micro-gardening. Grow your own plants – food or flowers in containers rather than in a plot of ground. The size of the garden is completely up to you. There’s micro-gardening, and then there’s MICRO-gardening.

If you have access to outside areas such as a patio, balcony or porch, your micro-gardening opportunities increase greatly. You may not even need to buy special pots. If you have old flowerpots, buckets, half-barrels or even concrete blocks, you have the makings of great gardening. Make sure the containers are clean and have drainage holes. If the containers do not have built in holes than you can create a similar effect by popping some pebbles into the bottom to ensure water does not rot the root base.

Herbs grow particularly well indoors. Depending on your cooking style, one plant each can produce all the parsley, dill, thyme, basil and oregano you need for an entire season of meals. Follow the seed packet directions, or buy individual seedlings, and you’re on your way.

Remember that when container-gardening, the plants count on you for their moisture. They might not receive enough rain and dew to grow well, so water the plants when the dirt starts to dry out.

Growing your own makes it easier to get the minimum “five-a-day” servings of veggies and fruits the experts now recommend for health. Recent research confirms that most common fruits and vegetables come packed not only with the vitamins and minerals already known to support good health, but also with “phytonutrients” demonstrated to boost the immune system, retard the aging process, and help heal or prevent many chronic diseases.

Gardening is good exercise, especially if you take a pass on all the latest power tools and put your muscle to the tasks of digging, turning and spreading compost, collecting and spreading mulch, hoeing and picking rocks. Activities like these burn calories, build muscle and strengthen the heart and lungs.

Even a small vegetable garden can save money. To ensure savings, though, a backyard gardener needs to stick to the basic tools and supplies and keep a tight rein on the temptation to own all the newest gadgets. For the biggest savings in energy, dollars and space, look into intensive gardening, the art of producing a lot of food in a small space.

You just can’t beat gardening for stress relief. The simple acts of planting seeds and tending plants can restore balance and perspective during the most wrenching life crises. Research has demonstrated that people heal faster after surgery when exposed to natural scenery – even looking at photographs of green plants speeds recovery. So what are you waiting for? Get started today!

Essentials For The Gardening Shed
Tools for the job
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Essentials For The Gardening Shed

The right tool can help make any job easier and the garden is no exception. More than 91 million households gardened in 2009, the most ever, according to the National Gardening Association. Gardening is an incredibly enjoyable activity, but if you don’t want to end up sore, blistered or itching, it’s important to be properly prepared before you begin.

Here are some essential items that I keep in my garden shed:

Gardener’s First-Aid Kit – The most important thing in my shed is my first-aid kit for common garden emergencies including sunburn, bug bites, cuts, and poison ivy, oak or sumac. Every gardener I know dreads poison ivy because the itch can last for weeks. A tiny brush against one of these plants can cause a whole lot of itch, but it doesn’t have to with the help of one of my favorite products, Cortaid® Poison Ivy Care Treatment Kit. It can be used to defend against an outbreak, help to prevent spreading and treat an itchy reaction.

Gardening Gloves

While I believe in getting my hands dirty, nothing beats a great pair of high-quality leather gardening gloves. The right gloves can protect hands from thorns, an unexpected bee or spider, sharp twigs or sticks and blistering.

Shovels/Spade & Trowel

A good shovel is the difference between making your garden work easier and giving you a backache. Look for one with a long handle (to take pressure off of your back) and flat ledge, which creates a surface for your foot. A trowel is a must. Find one with a wide, curved blade that fits comfortably in your hand.

Pruners-Pruning

Deadheading (picking the dead flowers off of plants) and trimming plants goes on all year long. Look for “bypass” pruners that make a clean cut on the plant without crushing or tearing it.

Wheelbarrows and Carts

Toting things around the garden can become a chore. Save yourself a backache and find a lightweight yet sturdy and steady cart to help with heavy work.

Watering Essentials

A good hose has a 5/8-inch opening, is reinforced with a mesh layer and is kink resistant. It should handle 50 pounds per square inch of water pressure. Cost usually reflects quality, so spend the extra. For areas your hose can’t reach, invest in a sturdy watering can.

With tools like these, gardening will truly be a pleasure, so get out there and “Get Your Hands Dirty”.

Gardening Tools. Nurturing Your Garden
Tools for the job
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Gardening Tools. Nurturing Your Garden

However, he or she might collect all the tools they can, but some tools are definitely more useful than the other and which the garden simply cannot do without.

Here are a few gardening tools that will make a definitive difference to gardening efforts.

Shovels

These gardening implements have a round or pointed blade. They help a gardener to move soil, dig hole or even in the process of planting. You must also try and select a garden shovel that has a flat edge at the top of the blade. Your foot gets a better surface purchase this way.

Hoes

Weeds and a garden go hand in hand. You can’t have a garden which does not have weeds and they are a fact of gardening life. You can’t just get away from them; but hoes help you get rid of them. You can also use hoes to break up the soil, if needed. Your selection of a garden hoe must be dependant on its strength and hence try going for a rolled steel blade that has been riveted to the handle. Such hoes are more reliable.

Hoes with a smaller blade will enable you to get in between the plants, if necessary, and clear the weeds.

Trowels

A trowel is a tool that will offer immeasurable help during planting. If you are looking for durability, and most people are, then a steel blade trowel is the one to choose. If you are looking for an easy grip then choose a trowel that has a soft rubber handle. If gardening is your passion, and you plan to spend long hours working in the garden then you would do well to get trowels which are ergonomically designed, which help in taking off the stress off your wrist.

Rakes

Rakes will help get rid of all the fall leaves from your garden and also enable you to collect all the debris that gets collected in the garden. You can either use a narrow rake or a wide rake. If you use a narrow rake, it’s easier to maneuver around or between the plants, but a wide rake will get rid of the fall leaves easily and quickly. So, its best that you have both types of rakes and here again, choose only those with ergonomic handles.

Pruners

This is yet another gardening tool that a gardener cannot simply do without. This is because the process of shaping of a plant, their pruning, and deadheading goes on throughout the year. So, if you want a cleaner cut on the plants then you should use pruners. The do not rip or tear the plant.

Typically, there are two types of pruners that you can choose from – the anvil pruners and bypass pruners. A word of caution here; buying pruners can be a costly exercise, so be very careful in your selection.

Garden Forks

If you want to break up the garden soil, then a garden fork is the best bet. Compared to a pitch fork, garden forks are thicker and shorter. Don’t go for ones that have flat tines, but for those who have square tines. You can use a garden fork in place of a spade if it’s of the right size and shape.

Water Cans

A good watering can is a must-have, if you are the proud owner of a garden. A good watering can makes it easier for you to water your plants. It can be easily tilted and can easily be maneuvered and balanced in your hand.

That leads us neatly on to the next area.

Must Have Accessories for Your Next Gardening Project

When it comes to gardening accessories, there are a number of different items that are included. To start a garden and maintain it, it is likely that you will need gardening supplies. To grow plants or food, you will need to have seeds. To help your seeds flourish, you may want to have plant food and other feeding supplies. The gardening tools and supplies that you need will all depend on what type of garden you are interested in developing. Despite the difference in supplies, there are many common accessories that you may wish to have.

The first step in starting a garden is to pick a space. Since your plants, flowers, or food will need sunlight, you will want to select an area that receives an adequate amount of it. This area can either be large or small, depending on the size of your garden. You may also want to make sure that this area is not in the way of your other activities. Developing your garden in a fairly secluded area will help to reduce the risk of destruction.

To get started, you will need to have a number of important gardening tools. These tools should be used to dig a hole for your seeds and to create a smooth ground surface. Popular gardening tools include, but should not be limited to, weeding forks, surface rakes, shovels, and hoes. If you do not already have these tools, you will need to purchase them. Most of these garden tools, along with other gardening accessories, can be purchased online or from most department stores or home improvement stores.

Once you have created a safe gardening area, you will then need to start planting your seeds. Your seeds will all depend on which type of garden you plan on having. Many gardeners choose to have a flower garden, plant garden, or a vegetable garden. It addition to having one or the other, you may also want to incorporate plants, vegetables and flowers all into one. You can easily obtain seeds by visiting your local home improvement store, garden store, or department store. For hard to find seeds, you may need to resort to online shopping.

Depending on the type of flowers, plants, or vegetables you planted, you should begin to see results in a few weeks. Plant food and special soil may help to increase the appearance of your garden. While most gardeners prefer to use plant food, it is optional. In some cases, you may find that your plants, flowers, or vegetables will grow just as well on their own. Plant food and premixed food soils can be purchased for an affordable price at most retail stores.

Gardening is a backyard activity that many enjoy themselves. If you are a parent, you may also want to include your child. Depending on their age, age appropriate gardening tools can be purchased. These tools are similar to most traditional tools, but they tend to be safer. In fact, most play gardening tools are made of plastic and have dull edges. To purchase these gardening supplies for your child, you will want to visit your local retail store or shop online.

April
Monthly Gardening
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April

INTRODUCTION

The entire month of April is wrapped in spring. With March madness behind us and the merriment of May ahead, we feel the need to stop and appreciate our gardens in April.

Our area’s last listed frost date is April 15th. The IRS has made this easy for us to remember! Sure enough, the date has been accurate in my journal for several years, but it is always close. All was fine until April 17, 2007 when we had, not just a late frost, but a killing winter freeze. I don’t recall experiencing anything like it before.

The month of April is full of tulips, daffodils, Virginia bluebells, Youshino cherry, flowering dogwood, crabapple, candy tuff, azaleas, creeping phlox and more.

BULBS

If you forced paper-white narcissus indoors over the holidays using a soil based medium, they can be planted outdoors for years of enjoyment. If you forced them in the absence of soil, they are spent; compost them!

I know it drives you crazy to see the fading leaves of the daffodil. Yes, it really is necessary to keep the green as long as possible for next year’s food.

ANNUALS

Wait until after the last frost before planting tender annuals such as Impatiens and Petunias.

PERENNIALS

The Cross Vine trellised over my garden gate and up the side of our house is striking in April. Love, love, love this vine. This is why we put up with a ratty looking vine in the winter or at least, this is why I do. The sticks of Miss Huff Lantana left for architectural interest (or should have for the health of the plant) can probably be cut to the ground now. I usually leave mine until the new growth comes in so I can have a visual to remind me of what will come.

Now is a good time to divide Hostas. There is lots of good advice out there on the proper way to do this. I take the in-situ method; i.e. as the green appears, I take a shovel, split the plant while still in the ground, pull half of it up and move it to its new home. Works for me. But in Helen’s Haven, I no longer grow Hostas, which saddens me greatly. The one area where we can grow them is infested with voles. Trying all the usual tricks, none have worked. But I would not longer grow them there even if I didn’t have voles. This area also too dry. When I re-worked Helen’s Haven into a water-wise design, I was no longer willing to bring water to this area. Such is gardening. The real beauty in gardening is the wealth of plants available to fill any niche one door closes with one door opens. I now have a very nice display of hellebores. Hellebores provide year round greenery, flowers in the late winter (wow), are drought tolerant and poisonous to voles, so they stay clear.

TREES AND SHRUBS

The time to prune azaleas is just after they bloom. In fact, a good rule of thumb is to prune most blooming shrubs right after they bloom. If you wait too long, you will cut off next years bloom.

If you have to tame forsythia, do it now. It can be cut back – as much as you need – and still have some flowers next winter.

If you got winter burn on your gardenia, just cut off the burned ends. Or, take the lazy method, which is what I do. Let the new leaves self prune the dead. The dead leaves will eventually drop off. If you see a lot of yellow leaves, test the soil and remember gardenias like acid soil! However, also remember this is part of the plant’s natural cycle. It looses leaves in the spring and then produces new growth. So be patient.

Now is good time to cut back the red-stemmed dogwood branches. The winter red color is on the new growth.

It is normal to see a large amount of Magnolia leaves shed beginning this month. Some find it messy, but if the Magnolia was left to grow properly, the leaves will fall within the drip line and should be of little consequence. By ‘grow properly’, I mean Magnolias are not meant to be limbedup. In fact helping the branches droop is encouraged. In earlier days, it was common to weigh the lower branches down with rope and bricks. By keeping a ‘skirt’ on the tree, it hides the falling leaves and makes the tree very stately from the ground up. Once the limbs are cut, there is no going back. I have friend in Burtee County. Her sister inherited a pre-civil war home with magnificent Magnolias out front. For whatever reason, she limbed them up. Now the beauty of these magnificent Magnolias has gone with the wind.

HERBS

Plant herbs after the treat of the season’s final frost. Plant annual herbs such as basil, bi-annulas such as parsley, and perennial herbs such as rosemary, chives, thyme, and mint.

March
Monthly Gardening
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March

INTRODUCTION

It could be said that March is the month for yellow. I can’t help myself and I gawk at the forsythia and the daffodils. I can’t get enough of them. I also can’t help but notice the difference between pruned forsythia and those left in their natural state. Forsythia look best left natural. If you can’t leave forsythia naturally, needing a tidier garden, than find another shrub that can tolerate pruning and not look unnatural. But the chances are you are growing forsythia because of what it does this month – bloom fantastic long arching stems of beautiful yellow flowers; so let it do what it does best, branch out and beg to be noticed adding to the yellows of spring.

With the arrival of spring, we start wanting to see beautiful gardens. Look for garden tours, events, and symposia. A garden tour is a great way to learn about gardens, plants that do well in your region, and walk away with a thousand ideas while having an enjoyable time. Even if you only walk away with one idea, it is worth it.   My gauge for a successful garden tour is when everybody’s garden was somebody’s favorite.

BULBS

Don’t kick yourself for not having daffodils blooming in your garden this month. Put in your day planner now to purchase spring blooming bulbs in the summer when the selection is best and plant daffodils in mid fall.  As a reminder, do not cut back the leaves of the daffodils until they have finished. Once they have lain down on the ground, they can be cut back.

Ditto with the tulips. In our area, the Dutch tulips are used as annuals.  But can also be a benefit for those who aren’t keen on untidy bulb foliage.  I think tulips are the most underused bulb. They can be pricey, especially since they have to be replaced each year. That and the little garden critters love them too. I suspect this is why they are so underused. However, they are fantastic. I believe they are worth the money. Bulbs are long lasting and with the vast selection, they can be timed to bloom with the Dogwoods and the Azaleas.

Because I grow Dutch Tulips as annuals, I pull them as soon as the flowers are spent.

For summer blooming plants such as Gladiolus, plant corms now.  Planting every two weeks from now through spring will extend the bloom time.  Select well-shaped, large corms and plant in a sunny, well-drained location, planted no closer than four inches apart, 4 – 6 inches deep.

To get a jump start for a spring display, start caladiums and tuberous begonias inside.  Pot up bulbs with roots down and growth points up.  Keep at room temperature until they are ready to plant outside.  Both are very tender and benefit in waiting a couple weeks past the last frost date.

ANNUALS

Pansies are still looking good. We will be able to enjoy them through the end of May, if we want.Most of usually pull them in early May, after the threat of last frost, just in time to put in summer annuals. It also a good time to plant pansies.

Now is a good time to plant alyssum, snapdragon and viola. As well as larkspur and poppies seeds.

PERENNIALS

If you haven’t already cut back your Liriope, look inside to see if the new growth has emerged. If you see the new growth, it can still be cut back, but  be careful that the new growth is not cut. The longer the new growth, the more difficult this task is. Cutting them back last month would have been ideal, but there may still be time- take a peek before you cut. Otherwise, trim off burnt edges and wait until next year.

My Hellebores are looking very good. Hellebores are one of my favorite plants for winter interest. I like to cut back the old leaves before (or as) the new growth emerges. Also, if you don’t want your Hellebores to spread, cut the flower heads before they release their seeds. Remember too, the Hellebores cross breed readily. So don’t trust the seed of your black hellebore to stay black if they keep company with other colors. Your original will stay black, but any babies will be something else.

Hostas are starting to come up. This is a great time to divide and share with a friend or another location in your garden.

For your daylilies, now is a good time to divide. Daylilies need dividing every 4 years or so to keep them flowering nicely.  They divide easily and happily.  Keep the clumps large, 3 – 5 fans each.  Share with friends or find now homes in your garden. This year’s blooms may suffer, but will recover by next year.  One way to look at it, if they need dividing, they are suffering anyway by not being divided!

Bee balm (Monarda) is sprouting now (and last month too.)  Take this opportunity to transplant and move around in the garden or to give to friends.

Spring is a good time to divide bleeding hearts, garden phlox, hostas, coreopsis, chrysanthemums, ajuga, and Shasta daisies. Transplant to other areas of your gardens, share with a friend, or donate to a plant sale.

Herbaceous peonies will be up soon. I love, love, love Peonies. The blooms of this long living perennial may only last a couple of weeks, but I cannot resist their scent and beauty.

If you haven’t cut back your ornamental grasses yet, you may still have time. Look inside the plant to see if the new growth has emerged. Be careful not to cut the new growth.

If you needed a good excuse to grow Carolina Jessamine, look around and get inspired. They are blooming everywhere – mailboxes, entrances, sides of homes, fences, anywhere you wish to add some local color.

Transplant seedlings of columbine, Lenten rose, purple coneflowers, and bee balm to an appropriate spacing, to move to another part of the garden, or to share with a gardening friend.

TREES AND SHRUBS

Look at those Redbuds. Mine opened up around the middle of the month. Before that it was the Peaches and Cherries.

Coppice American beauty berry.  It helps stimulate growth and control size.

This is the time of year bear-root plants should be planted.  Either purchased as the independent garden center or received from the mail order nursery.  When they arrive, as the name applies, the roots will be bear.  These plants are dormant, without soil or potting mix, their clean roots moistened by damp sphagnum moss or softwood shavings, newspaper or the like.  Depending on the plant, the bear root could have a husky root system, but not leaves yet. or a chunk of roots, in either case, the plant looks nothing like what it will become.   The roots will soon sprout leaves and grow into fine plants.  Be sure to plant as soon as possible.  If the roots dry out, the plant’s health will be compromised.  Bear-root trees and shrubs benefit from extra care before planting.  Soak the roots in a bucket of water for 2 hours or more to help restore moisture.  In fact overnight is fine, but not much longer than that.  When planting, be careful not to plant too deeply.  Locate the soil like on your woody plant or a change or color, or a thickened area where the stem meets the roots.  Use these markers as guidelines.  Leave the crown (where stems sprout) at soil line when planting.

There is sill time to plant trees and shrubs.

 

 

Prune fig trees.  Fertilize fig and blueberries with a well balanced fertilizer (10-10-10).

ROSES

Roses are starting to put out new growth. We are ending the optimum time to plant bare root roses. Now is a good time to add a slow release organic fertilizer. Roses are heavy feeders. We will get a good couple of months before we see black spot or Japanese Beetles. The Lady Banks rose will be blooming soon. I love this Rose. It may only bloom once a year, but it virtually maintenance free, free flowing, and stunning. I have two; one on the South side of my house trellising up a Chinese Windmill Palm and another growing up a Maple tree, again, on the South side (of the property and the tree.)

HERBS

As the new growth is emerging, cut back the winter burned leaves of St. John’s-Wort.

March is a great time to direct sow parsley.  Your Tiger Swallowtail larvae will love you for it!

VEGETABLES

WATERWISE

March is typically a wet month. Unless there was a winter drought, watering is not necessary. Even in a drought, given the cooler temperatures, watering perennials once every 4 weeks and annuals every 2 weeks is all that is necessary. Tress and shrubs will not likely need watering. However, your specific conditions will dictate what is necessary.

SUSTAINABLE PRACTICES

Your bulbs will appreciate an application of a complete fertilizer as the green appears.

Pansies and violas appreciate a slow-release application now.

Now is still a good time to lay mulch. This gives you enough time to allow gardens to have a nice chill, killing off insects and such, while still protecting our plants. Also your perennials are just emerging and laying mulch is much easier before the plants are up. I like to use composted leaf mulch, but most of my clients still like triple shredded hardwood mulch.  It looks best right after it is laid. Oh for our gardens to look as good as it looks right after mulch is applied. For my clients who use the hardwood mulches, I recommend lightly raking the mulch every quarter to remove the larger pieces. It is these pieces that bleach out in the sun like old bones in a desert. Racking them up and using elsewhere in the garden helps extend to look of mulch. Of course, if you use composted leaf mulch you will not be off the maintenance hook. There will be plenty of bits of trash to pick up as the mulch is consumed.

Spot weed your beds and grass. I hand pluck out my weeds. If you do this before they get out of hand, they can be managed. Also in my beds, I use a hoe and just cut the weeds below the surface of the soil.

GARDEN PESTS

WILDLIFE

For your Bluebirds have your nesting boxes ready. They are looking to nest!

For your birds, if you haven’t done so already, now is a good time clean out your nesting boxes.  Removing old nests and debris from birdhouses gives a new family a fresh start.  It is also a good idea to scrub your birdbaths.

Here is something to think about:

Nature’s first green is gold.

Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf’s a flower;

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down to day.

Nothing gold can stay.

– Robert Frost