The new and improved Spring Gardening Article. I first wrote it in March, but now it is April 3rd so decided to combine the two and split off two special articles about seed starting and landscaping. Spring started early this year but got interrupted by a winter storm, as is to be expected in the rain shadow of the Sierras and another winter storm will be welcomed and expected before summer hits. Somewhere in this article I write about my analysis that “it always snows on the tulips”. Well another is expect cold weather or snow on your camping site for Memorial Day weekend. We live in a very fickle environment and plants that are natural and growing “grow with the flow”. Newly introduced plants don’t always do so well and neither do camping plans. Just expect late freezes along with warm sunny days and be flexible.
Looking forward to summer, it is time to start your tomato and pepper seeds now and into early April. If you want to grow special varieties not available in nurseries or if you just want the challenge of starting your plants from seed. See the special post on this.
Plant your peas now or not til next year because they will not produce in hot weather. Plant beets, carrots, radishes, rutabaga, potatoes, parsnips, kolhrabi, onions, lettuce, micro greens, swiss chard and kale now. I put in a vote for yellow beets instead of red ones because they taste the same and don’t discolor everything if you cook them with other veggies. Plant mini carrots if you want a quick harvest and don’t have stone free soil. Buy seed tape for radishes and carrots to avoid thinning. Plant your beet seeds heavily, because you can use the thinnings as salad and smoothie ingredients. Continue to thin until they are about 4 inches apart. Hold off on most herbs- don’t be fooled by what is offered at Home Depot, Walmart, Lowes- they get shipments in that mostly are suited for California and not Northern Nevada; parsley and thyme are exceptions.
Other March gardening tasks…..Get ahead of the weeds!!!! Get ’em while ther’ small.
This is a controversial subject. I used to be a proponent of a “no chemical environment”. That’s when I had the time or I could pay someone else to have the time to pull weeds from the back lot and dig dandelions from the lawn. You can spot spray small weeds with Roundup to keep them under control. Be careful to spray on a calm day and don’t get the chemical on plants you want to keep. It’s up to you- get the weeds now or forever be pulling.
Get your irrigation systems up and running and make them as efficient as possible. We are not “out of the drought”; in fact, I read a recent report from the National Weather Service that states that we are still in a serious drought. Be as water-wise as possible. Refer to Truckee Meadows guidelines for reference. Don’t be a water waster- pay attention to run-off of your sprinkler systems and deep water your shrubs and trees with a hose or several drips cause that is all they need.
The roses are leafing out. What to do? Back in the day of longer and colder winters, we didn’t used to prune them until May. That is too late now. Prune back the rose bushes as they leaf out to shape them. A guideline for pruning is- prune back to a five leafed head and cut the branch at an angle. Trim off dead wood as close to the ground as possible. Water deeply once a week. Keep an eye on aphid infestations that will start with warm weather. You can kill the aphids with several means. A strong water spray from the hose, manually rubbing them off the leaves and stems, insecticidal soap (bought or homemade) or systemic treatment. It is a good time to fertilize with a rose fertilizer, which will be balanced like 10-10-10.
As far as aphids are concerned, the same goes with your fruit trees. The aphids love new growth. Be on watch. For those environmentally conscious people, just spray them off every couple of days. Eventually, the predator lady bug larvae and preying mantis will take care of them. You will be serving a good purpose to allow these creatures to survive. Sometimes, waiting is hard and I have seen all the leaves destroyed on my trees before the good bugs came along and my trees had to regain strength and grow again.
It is most assured that we will have a hard spring frost in April when the fruit trees are full of blossom. You can wrap your trees in Christmas lights to keep them warm, cover them in bubble wrap or let nature do her thing. If you decide to plant a fruit tree or an orchard don’t be charmed by what is blooming at the nearest nursery and do your research about planting the ones that are late blooming and most successful in our fickle environment. Again, best to consult a knowledgeable nursery person before buying.
If you want a new lawn….this is a really good time to plant it whether by seed or sod.
Thatching and aereating…..you might be approached by lawn service personnel for this. It’s not a bad thing to do, but probably unnecessary. Thatch only develops when roots are shallow and are presented with fertilizer that encourages surface growth. Aeration is only important when there is compaction, like on a playing field or in a place where there is a lot of traffic. So, think about it.
I have a ton of coreopsis that have taken over my front beds and this would be a good time to dig them up and get rid of them, so it’s a good time for transplanting perennials. A good time to share your bounty with your neighbor and connect.
I hope you are all enjoying the snow capped view of the Sierras, the flowering trees and the awesome blooms of daffodils, hyacinths and tulips. The celebrations of the New Year have passed quickly into the true new year of new growth and beginnings.