Whether you are hoping for a big harvest, a beautiful landscape, or a little stress relief, knowing the when and how of gardening will help you be a success. Use these timely garden tips to eliminate some of the guesswork. For more gardening tips, check out Melinda's gardening books.
Plan to grow your own fresh vegetables this season. It can be as simple as a few of your favorites tucked into a vacant spot or flower garden or grown in a container. If you have more space you can dedicate a garden or large section of an existing garden just to vegetables.
Spring cleaning does not have to result in more discards in the landfill. Find ways to reuse or recycle items in the garden. Some plant societies, garden clubs and master gardener groups may be willing to reuse some or all of those plant pots that have collected in your shed over the years. Old chairs, sleds and sentimental items can be used as artwork, focal points and planters in the landscape. And if these additions don't fit into your landscape design, they may be the perfect item for friends, family and other gardeners. Check for recycling groups in your area before adding them to the trash.
Gardening Tips for Flowers
It's time to start getting your overwintering geraniums ready for the garden. Plant bare root geraniums in a well-drained potting mix. Those stored in their original containers can stay put, though I prefer to repot and freshen up the soil. Once potted, cut the stems back to 4 to 6 inches above the soil. Move the potted plants to a warm sunny location. Water thoroughly and often enough to keep the soil slightly moist. Fertilize with a dilute solution of flowering plant fertilizer once new growth appears.
Get the longest colorful display from your tender bulbs like cannas, dahlias, caladiums, callas, and tuberous begonias by starting them indoors. The extra growing time indoors means early blooms in the garden. Remove stored bulbs from storage or purchase new bulbs from the garden center or catalogs.
Clean and divide stored bulbs if this was not done in the fall. Discard any rotten, shriveled or diseased bulbs. Each division must contain at least one eye (growing point). Those with a few bulbs can plant them in individual pots right away. Those with lots of bulbs may want to start them in flats and once sprouted move them into individual containers to save growing space. Fill flats and pots with a well-drained potting mix. Keep the mix moist and warm until growth begins. Then move them to a sunny location or under lights as soon as any bit of green appears. Water often enough to keep the mix moist and fertilize with a dilute solution of flowering houseplant fertilizer once growth begins.
Gardening Tips for Edibles
The garden season has begun - at least indoors. Northern gardeners can still plant onion seeds for transplanting outdoors. Start parsley now for best results.
As soon as the garden soil thaws you can start preparing for the season. Take a soil test to find out what nutrients your soil contains and what you need to add. Check the yellow pages for a state certified soil lab or contact your Extension Service for details.
Get the most out of whatever space you have by using some of these space saving techniques. Grow plants in blocks or wide rows instead of single rows. Train pole beans, cucumbers, or other vine crops on fences, trellises, and other vertical structures. Growing vertical not only saves space, it can help reduce disease and make harvesting easier.
Consider planting short season crops, such as radishes and beets, between long season crops like tomatoes, peppers, and broccoli. Interplant lettuce with long season crops for added shade from the sun and relief from the heat that can give lettuce a bitter flavor. Grow several crops throughout the season in the same row. Start with cool weather crops, such as radishes or leaf lettuce. Harvest those and replace them with a second planting of an unrelated crop like beans or cucumbers to reduce the risk of disease. Plant a third crop if time allows.
Trees, Shrubs and Roses
Let the weather and plant availability be your planting guide. Store bare root plants in a cool, frost-free, dark location until they can be planted. Moisten roots and pack the roots in moist sawdust or peat moss to retain moisture.
Water container plants whenever the ground is thawed and soil is dry. Wait for severe weather to pass before moving planters outdoors. Those stored in cool locations can go outdoors once severe weather has passed. Container plants wintered in the house need to be gradually reintroduced to the outdoors. Wait until the danger of frost has passed to make this move.
Complete your pruning before the trees leaf out. Pruning during leaf expansion increases the risk of trunk and branch damage. Complete pruning on oaks before growth begins to reduce the risk of oak wilt disease. Birches, walnuts, and maples can be pruned in late winter through early spring. The running sap does not hurt the tree; it just makes the job messy! Remove any storm-damaged branches as they occur.
Lawns and Groundcovers
It's time to get the lawnmower ready for spring. Always disconnect the spark plug wire when working on your mower. Clean or replace the spark plug and air filter. Drain the oil from the crack case of a four-cycle engine mower (not needed for two-cycle). Refill with the type and amount of oil recommended by the manufacturer. Replace damaged blades and make sure the blades are sharpened. Consider buying a spare set so you can change and sharpen during the mowing season. Check tires for wear and replace them if needed. Check for loose nuts, bolts, and screws, both now and throughout the season.
Sound too complicated or like too much work? Ask an experienced friend to help or contact a local equipment dealer. Act now to beat the spring rush. You want to be ready to mow when the grass begins to grow.
Tips for Indoor Plants
As the days lengthen and light intensity increases you will notice an improvement in your indoor plants. This stimulates new growth and is a great time to propagate houseplants. Fill a container with moist vermiculite, starter mix, or soil-less potting mix. Use a sharp knife, pruners, or garden scissors to take a 4-to 6-inch cutting. Cut just above a leaf. Remove one or two of the lower leaves. This is where the roots will form. Dip hard-to-root cuttings in a rooting hormone. This product contains hormones that promote root development and fungicides to prevent rot. Stick the cuttings into the rooting mix so at least one node (leaf joint) is buried. Water until the excess drains out of the bottom of the pot. Place the pot in a loose plastic bag-do not seal it-and move it to an area away from direct light. Once the roots develop, transplant them into a small container of potting mix and watch the new plant grow!
You can start fertilizing indoor plants this month. Fertilize if the plants show signs of nutrient deficiencies, or if you want to promote growth. Use a diluted solution of any houseplant fertilizer. Do not fertilize newly repotted plants. Many potting mixes contain fertilizer and the plants need to recover from transplanting and put down new roots before adding fertilizer.
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