Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Ready to March into Spring!

This isn't really a photo of my garden from 2011, but it easily could have been, given what our year has been like so far..... personally, I am really ready to see more scenes like this one, taken in early March a few years ago!

So far this year, while visiting gardens and park areas around Seattle, I have been observing a lot of plant damage that resulted from the sudden drop in temperatures, strong NE winds, and heavy snow of last November. Some shrubs that are normally evergreen have now dropped most or all of their leaves, branches have died back on some Hebe, Euonymus, and Lavender species, and more. Sounds like the same song, umpteenth verse, from the last 3 winters, doesn't it. Well, here's my "refrain to remember" when you're tempted to start pruning like mad or rip things out: be patient and wait a little longer. Many plants that are looking hideous right now will leaf out again- either from their existing branches or from their crown- and by late spring it may be hard to tell that they were ever damaged. You may still need to prune some branch tips if new leaves only emerge down below them, but this will become easy to see within a few weeks when new buds start to swell and open.

If you have a lawn, make sure to remember that freezing weather can be hard on grass too. Doing a lot of walking around or rolling wheelbarrows on it this time of year can damage it by crushing or breaking the crowns of individual grass plants, and/or compacting the soggy soil beneath it. Both can cause dead spots to form in your lawn, and result in more spring weed seed invasion. So that's one more reason to put off heavy-duty garden tasks for a little longer!

If you have fruit trees however, I do suggest pruning them very soon. Below is some great advice and info from City Fruit:
TIPS FOR GARDENERS- MARCH: It isn't too late to prune your fruit trees, but do it soon--and be cautious. The wood you take off now will encourage the tree to produce more wood (and yes, more pruning down the road). Focus on branches that are dead, damaged, or diseased. This is the time of year that many nurseries have their bare root stock on sale, if you want to buy and plant new trees. Plus, now is a good time to start preparing to put out Orchard mason bee boxes to help with fruit tree pollination. Download City Fruit’s FREE fact sheets on "Pruning Fruit Trees", "Planting Fruit Trees", and "Pollination" at www.cityfruit.org

City Fruit is also partnering with City People's Garden Store (in Madison Valley) to offer a one-time 15% off store coupon for new City Fruit members. (When you join, City Fruit will send you a coupon.) These two organizations are also co-sponsoring a series of free classes at City People's, which are all listed at www.citypeoples.com/gardenstore/workshop.html City Fruit also offers classes at other venues. For more info, visit www.cityfruit.org

If you plan on growing vegetables this spring, here are two helpful suggestions:
  1. Visit the IPMopedia website and click on the "Edible Garden Design" and "Backyard Farming" sections for all sorts of free tips, downloadable factsheets, and more. It's a wonderful resource for home gardeners, p-patchers, and professionals. I guarantee it will help you find food-growing success!
  2. Shop for organic vegetable starts, berry shrubs, and fruit trees at Seattle Tilth's “Early Start Edible Plant Sale” on Saturday March 19th from 10 am - noon, at Tilth's headquarters in Wallingford. For more info, visit www.seattletilth.org
And speaking of Tilth, the link below will take you to a very good article on pruning grapes, which is usually best done in mid-late February.... but this year I do believe that it’s a wise procrastinator who has waited until early March….!

As many of you know, over the past few years I have been doing more and more speaking engagements and classes at plant nurseries, garden fairs, community centers, etc. My specialties for these are similar to my design work: wildlife-friendly and child-friendly gardens, edible landscaping, and natural management of pests, weeds, and diseases. Most of my presentations are free, and this year I am going to be in quite a few locations around the Puget Sound area, so chances are good that I'll be in your "neck of the woods" sometime soon. You can find my entire spring schedule, including programs for children and families, by clicking on the other March 1st posting in the right hand column of this blog.

Happy Spring to one and all!

Member of the Washington Chapter of Association of Professional Landscape Designers
and the Environmental Education Association of Washington (EEAW)