Monday, March 5, 2012

The Garden in March

Mahonia nervosa (Low Oregon Grape) flower bud

Clematis x jouiniana leaf buds

March is a magical time in the garden-
Tiny green buds on the branches of deciduous shrubs and trees begin to open into leaves or flowers, the early bulbs open their cheerful blooms, and others send leaves up so fast you can almost watch them grow.  Little by little, the soil warms enough for tiny shoots to begin to pop out of the crowns of herbaceous perennials, and birds begin to sing more vigorously and start gathering nesting materials.  It's a great time to be out in the fresh air, whether in your own garden  or elsewhere!

Chives shoots

Clematis armandii (Evergreen Clematis) 
flower buds and new shoot
Gardening Tips of the Month for Ornamental Plants: 
Plant bare root shrubs. They are so much less $ to purchase, because you are not paying for the soil, nursery container, and shipping weight. You will have an easier time planting them at the right soil height also, because you can see the entire root system at the start.  To give you an idea of the savings, I just bought 100 plants from King Conservation District for the Magnuson Community Center Resource Conservation Landscape project- 40 Tall Oregon Grape and 60 Low Oregon Grape- for $150.00.  This sale was a once-a-year event, but many good local nurseries carry bare root plants at this time of year, and their deals will amaze you too.  There is one word of caution: because these plants are not in soil, they need to either be planted as soon as you get them home, or "heeled in" until you are ready to plant them in a permanent location.

Rosa 'Voodoo'
(Hybrid Tea Rose)

Prune your roses.  Now is the time to prune your hybrid tea roses, floribundas, and climbers.  Also, to remove all of last year's leaves if they didn't fall off in the winter, which helps prevent black spot or other fungal spores from being transmitted to this year's new shoots.  Old-fashioned shrub roses need little or no pruning, and most climbers benefit by pruning only the side branches and not the main canes, but Hybrid Tea Roses typically bloom best when the main canes are pruned to 18-36 inches from the ground. (The one pictured at left grows 6-8 ft tall even though I prune it back to 2-3 ft each March, and is still blooming today) A good rule of thumb for pruning smaller side canes is to shorten them according to diameter: the smaller they are, the shorter they should be cut. Those that are pencil-size or less should be removed completely.  Thinning out branches that cross through the middle of the shrub helps promote good air circulation too.  I found a good rose pruning tutorial with photos here:

Prune your Clematis:  New shoots are emerging from many types of Clematis varieties now, but there are different pruning methods for different species, and some need almost no pruning ever.  For instance, I only prune the woody, tree-like, Clematis armandii pictured above when it starts growing into it's neighbor, the deciduous Clematis x jouiania (pictured at the top).  This one is super easy for me to make pruning decisions about, because I just look for the healthiest-looking leaf buds in the upper canopy (both of them grow up my deck trellis and its roof) and then I prune off everything above those buds.  But other Clematis species are pruned by being thinned more delicately here and there, or by cutting all vines to the base.  A lot of the info out there in books and websites is overly complex and hard to figure out, especially if you can't remember which species you have and/or you've lost the plant tag.... however, I just found this simple and informative site at organic gardening magazine!

Gardening Tips of the Month for Edible Plants:  
Start planting cool-crop seeds, such as lettuce, spinach, chard, kale, carrots, radishes, beets, and the all-important snap peas (only because they are so delicious you can even eat their twining tendrils).  Root crops should always be direct-seeded into your garden soil because they won't thrive if transplanted, but I like to plant my peas and a few other crops in small pots, with the warmth of my refrigerator top or kitchen table providing a quick-start to their germination.  When they are big enough to plant outside, all potted starts need to be "hardened off" little by little before being planted in your garden, so they don't suffer transplant shock. 

An invitation from Artists for Japan for a special event:
Join the SUNSET VIGIL event this Saturday March 10th at Golden Gardens Beach Park, from 5PM till 6:30PM. As the sun sets in Seattle on 3/10, and the sun rises in Japan on the one-year anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami on 3/11, we'd like to gather and pay tribute to the people of Tohoku and pray for the future of japan.

Please find us at the bonfire on the beach around 5PM, and several musicians from Kokon Taiko will play music to lead us to the water blessing. We'll conduct a silent prayer at the sunset around 6PM.

The event will take place on the beach either rain or shine. Please wear warm clothing and bring a rain gear. If you have a flash light, please bring one!

Detailed information is available on our website