Binetti: 5 ways to start the spring gardening season

On GardeningMarch 26, 2014 

The end of March marks the beginning of garden projects. If this is the year you decide to have a beautiful landscape or productive vegetable garden, then use this list to get you growing.

1. Weed, weed and weed some more. The tiny white blooming shot weed is the most important weed to smother with a mulch or hand pull this time of year. If you allow this imported weed to continue blooming it will shoot tiny seeds all over the landscape, hitting you in the face as you bend over and try to pull it up. Sheets of wet newspaper three to four pages thick can be layered over large patches of this persistent weed and then covered with a mulch of bark chips. Getting control of the weeds early means less work all summer long.

2. Mow, feed and lime the lawn. In our damp climate moss will always be with us. But lots of moss in the lawn is also a symptom of soil that is acidic.

Adding lime or calcium carbonate in the spring will help neutralize the soil and improve drainage if you soil contains clay. Fertilizing the lawn in spring helps the turf fill in bare spots where moss wants to grow. Be sure to sharpen the blades on your mower for a crisp clean cut and fill in any dips and valleys with sandy loam so the lawn area is perfectly level.

3. Prune — when needed. Most roses, fruit trees and overgrown shrubs benefit from a spring pruning but not all plants need to be pruned.

If you haven’t removed the old growth from clumps of ornamental grasses or if you have an overgrown spiraea, ninebark, buddleah or winter weary nandina you can cut these shrubs back to almost ground level for spring renewal.

Don’t be pruning rhododendrons or azaleas in early spring or you’ll be cutting off all the flower buds. Pruning after blooming is the general rule of green thumb.

4. Feed your soil. This means add compost or manure to the vegetable garden and around hungry roses or apply an organic fertilizer such as alfalfa pellets to the soil and work this in slightly with a light raking motion. Your soil is teaming with microbes and other living critters that need organic matter to feed upon. The more living creatures in your soil, the healthier your plants.

5. Clean the beds, stop the slugs. In our wet spring weather, slugs devour the new growth of vegetables, annuals and perennials and cleaning up decaying foliage of last year’s plants is one way to destroy the slug’s favorite habitat.

Stock up on slug bait (they make several brands that are pet-safe) and be sure to bait for slugs around newly planted primroses, pansies and lettuce starts.

CHORES THAN CAN WAIT

These are five tasks that can wait until the weather warms (like after mid-May when all danger of frost is passed).

 • Don’t buy tomato plants unless you have a heated greenhouse.

 • Don’t plant the seeds of warm-season crops such as beans, corn or squash.

 • Don’t put heat-loving annuals such as petunias, marigolds or geraniums into pots or windowboxes.

 • Don’t try to aerate the lawn if the soil is still wet. Water logged soil is easily compacted.

 • Don’t use a weed-and-feed product on your lawn. Cold night temperatures make the weed killers ineffective.

Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of several books. Reach her at binettigarden.com.

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