MARCH WEATHER IN JANUARY

The official temperatures for Vancouver, Washington did not dip into freezing for the entire month of January. Normally it goes below freezing about half the time. The daily average temperatures were more like March than January. Similar weather prevailed throughout the Northwest. As a result, plant development is well ahead of normal. Spring bulbs are much farther along than normal. Buds on trees and shrubs are ready to burst open. Even the grass is starting to grow again. We may have some cold weather in February that will slow things down, but it looks like we will have a very early Spring.

DECEMBER FREEZE DAMAGED SENSITIVE PLANTS

Fall weather was mild until the first week in December when temperatures dropped into the teens and below and stayed there for several days. Evergreen shrubs like Viburnum Spring Bouquet, Escalonia and Choisya (Mexican Orange) have a lot of brown and black leaves and branches. Some plants have dropped all their leaves. Most of these plants will recover and make new growth from the lower parts of the plant. Some plants I have seen may need to be pruned just above ground level. It is best to wait until new growth starts before pruning. Let me know in April if you need help pruning.

NATURAL LANDSCAPE DESIGN

Natural landscape design tries to emulate the natural environment which surrounds us in the Pacific Northwest. Some aspects of natural landscape design include: 1. Avoid straight lines. Gentle curves look more like Mother Nature had a hand. Place plants in odd numbered groups such as 3, 5 and 7 using zig zag arrangement. 2. Select plants which mature at the right size for their location. 3. Avoid shearing plants into unnatural shapes to keep them below windows or away from walks. 4. Change elevations and contours to avoid a flat look. 5. Reduce lawn areas and replace with beds, ground covers and natural mulch such as bark. 6. Use natural organic pesticides and fertilizers whenever possible.

MASON BEES

The Mason Bee is the common name of a nonsocial native bee (Osmia lignaria) that pollinates our spring fruit trees, flowers and vegetables. This gentle, blue-black metallic bee does not live in hives. In nature it nests within hollow stems, woodpecker drillings and insect holes found in trees or wood. They are active for only a short period in the spring. They are not aggressive and may be observed at very close range without fear of being stung, They are more effective pollinators than honey bees. Mason bees do not produce honey.

Now is the time to purchase dormant mason bees to improve pollination of fruit trees. Nesting straws and blocks can be made or purchased to encourage nesting in your own yard. Instructions for making a bee block can be seen at (www.growinggreener.blogspot.com/2008/03/new-bee-house-orchard-mason-bees.html). Both dormant bees and nesting blocks can be purchased on line and from Shorty’s, Yard N Garden, Portland Nursery and Backyard Bird Shops in Vancouver and Portland. For further information and references, go to: (www.gardening.wsu.edu/library/inse006/inse006.htm)

FRUIT TREE PRUNING

If you haven’t pruned your fruit trees yet, February and March is the ideal time to do it. Fruit trees should be pruned every year to eliminate water sprouts which grow straight up and to thin branches so adequate light reaches the fruit. Branches which grow up or in toward the center of the tree should be removed. Outward growing branches are best for fruit production. We are experts at pruning fruit trees including those which have not been pruned for several years. We can bring them into a more manageable size and shape.

STARTING SEEDS INSIDE

After several requests, I developed this table for starting vegetable seeds inside. Most Pacific Northwest areas near sea level have approximate last frost dates around April 15. Higher elevations have later last frost dates. Send me an email if you would like more complete information on starting seeds inside.

Indoor Seed Sowing and Outdoor Planting Dates for Vegetables

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Approximate Last Frost Date

April 15 May 1 May 15

Seed Outdoor Seed Outdoor Seed Outdoor

Vegetable Sowing Planting Sowing Planting Sowing Planting Time

Broccoli 2/1-4/15 3/15-6/1 2/15-4/15 4/1-6/1 3/1-4/15 4/15-6/1 6 wk

Br. Sprouts 2/1-4/15 3/15-6/1 2/15-4/15 4/1-6/1 3/1-4/15 4/15-6/1 6 wk

Cabbage 2/1-4/15 3/15-6/1 2/15-4/15 4/1-6/1 3/1-4/15 4/15-6/1 6 wk

Cantaloupe 4/9-6/9 5/1-7/1 4/24-6/9 5/15-7/1 5/9-6/9 6/1-7/1 3 wk

Cauliflower 2/1-4/15 3/15-6/1 2/15-4/15 4/1-6/1 3/1-4/15 4/15-6/1 6 wk

Kohlrabi 2/1-4/15 3/15-6/1 2/15-4/15 4/1-6/1 3/1-4/15 4/15-6/1 6 wk

Celery 2/1-4/1 4/1-6/1 2/15-4/1 4/15-6/1 3/1-4/1 5/1-6/1 8 wk

Cucumber* 4/1-6/1 5/1-7/1 4/15-6/15 5/15-7/1 5/1-6/1 6/1-7/1 4 wk

Eggplant 3/1-5/1 5/1-7/1 3/15-5/1 5/15-7/1 4/1-5/1 6/1-7/1 8 wk

Onion 1/15-5/1 3/15-7/1 2/1-5/1 4/1-7/1 2/15-5/1 4/15-7/1 8 wk

Pepper 2/15-4/15 5/1-7/1 3/1-4/15 5/15-7/1 3/15-4/15 6/1-7/1 10 wk

Pumpkin* 4/9-6/9 5/1-7/1 4/24-6/9 5/15-7/1 5/9-6/9 6/1-7/1 3 wk

Squash* 4/9-6/9 5/1-7/1 4/24-6/9 5/15-7/1 5/9-6/9 6/1-7/1 3 wk

Tomato 3/1-5/1 5/1-7/1 3/15-5/1 5/15-7/1 4/1-5/1 6/1-7/1 8 wk

Watermelon* 4/9-6/9 5/1-7/1 4/24-6/9 5/15-7/1 5/9-6/9 6/1-7/1 3 wk

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*Although cucumber, melon, squash and pumpkin plants are often started inside 3 to 4 weeks before outdoor planting, they mature just as fast from direct sowing outdoors if covered with clear plastic, spun fiber row covers, hotcaps or plastic milk jugs with the bottom removed to warm the soil. This makes it possible to plant seed outside before the average last frost date. When starting these vegetables inside, seed should be planted directly into individual pots or compartments since they do not transplant well if roots are disturbed. The above vegetables plus eggplant, pepper and tomato, are all frost tender and may need protection from late frosts.