March is the beginning of spring when new growth begins everywhere. It is the beginning of our spring color which lasts clear through June in the Pacific Northwest. Early spring is my favorite time of year. Every week there are new flowers and more new green growth.
Although container trees and shrubs can be planted year round, spring is one of the very best times to plant. The cool weather allows root systems to become established while top growth is just starting. This is also a great time to plant roses, berries, perennial flowers, and some hardy annual flowers and vegetables. We can also plant summer flowering bulbs such as lilies, ranunculus, gladiolus, and anemones. These bulbs will all withstand light frosts. Wait until April or May to plant dahlias and begonias. Their new growth is frost tender.
It is easy to remember which vegetables are hardy and which are tender. If you eat the root, stem, leaves, or flower buds, then it is hardy. Two major exceptions with root vegetables are potatoes and sweet potatoes. If you eat the fruit, then it is tender to even light frost. However, English peas and fava or broad beans are quite hardy. Now is an excellent time to seed or transplant hardy vegetables such as peas, lettuce, spinach, carrot, radish, onion, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli. Asparagus and rhubarb can be started from roots. Wait until mid-April to plant tender vegetables such as beans, tomatoes, peppers, melons, and squash. All perennial flowers and ground covers are frost hardy. Annual flowers which are hardy to temperatures in the mid twenties include pansy, ranunculus, primrose, alyssum, snapdragon, petunia, verbena, sweet pea, and lobelia. They all thrive in our cool spring weather.
Lawns can be planted from sod almost any time the soil is not frozen. However, spring and fall are the best times to plant lawns from seed. Spring rains usually keep the top of the soil constantly moist after grass seed is planted.
IMPROVE PLANTING SOIL
Adding bark dust, compost, peat moss, or other organic amendments will improve any soil. For flower beds and vegetable gardens, an inch or more can be placed on top and then tilled or spaded in. When planting trees and shrubs, spread amendment over an area 4 to 5 times the diameter of the root ball. Then spade amendment into the entire area. This encourages roots to grow into surrounding soil. Where you are planting several shrubs or trees in an area, mix amendment into the entire area before planting.
CONTROL ROSE DISEASE EARLY
Our mild winter has left most roses with some of last fall’s leaves still on the plants. Many of these leaves have black spots on them. These leaves contain spores which will infect new leaf growth which is already starting. They need to either be sprayed or removed. Rake them and any dead leaves and send them away with the yard waste. If you leave the leaves in place, treat with one of the systemic fungicides: Propiconazole, Myclobutanil, or Tebuconazole. Propiconazole is available in Ferti-lome Systemic Fungicide. Myclobutanil is in Spectracide Immunex Fungicide. Tebuconazole is in Bayer All-in-One Rose and Flower Care. These 3 systemic fungicides stop disease development in already infected leaves as well as protecting new uninfected leaves. Organic fungicides Neem Oil and Calcium polysulfide and chemical fungicides Daconil and Chlorothalonil are effective in protecting new growth.
DISEASE RESISTANT ROSES
Two groups of roses are very resistant to black spot and other rose diseases: The Knockout series of 7 varieties and the Floral Carpet series of 9 varieties. Knockout roses grow about 3 feet wide and 4 feet tall. Floral Carpet Roses grow about 4 feet wide and 2 to 3 feet tall. These are “landscape roses” and were not developed for cut flowers. They are most effective when several plants are grouped together in beds or borders.
SPRING LANDSCAPE CARE
I like to lower my lawn mower to about an inch (usually about the second notch) the first time I mow. If the mower bogs down I will raise it a notch and then cut it at one inch about a week later.
If you have moss growing in the lawn or other areas, now is the time to apply some moss control. Most moss control products contain iron, which not only kills moss but turns grass a darker green color. I prefer to use a lawn fertilizer which also contains moss control. It is not much more expensive and accomplishes two jobs at the same time. Moss control (with or without fertilizer) can also be used on other landscaped areas. Since iron can stain concrete, be sure to sweep it off before it gets wet. For moss control on decks, roofs and other unplanted areas, a different product containing zinc is a better choice. It is non-staining and non-corrosive to wood, concrete, asphalt, and metal.
Our heavy rainfall turns our soils acidic. An application of a lime product is very effective in reducing acidity on lawns and most flowers, trees and shrubs, except rhododendrons, camellias, azaleas, blueberries, and similar acid loving plants. I apply lime every year to turf and every other year to vegetables, flowers, trees, and shrubs.
INDIVIDUAL PRUNING LESSONS
Most of you know that I specialize in natural pruning. Many may not remember that I also teach natural pruning on an individual basis on your own plants. So if you like to do your own pruning, but would like to develop some better skills, give me a call or email.