MARCH BEGINS OUR COLOR SEASON

One of the best things about the Pacific Northwest climate is the very long spring blooming season. The yellow forsythia blossoms will be opening any day now. Crocus bulbs are already in bloom and the daffodils are not far behind. Many heather plants are in full bloom. Several of my helleborus (Lenten rose) are in full bloom. If you would like more early spring color go buy some of the plants that are in bloom now. That is a good formula whenever your garden needs more color. That not only gives you color at the time, but fills in that color gap for future years. Besides heather and helleborus, I have seen candytuft (a white ground cover), anemones (pasque flower), ranunculus, several kinds of primrose and pansies available in nurseries and garden stores.

PLANT COOL WEATHER VEGETABLES EARLY

Virtually all the root, leaf, stem and flower bud vegetables can be planted anytime now. That includes all of the cabbage family. Lettuce and spinach seed will sprout when the soil temperature is only 40 degrees. All of these vegetables will survive temperatures into the mid to low 20’s, so there is virtually no chance of them freezing. Peas and fava beans are fruiting vegetables which are also frost tolerant. I also like to plant my sweet pea seed in early March. Started plants of many cool weather vegetables will be available in nurseries by the second or third week of March. Wait until at least April to plant other fruiting vegetables besides peas.

WHAT ELSE CAN I PLANT NOW?

This is the best time to plant roses and fruit trees. Virtually all fruits including strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, kiwi, currant, gooseberry and grape can be planted now. Virtually all trees, shrubs, vines, ground covers, lawns and perennial flowers can be planted any time.

START WEEDING EARLY

It is surprising how quickly those winter weeds can flower and go to seed. By removing them now you will prevent a new crop of weed seeds from invading your garden. Now while the soil is still moist weeds pull out quite easily. My best advise on weeding: Spend a few minutes every day weeding. On arriving home yesterday I pulled up over 2 dozen weeds in 5 minutes. When weather gets hot, weed in the shade: west side morning, east side afternoon. As soon as you are through weeding permanent plants, apply bark dust. Weed seeds require light to germinate. By covering the soil with bark, you prevent light from reaching the seeds. Cuts down on weed sprouting by 80%.

LAST CALL FOR FRUIT TREE PRUNING

I prune a lot of fruit trees and teach people how to prune their own. The window for fruit tree pruning closes in early April. If you would like my help, call right away. Remember fruit trees should be pruned every year for best production and to train so that most of the fruit is within easy reach. If your trees are reaching for the sky, we can bring them down to earth.

NO JOB TOO SMALL

Most landscape maintenance contractors do not want small jobs. This is one of my niches. I do a lot of jobs which only require an hour or two. If you have a landscape problem give me a call. Consultations and estimates are free.

TIME TO FERTILIZE PERMANENT PLANTS

If you have a lot of dandelions and other broad leaf weeds, a weed and feed combination fertilizer and weed killer is a good choice for lawns. You accomplish two jobs with one application. The difference in price between regular lawn fertilizer and weed and feed is usually only a couple of dollars. Grass should be wet when weed and feed is applied so that it sticks to the weed leaves. The weed killer is absorbed through the leaves and carried down to kill weed roots.

If you have few or no weeds apply a regular lawn fertilizer. There are many brands and formulations of lawn fertilizer. I prefer a balance of 3-0-2 nitrogen-phosphate-potassium. A typical lawn fertilizer might be 20-0-14. An organic fertilizer might have a 6-2-4 analysis. Most chemical lawn fertilizers have at least 15 per cent nitrogen. Many lawn fertilizers contain a higher percentage of nitrogen and smaller percentages of phosphate and potassium. They are also satisfactory. These numbers are prominently displayed on the bag. If you look at the guaranteed analysis label, you can see exact percentages and sources of each nutrient element.

Organic fertilizers are naturally long lasting. Chemical fertilizers often have a combination of quick acting and slow release nitrogen. Methylene urea is a common slow release nitrogen compound. Sulfur coated and poly coated nitrogen is also slow release. Sometimes granules are coated with both sulfur and poly. If slow release nitrogen is included in the fertilizer it will usually indicate what percentage on the analysis label.

If you make your first application of fertilizer before April first, a second spring application which contains slow release nitrogen (organic or chemical) should be applied in May or June (normally about 2 months between applications).

Most permanent plants need fertilizer once a year in the spring. Mature trees don’t need fertilizer other than what they get when other plants around them are fertilized. Their roots go well beyond their branch area. Roses need fertilizer about once every 6 to 8 weeks. Most perennial flowers do fine with one spring fertilizer application. I fertilize annual flowers and vegetables when I plant them. I usually fertilize a second time in early to mid summer. I use lawn fertilizer for all my woody plants. I use a general purpose fertilizer with approximately equal amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (16-16-16 or 6-6-6) for flowers and vegetables.