ANITA STONE: It's Time To Get Busy In the Yard
Each spring, memories return as a visual from Gary Larsen's Far Side cards. One picture demonstrates two cows standing behind a white fence. The caption reads: "What to Do, What to Do."
Confusion lies in the caption because it can be perceived in two ways: as total boredom or as being so busy one doesn't know what to do first.
Spring weather zips in like a hot flash of ideas for the garden. What shall we plant this year? What colors do we want to display? Are there any new flowers or shrubs we can plant in new places? The questions become an endless array of garden hypotheses. But the result is staggering because we all want our landscapes to become picture postcard perfect, especially during the times when we need some uplifting emotions.
Another term has crossed paths with my horticultural dictionary, one that challenges my intellect to the point where I might require a new transmitter before a soilless glitch occurs.
A "locavore" is a person whose diet focuses on foods grown and produced nearby, typically 100 miles. Locavores purchase food grown on local farms. This trend has managed to find its way into agricultural circles. If you wish to begin a program of sustainability or want to be included in the trend of home-grown diets, a good deal of information is available via the Internet. An excellent source is the agriculture extension agent.
Prior to becoming a locavore, there are several chores to do this month in the garden. This is a great time for aerating and seeding if you didn't get a chance to perform these functions this past fall. If you lack water, get that hose out and water deeply to penetrate up to six inches into the soil. This helps establish deep roots.
You can also think about and begin to install trees and shrubs. I recommend container-grown plants for the best results. This is also an excellent time to begin annuals and perennials. Spring rains are usually sufficient, but if we experience a dry spell, water deeply into the soil up to six inches.
Pampas grass, liriope and border grass require pruning. Apply two or three inches of fresh mulch to your beds to conserve soil moisture and moderate soil temperature. The application deters weeds from growing rapidly.
Do not top prune crape myrtles. This causes quick, weak growth and causes the crape to lose its beautiful natural form.
An easy way to remember lawn fertilizing schedules is to fertilize around Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Valentine's Day.
Personally, I am going to start a journal to keep all plants, large and small, in a knowing place in my head. That is an excellent method for remembering dates, plants, and maturity times. This spring I will plant a vegetable garden, not only for sustainability, but also for landscape "newness." Planting Swiss chard, beets, lettuce and onions, for starters, can provide beauty in my garden and also table food.
Check the vegetables, not only as a food source, but also as a landscape enhancement. I am going to begin "bucket gardening" as soon as the weather permits.
- Plant paper white narcissus directly in the garden after the last freeze. They should flower next spring. Plant amaryllis in a well-drained fertile site in full sun to partial shade, and mulch.
- Prepare beds for eggplant, pepper, tomato, summer squash and watermelon. These can also be sown in pots or peat pellets. Do not plant too early.
- Herbs can be sown as parsley and dill. When true leaves appear, thin them.
- Purchase seed potatoes and plant them when the soil remains above 50 degrees.
- Set out transplants of broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage 4 weeks prior to the last spring freeze.
- Sow carrot seeds, leaf and head lettuce, garden peas, mustard, radishes, and spinach.
- Rotate your vegetables every three years. Avoid same location yearly.
- Plant perennials when they become available from local nurseries or from catalog orders.
- Dig up, divide and replant established perennials when overcrowded, and divide ornamental grasses.
Contact Raleigh writer Anita Stone at email@example.com.
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