February 28, 2004
Plenty to do in the garden to get ready for spring
By Warren Stone/For the Appeal-Democrat
March is still a transition month, and a touch of warm weather can be badly misleading. Resist the almost overwhelming urge to put the tender heat loving plants such as tomatoes, peppers and melons out in the cold, cruel outside world - if you simply must get a head start on the growing season, at least put hot caps, plastic milk jugs or row covers on them. But experience has shown that transplants set out late when the danger of frost is past will catch up and pass the early plants that have shivered thorough the last days of winter. However, there are a number of things you can do to make the coming season an outstanding one, and get rid of some of your excess energy at the same time. Read on.
œ Trees: A third application of dormant spray can be made if flower buds aren't showing color. If the rains haven't thoroughly moistened the soil around the trees to be sprayed, deep water them a few days before spraying; oil sprays may damage trees if their roots are too dry. Look for leaf-rollers with their spidery threads - use BT if you see them.
Check trees for aphids; spray apricots after flowering to prevent brown rot in fruit; spray new leaves of apricot, peach, plum and nectarines to control shot hole disease. Put copper snail guards around citrus trees to keep these little buggers from eating the leaves and fruit. Repeat spray on Modesto ash and sycamores for anthracnose. Spray your crepe myrtles now to hold down the mildew later on - these trees are particularly susceptible to mildew.
œ Flowers: Feed camellias when they finish blooming, repeat monthly for the next three months. Spray roses as needed for mildew, black spot and rust fungus, and start systemic rose care to prevent aphids. Prune spring flowering plants when they finish blooming.
Plant annuals such as marigolds, violas, petunias, snapdragons, stock or bachelor buttons. Also plant perennials such as delphiniums, phlox, asters, cinerarias, bergenia, sweet williams and alyssum. These all add great color to your yard. Now is the time to dig up and divide summer and fall blooming perennials too.
Bulbs to be planted now are callas, cannas, gladiolus, dahlias, gloxinias, caladiums and tuberous begonias. Keep a sharp look out for aphids on all your plants, shrubs and trees.
œ Planning: Establish a schedule for watering, fertilizing, cleaning and pruning your entire garden and orchard. Keep the weeds down, and don't give harmful critters a place to hide.
Really go to work on snails and earwigs, as well as other "bad" bugs. Go easy on the insecticides though - you don't want to kill off honey bees and other beneficial bugs.
If your herb plants have become tall and overgrown, cut back and fertilize for spring growth and better flavor.
Begin a feeding schedule for your lawn, and pull out any weeds as soon as you see they come up - don't let them get a head start on you.
Spray the second time with sulfur for berry mites. Fertilize to get a better crop,
œ Other: If you have problems with Star Thistle, try spraying them while they're very young with an herbicide containing 2-4-D. As they get older they become almost imune to herbicides, so get them while they're young. To spot spray an herbicide, use a short length of stovepipe, cardboard tube or even a 1 pound coffee can with both ends cut out. Put one end over the weed you want to kill, and spray into the other end.
March and April are the months when the weeds will do their best to take over your garden. Don't let them even get started if you can help it.
This is also the season for asparagus. For a taste treat, try slicing it diagonally about 1/8 inch thick, and stir fry it in a little butter and soy sauce. Don't really cook it - it only needs to be warmed through. A longtime family favorite.
Backyard Gardener runs Saturdays. Write to our local master gardeners in care of the Appeal-Democrat, P.O. Box 431, Marysville, CA 95901.