It's time to prepare for the coming planting season. To that end, a fresh layer of manure, mulch, plant food, and soil activator, with a blend of water-holding polymers was turned to one shovel's depth in my gardens this week. The last few rains have thawed garden soils so that the ground was moist and very easy to work. My flower beds' and vegetable gardens' soils now appear as rich layers of chocolate ready to absorb plants like a sponge takes up liquid!
The first crops of lettuce, cabbage, arugula, and broccoli will be planted in my gardens at the end of this month. Pansies, daisies, stock, kales, and primroses will follow soon, just as the first forsythias celebrate the arrival of warm temperatures. As of this week, the garlic, parsley, and onions that I planted last fall have already erupted from the soil. We are only days away from our gardens coming back to life!
I completed the rest of the pruning this week, and noticed that the perennial mums' emerging spring foliage already is well over an inch tall. Daffodils, parsley, onions, and herbal thymes all show signs of activity. Bring on spring!
Let's use our next mild days to finish cleaning up the landscape. Cut back old perennials, pull dead remnants out of iris beds, shape grape vines, etc. When clean up is complete make sure to spray remaining plants with 'All Season Spray Oil'. This is especially important for any plants that had bugs last year. This environmentally safe bug killer will eliminate last year's bugs that have wintered over in our yards, but more importantly it suffocates the insect eggs laid last fall. This is especially critical to fruit trees, roses, and early spring bloomers. I buy a couple of quarts of this oil, shoot it through the hose end sprayer, and liberally spray my entire yard. This spray is safe for pets, birds, and people, but it only can be used while temperatures are cool.
Next week my landscape gets a fresh meal of 'All Purpose Plant Food' 7-4-4. Early application of organic foods is good for spring blooming lilacs, forsythias, quince, fruit trees, and the like. If it blooms in spring make sure to fertilize it by the end of March for its best show.
Although I use the 7-4-4 organic blend on most plants in my landscape, my fruit trees, grapes and berries are hand delivered their own special meal. To guarantee productive harvests each spring I use 'Fruit & Berry Food' 7.5-5-7.5, a blend that has been tweaked just for them. The buds on my cherry, apple, and plum trees are huge right now and with that little extra nutrition they really should be outstanding.
Insider's tip - Red potatoes, sweet onions, elephant garlic, rhubarb, and asparagus have arrived at garden centers. Although we are a couple of weeks from planting season, you should buy your supply of bulbs, roots, and divisions while limited stocks are fresh because they quickly become picked over by eager gardeners. Snap up the best while they are fresh and store them in a cool garage until ready to plant.
Plant of the Week - Show Off Forsythia is this week's featured plant of the week. A definite upgrade to your grandmother's forsythia, this one comes on with an early spring eruption of intense yellow flowers. It remains tight and compact so no pruning is ever needed, which means that you can have your dream hedge without doing any of the pruning work. It also keeps a smile on your face because deer and javalina turn their noses up at its taste. This new variety shows off larger flowers that stand out from the rest, but its availability is limited because it is so new. Loaded with huge buds it would be better to plant this showoff before it blooms, and now is an ideal time to plant for a glowing spring show.
Until next week, I'll see you in the Garden Center.
Throughout the week Lisa can be found at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Road in Prescott, or contacted through her web site at www.wattersgardencenter.com.