MARCH 25, 2010
Relax, itís just March
Despite the fact that the official first day of spring was March 20th, it is still early in the northwest for many activities. With the unusually warm winter we have had gardeners are out in force looking for all sorts of things that they have no business even thinking about this time of year. For example, itís too bloody early for tomatoes, basil or hanging baskets. But itís just right for potatoes, rosemary or pansies.
How quickly we forget that hardly more than a week ago it was 27 degrees in the early morning and the new growth on hydrangeas and those lovely blooms on the magnolias all got fried. As I am writing this column the forecast is for daytime temps to be in the mid 60ís. Yes, it is warm and spring-like but we can still have some pretty darn cold nights and about all you are going to accomplish by planting tomatoes and marigolds now is to turn them purple and stunt them to the point that they may not recover. So relax, it is still just late winter.
But relaxing doesnít mean not spending time in the garden. It just means that we need to focus on the things that need to be done now and not the things that should be done a month or even two months from now. There is no shortage of things to do in March and there will plenty of time in April and May to do those other things that need frost free mornings and 55 degree soils.
Far too many of us want to leap right into the summer season crops and skip over an enormous array of blooming perennials and shrubs that are in there glory from February through the middle of April. As I look over our nursery this time of year it is boggling the choices one has in flowering shrubs and trees and early season perennials not to mention bulbs and hardy annuals like snaps, stocks, calendulas and pansies.
March is the shoulder season in the gardening world, falling between the quietness of winter and the chaos of spring. March has so much to offer that it forever bums me out to see gardeners miss it completely. Gardeners who wait until April or May to do their shopping often donít know what they are missing.
So somewhere between the extremes of gardeners who rush the season and those who miss it entirely is that happy place where we should all be. This is the time to put the seed catalogs down and get outside and work the soils, rake the remaining leaves, cut back the ornamental grasses and perennials, treat the lawn for moss, plant those cool season veggies, apply a delayed dormant spray to the fruit trees, prune the grapes and kiwis, tidy up the wisteria, tie up the raspberries and black berries, turn the compost one last time, work some lime into the garden and spread it on the lawn, rake under the blueberries do prevent mummy berry, set the mole traps and apply a slow acting organic fertilizer to everything.
It is not the time to reseed the lawn nor is it time to seed beans or corn or ask your local nursery professional for cucumber starts or tomatoes or God forbid basil. It is not the time to plant impatiens or begonias or salvia or marigolds. But it is a perfect time to plant shrubs and trees, summer blooming bulbs like lilies, gladiolus and dahlias, spring blooming perennials like candy tuft and creeping phlox and bleeding hearts and berry plants and rhubarb and asparagus and fruit trees and wisteria vines and on and on the list goes.
So rather than telling you to relax I should have told you to stay motivated and busy in the garden doing the things that should be done now, enjoying the fragrances and colors of this shoulder season we call March and to get your self in shape for the real spring that happens in late April and May. Judging from what weíve seen so far I think I can safely say that it is going to be a fabulous one at that.
Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at the nursery at 425-334-2002 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org