I was looking at some of my old gardening notes and 2 years ago today, my daffodils were starting to bloom. This year I'll be lucky if I see them at all, in March. Oh, well.
Compounding my dismay, my local nursery put the summer bulbs out for sale this weekend. Usually I can't resist buy a few, but I can't even imagine when it will be warm enough to get them in the ground. The rule of thumb is to plant summer flowering bulbs when it's warm enough to move the tomato plants outside, I know that time is here, for some of you. Enjoy. The rest of us can get a head start by potting some up indoors. At the very least, check on any tender bulbs you stored for the winter and make sure they're not rotting or sprouting in their containers.
There are so many fruits that masquerade as vegetables, like tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers and melons, but only a few vegetables that do the reverse. Rhubarb is almost always used in sweet dishes. It's one of the first sweet treats of spring. Since it's a perennial, it takes very little care. Until you need to divide it. Dividing an established clump of rhubarb is a shovel breaking, herculean task. Don't wait until your plants are begging to be lifted. Try and divide them every couple of years and do it in the spring, while the plants are just coming out of dormancy and have time to recover. (Great, another thing to add to the To Do list.)
It's worth the effort. Fresh rhubarb is much juicier than stems left sitting on store shelves. If you haven't tried growing rhubarb, keep an eye out for crowns and try a plant or two yourself. You don't need a lot. Although rhubarb needs a chilling period, gardeners in milder climates can easily grow rhubarb as an annual (without the backbreaking effort of trying to divide an established plant.)
Isn't it wonderful when a great plant pops up in your yard and you have no idea how it got there? I have no memory of planting snowdrops (Galanthus), but I'm always awfully glad to see them. I know they can even push their way through snow, so I've been keeping an eye out for signs of their arrival. Maybe pushing through a foot of snow is asking too much of a 4 inch plant.
It's too late to plant snowdrops for this season, but if you notice them at a friends house, ask if they'll share a few bulbs with you after they flower. If only takes a few to be hooked.
Still can't decide what flowers to add to the garden this year? Make sure you have at least a few easy care, low maintenance perennials in your border. Let's face it, as much as we love working in the garden, there's a lot to be said for the pleasure brought by plants that are undemanding and able to perform well on their own. Yes, they do exist. You just have to be selective.
I am often asked if seedlings need fertilizer and if so, when? Good question.
See those long skinny leaves on the seedling in the photo? Those aren't really leaves. They are called cotyledons and they help provide nutrients to the seedling until the true leaves form and the plant can start to photosynthesize. Cotyledons look pretty much the same on most plants.
The two tiny leaves at the top of the seedling are the first true leaves of this tomato plant. When true leaves appear on your seedling, it's time to start feeding them. Here are some tips, along with comments that have come up around this topic before.
- Feeding Seedlings: How Much (and what) to Feed Them?
Can you smell it? Spring is in the air and it smells like mud. Lovely mud.
A regional gardening calender for the month of March can give you general tips on what to plant and what to wait for, but spring in the garden is unpredictable and won't be hurried. Gardeners will have to use some common sense. March may come in like a lion, but mellow out overnight. Take advantage of warm days, but don't trust your coddled seedlings to a weather report. And try not to do too much walking on wet soil. That will only compact it and make it harder for plant roots to breathe and grow. Here are some reminders of what you can be doing in the garden in March, now that winter is on its last legs.
Photo of Ipheion uniflorum (Spring Star Flower)
Red plastic mulch was getting a lot of positive press for awhile, but you don't hear much about it lately. Supposedly it helps tomato plants set more fruits and ripen them earlier. Sounds good. But red plastic mulch works with nature and nature can be unpredictable. Red mulch is better than black mulch, for growing tomatoes, but is it really worth trying or are they just playing with the desperation of the cool season tomato grower? Here's what I found out, along with several comments from other gardeners. I'd love to hear more, from any of you who have tried it.
I get more questions about pruning apple trees than anything else. Don't believe me? Take a look at the amount of comments, below.
Most fruit trees should be pruned while they are dormant. Unfortunately that's also the time most gardeners would prefer to be hibernating indoors; which would explain why there are so many overgrown, under-productive apple trees out there. And if you're timid about pruning in general, apple trees probably scare you to death.
Good news - unless your tree is declining or diseased, it's not too late to bring it back! You can see by the number of comments that have accumulated since this blog was first posted, you're not alone with your questions and reservations. Just keep telling yourself that it's very hard to kill an apple tree by pruning it, but neglecting it is an invitation for problems. Get out there soon and prune away while your tree is still dormant, then watch it thank you later this season.
I'm losing patience with winter and have several seeds under lights, in my basement. Have you started gardening yet? Let's see who has gotten a head start.
It's always fun to see the resourcefulness of gardeners. We start seeds in yogurt cups, egg trays, toilet paper rolls, juice boxes and ice cream cartons. Many years ago, my father and I decided to try our hands at making newspaper pots. It worked out really well, except for a handful of seedlings whose roots grew out the bottom and got intertwined. Paper pots are easy to make with materials you already have on hand and the pots will decompose quickly in the garden. Nothing to store. Interested?
A cool weather treat, broads, or fava, beans, have never been particularly popular with Americans.. Maybe Hannibal Lecter turned us off or maybe having to peel each bean individually is the reason you don't see them in many gardens. I think that's a pity, because they are one of the earliest vegetables to harvest in the spring, outside of the super early greens. Those of you in Zones 6 and warmer can even plant them in the fall and reap your reward even earlier.
If you like to embrace the seasons in your garden, try a few broad beans this spring. Here are some growing tips and a few recipes to get you started. My English friends out there and anyone else who has already become a broad bean convert, I'd love to hear which ones your grow and how you use them.