Friday, March 3, 2006

A hint of spring inspires


By DANA DUGAN
Express Staff Writer

Recently, on a quick visit to Oregon, Idaho's neighbor to the west, I was struck by the plentiful early-spring showings. There were dogwoods just beginning to bloom. The plump magnolia blossoms were hovering on the edge of releasing their lemony perfume and yellow crocuses were popping up around the bases of trees and along walkways. The sightings allowed what had laid dormant within me for several months to bubble to the surface. It was time to think about what to do in the gardens.

There are two issues worth beginning to deal with in the garden, despite the excess snow on the ground and nearly two more months of winter weather.

One is to commit to making your gardens as organic as possible. The other is to make use of the organic richness to grow fabulous herbs, flowers and vegetables.

Organic mulches, such as manure, compost, leaf mold, and sawdust, all save or conserve moisture, slowly providing nutrients and changing the chemistry of the soil. If you haven't been composting all winter, begin to plan where a bin can go and what kind you'll want.

Any nursery in the valley can help find and order compost bins. Also, the Environmental Resource Center in Ketchum is very conversant in composting with worms, a practice known as "vermicomposting."

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Because many herbs are edible as well as ornamental, they are ideal plants to fill holes, put in containers and grow as companion plants. Most perennial culinary herbs are small, versatile plants that work in just about all color schemes and in both formal and natural gardens. They work equally well in flower and vegetable borders, on hillsides and planted among low-growing evergreens. Go for the many varieties of thyme, sage, oregano and hyssop.

Of course, it's way too early to plant but never too early to peruse catalogs, and magazines such as Organic Gardening and The Herb Quarterly. Also, read books such as the "New Encyclopedia of Herbs & Their Uses" and "The Northwest Herb Lover's Handbook."




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