Friday, March 23, 2007

Get busy, slowly

Prepare for spring planting

Express Staff Writer

With the ground nice and squishy during mud season, gardeners will begin to get antsy. Everyone agrees, however, that as nice as it has been lately it's still too early to plant. You'll have to be placated by the buds one can now see on certain trees and shrubs and the emergence of tulip foliage.

In the meantime, if you're in need of a fix, there are things a gardener can do right now. Hopefully, you got your bulbs into the ground last fall.

The list includes:

- Shovel snow off patios, decks and walkways.

- Clean and repot indoor plants.

- Harden-off plants. If the days are sunny and warm, you can begin to air out plants you brought in for the winter. Be sure to bring them back in the evening.

- Clean, sharpen, and oil all gardening tools.

- Clean out birdhouses.

- As weather warms up, start removing debris and winter mulch from garden beds.

- Because we have so much clay in our soil, be careful when walking in the garden if it's not dry. Compacted soil can hamper drainage and reduce air spaces that plants require to grow strong and healthy roots.

- Poke around in the compost pile, turning it if possible.

- Create potting soil with a mixture of sand, peat and soil.

- Plant seeds indoors under lights, if you haven't already.

- Make garden markers for new plants.

- Begin garden journal. Jot down ideas from garden books and magazines.

- Trim woody perennials such as artemisia, butterfly bush (Buddleia), St. John's wort (Hypericum), lavender, rosemary, Russian sage (Perovskia) and tree mallow (Lavatera).

- As it warms up even more, cut all the other perennials right back to ground level.

- If you're new to the area, invest in the new, updated edition of the "Sunset Western Garden Book." It has more than 8,000 plant listings, including 500 new ones.

- For gardeners who want to grow vegetables, herbs and fruit, take a look at another new book, "Vegetables, Herbs and Fruit: An Illustrated Encyclopedia."

- Look for Poo Wright-Pulliam's Wood River Valley Gardener's Calendar and Journal in April in local nurseries and stores.

The biggest tip of all: Remember, if it gets cold and snows again, ignore all of the above.

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