The Garden Plot

Ray Baird

March 2017 has reached its swan song: Tomorrow will be the last day of March and we wonder if it will go out like a lion or a lamb. Whatever its last hurrah is, it will be out of here and we can get ready for the fickleness of April and what it has to offer.

Welcoming the birds and songs of springtime: As we near the end of the month of March, we can prepare for the arrival of the hummingbirds. We mentioned the robins being around seemingly all year long and it seems the hummers also arrive earlier every season, but we know they definitely will not be here, like robins are simply because of what their diet consists of. Be ready for them just in case they arrive a few days earlier by placing feeders out filled half full with hummingbird food. Once you see one, you can finish filling up the feeders. There are not many flowers in bloom right now except Carolina jasmines so they will need our help in securing food. As we welcome the hummingbirds, also remember to keep birdfeeders filled and also plenty of water in the bird baths. Birds will soon be mating and nesting so make them welcome on the lawn and in the garden and deck areas.

Pruning back the grapevine for more production: As the month of March is near its end, the grapevine needs our attention while it is still dormant. The last day of March is the ideal time to trim back long runners and vines so they will produce more grapes. Don’t be afraid to cut back long branches which will produce a lot of leaves but no grapes. As you prune back the branches, take the opportunity to repair supports and trellises while the grapevine is bare and dormant.

The beauty of pink in peach blossoms: What more beautiful shade of pink than that of the peach blossom in early spring? It must rival the orange blossom in Florida in color if not in fragrance. A blossoming peach tree against a Carolina blue sky is a wonder to behold!

Early spring means the arrival of the dandelion: If the dandelion has any attributes, it is the fact that its leaves are edible in a depression, hard times, and famine or if you are on a quest for something new to eat! Dandelions are tough to deal with because they have root systems that resemble drill bits. They really make an ugly mess on a lawn when they produce their yellow flowers, but again, they have a plus about them – wine can be made from these yellow flowers! Beware of eating greens of dandelion flowers because dogs like it to use the bathroom in dandelion areas! We get rid of dandelions like we do the wild onion, by using the weed eater to trim the leaves and flowers down to ground level or mowing them lower enough to destroy the flowers before they produce seed. If we can’t get rid of them, we can at least control them. The best thing to do is keep them from getting the upper hand.

The soil of early spring can be wet: The cool days of early spring can cause garden soil to remain wet for days at a time and makes it impossible to till the soil. It is much better not to work damp soil but to wait until it dries out. Tilling wet soil causes it to be lumpy and hard-panned. There is a formula that works well for wet soil and you can test it by grabbing a handful of soil. If the soil crumbles, it is tillable. If it forms a ball it is too wet to till. Let your motto be “If it forms a ball, don’t till at all.” If you have a few raised beds, you have an advantage over wet soil because beds drain quickly and dry as they absorb moisture and make soil workable.

Ordering seed from spring catalogs: Many gardeners are getting spring fever and are ready to plant, but don’t do any warm weather vegetables yet. It is fine to order or buy seed but wait until late April or early

May for warm crops. When ordering seed, buy only what can’t be found locally because you don’t want to pay for shipping and handling charges.

Planting a row or bed of English peas: As April moves in next week, don’t be fooled into planning warm weather vegetables such as corn, lima beans, green beans, tomato or pepper plants because early spring is much too cold for them. One sure vegetable crop that is easy is a row or bed of English green peas such as Alaska, Green Arrow, Wando, Mr. Big or Sugar Lace. Peas are very cool weather and will sprout when soil temperature is 39-degrees. Peas require no fertilizer because they are already rich in nitrogen.

Snow in April will only melt the heart: In his song, “The Twelfth of Never” Johnny Mathis sings, “melt my heart like April snow.” How true these words are because even if snow does fall in April, it is short-lived and usually as fickle as the month itself. We should mostly be concerned with frost all month long even though the last frost date is April 15, 2017. It is definitely not a month to plant or set out warm weather vegetables.

Ray Baird

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