The Garden Plot

Ray Baird

Will March go out like a Lion or a Lamb – We will know very soon because tomorrow is the very last day of March. Even though March is almost over and even with spring already in its ninth day, winter may still have a few tricks in store for us.

Early April is time to start perennials – Perennials are worth planting because they produce blooms over a long season as well as green foliage during winter. Dianthus, candytuft and sweet William will bloom even in winter. You can now purchase forget me knots, coral bells, American bee balm, Dusty Miller, Veronica, Colombian, thrift, the dianthus, and bugleweed. Perennials are tough, heat and cold resistant and they can be shaped and trimmed. Perennials can also be separated and rooted to other containers. Most seed stores and hardwares as well as nurseries have perennials ready for spring planting. Another perennial that turns blue purple in winter is the hen and chicks. This hen and chick plant produces “chicks” that can be rooted in small pots and shared with friends.

When can we expect the last frost? – It may be spring but frost during April is very possible even for the whole month. Usually the last frost date is April 15, but don’t gamble on warm weather vegetables until mid-May and warmer nights. As long as your furnace still has to produce heat, don’t plant warm weather vegetables. In early April, cool weather crops of mustard and salad greens, English garden peas, onion sets, lettuce, beats, and radish can be planted.

The arrival of a few early hummers – The season of the hummingbirds is not too far away. We may see some early arrivals as early as next week. As they arrive, they will be searching for food and with the exception of the Carolina jasmine there are not many flowers around. This means that we can help them by putting out the feeder in preparation for their appearance. You can buy hummingbird food and ready to mix packets, pre-mixed bottles or you can make your own with half sugar, half water and a few drops of red food color. At this early season of spring, change the mixture each week. Even if you don’t see any hummers, keep the feeders filled and in place in anticipation of their imminent arrival.

Buying vegetable seed for upcoming season – Even with frost in April it’s very much possible the seeds of 2018 vegetables can be purchased. Most seed shops, hardwares, and garden department’s as well as Walmart have huge inventories of seed to choose from in all varieties. You can buy now and store in a cool, dry area. You can also order from seed catalogs but order only what you can’t find locally because you have to pay extra for shipping and handling and there are only 30 or less seeds in a packet.

Planting a row of beets in early spring – Beets are another cold weather vegetable that needs to be planted soon because like carrots, they are root crops that need a long growing season. Beet seed are hard as rocks and it helps to soak the seed in water a few hours before you plant them. Plant the soaked seed in a furrow lined with a layer of Pete Moss. Cover the seed with another layer of Pete Moss and water the seed and Pete last before covering with soil. Allow about 3 to 3 1/2 inches between with two seeds her hill. Water with a water wand in shower mode once a week when rain is not in the forecast. Detroit Dark Red is a good variety for our area. They require a lot of patience because they take 90 days to produce a harvest, but their earthy taste is well worth the space and effort they take.

April is an opportune time to plant roses – April is only a few days away and the best time to plant rose bushes. There are many types of roses including hybrid and tea roses but by far the best and easiest to grow is the knockout varieties in colors of pink, yellow, white, and red. They don’t grow tall and are easy to maintain with no long canes and will survive harsh winters. They come in light green trademark containers with great root systems in soil medium that slips right out of the container when ready for planting. After preparing the hole for the rose bush, fill half full with Pete Moss and let water soak into the soil. Set rose bush in the hole, add mixture, soil and Pete Moss and water again. Even in their very first year, they will produce plenty of blooms.

Last call for planting Irish potatoes – As March moves out, this is the last chance to plant Irish potatoes. They require 100 days to make a harvest so they need to be planted in the next few days.

Setting out a row of spring onions – There is still plenty of time to set out a row or bed of spring onions. You can have a choice of red, yellow, white onion sets. They will quickly thrive in the cool March garden plot. Set them about 3 inches apart with the root end toward the furrow. After placing the sets, apply handful of Pete Moss on the sets and then cover with soil and tamp down with the hoe blade. Fertilize with liquid fertilizer as they begin to sprout.

Ray Baird