GETTING READY FOR GARDEN SEASON '13
Tasks for March
Time to tidy. The advent of a warmer weekend may send your housebound self outside where there's plenty to do. Winter debris should be raked up, broken branches carted off and the places they tore away cleanly pruned. But step and rake and prune gingerly around new growth. This garden debris can start your new compost pile.
Spring in. When you're outside with pruners, you may wish to take a few sprigs from your spring-flowering shrubs like forsythia to bring indoors for forced blooms. Only take a few that won't be missed. Save your real pruning for after flowering. Choose branches with plump buds. Smash the bottoms of the stem to help them take up more water.
Heavy-handed. Butterfly bushes are another matter. You can cut back these unruly shrubs heartily. It's also time to cut back grasses, as well as fruit trees like apples and pears. Delay pruning stone fruits until we have warmer temperatures, typically at the end of the month.
Peas, please. Mid-month is the traditional time to plant this spring crop. Use your judgement before planting though. If the soil is icy and sodden, it won't hurt to wait a few weeks more.
Test to save. Before you rush out to buy fertilizers, find out what you really need. It's time to take a soil test of your lawn and garden beds. Accurately determining the true nutrient needs saves you cash and keeps excess nutrients from polluting our waterways. Don't let your money wash down the drain.
Tool prep. It's time to ready your tools for the season ahead. Sharp blades make for cleaner cuts, preventing disease problems in your turf and plants. Beat the spring rush and get your mower blade sharpened now.
Bulb boost. Now's a great time to scratch some fertilizer around your emerging bulbs.
Start right. Before starting your packs of seeds, be sure to begin with sterile soil and containers to prevent weeds and diseases. If you are using pots from last year, be sure to wash them well, dip them in a 10 percent bleach solution, and let them dry thoroughly. Plant each seed at the proper depth indicated on the package. To save extras for next year, reseal the packet and store in a cool, dry place.
Get growing. To speed seed germination keep them warm, preferably at 70 degrees. The soil must stay evenly moist, but not saturated. Cover the pots with plastic to keep moisture in. After germination, keep them in as much light as possible.
Tiny trees, big savings. Pick up a brochure from the Lancaster County Conservation District's 39th annual tree seedling sale. While seedlings require patience, the upside is that most offerings cost less than $1. The order deadline is Monday, with pickup April 11 at the Farm and Home Center. Information: 299-5361.
n Educational opportunities: Learn from the experts:
Landis Valley: The Backyard Fruit Growers will offer a grafting workshop at Landis Valley Farm Museum on March 23 from 12:30-3 p.m. Learn how to create your own "antique" fruit trees for a fee of $25. Register: 569-0401, ext. 204.
Penn State Master Gardeners: The 21st annual gardening symposium will be held April 6 from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at DoubleTree Resort at Willow Valley. Speakers will address a variety of gardening topics including fallscaping, creating backyard habitats, gardening with changing climate trends and new and underused perennials. Local vendors will offer plant and tool selections, as well as a goodie bag for each attendee and door prizes.
The cost is $65 and includes a continental breakfast and lunch. Registration is limited and will be accepted on a first-come basis. Register: 394-6851.
Minimum Space, Maximum Yield: Permaculture enthusiasts and biodynamic gardeners Wilson and Natasha Alvarez are offering a workshop teaching participants to "grow more food than you ever thought possible in your own backyard." using permaculture principles and biodynamic growing techniques. The class will be held April 6 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 11 Edgehill Drive. The cost is a sliding scale from $60 to $35. Class space is limited. To register and for more information, call 203-6735.