9 Easy Steps Towards Spring

11/23/2012 | Ken Lain, mountain gardener Plant Care, Uncategorized, Vegetable Gardening

Before I get into gardening I have to tell you that Yavapai Regional Medical Center is awesome! Lisa and I had to spend most of Wednesday at the hospital fixing her broken arm. (If you recall, I mentioned that she suffered a nasty fall on the ice, resulting in the break.) The admin staff, nurses, aids, and doctors truly enjoy their jobs helping patients. The professionals I encountered at the cafeteria were helpful and kind, and their pizza and blueberry pie hit the spot while I waited for Lisa to come out of the O.R.

Our thanks to everyone at YRMC, also to all of you that kept us deep in your thoughts and prayers this week. Lisa is on the mend and very happy to have her arm free of that elbow-length cast.

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It may be prompted by Lisa’s ordeal with the ice and snow, but I’m sick of winter weather. So I was really glad this week when my daffodils bloomed and the Oregon grape exploded with its solar yellow flowers. Knowing that soon willows, roses, and forsythias will join the bloom parade, spring is showing signs in the garden!

Now it’s time to get ready for the growing season. Related here in order of importance are the things I do every spring to prepare my yard, shrubs, and beds for the months ahead. My goal is to complete all the tasks by the end of March.

Easy Step #1 — Apply “Weed & Grass Preventer” before the next weather system hits. This granular seed killer will keep the worst of the early spring foxtails, dandelions, and horehound from emerging in rock lawns and flowerbeds. Preventer must be applied before the weeds emerge or it will be too late to be effective.

Easy Step #2 – Finish pruning everything in the yard including roses, fruit trees, summer blooming shrubs, and grasses. Rake up old leaves, cut back dead growth on perennials, and remove any leftover annuals and vegetables from gardens and containers.

Note: My plan this year is to record some of my pruning and cleanup then post the videos on my Facebook page. I should have this finished by the end of next week. If you are a “visual person”, the 2-3 minute videos should prove helpful. Become a fan by hitting the ‘LIKE’ button on my page and you will see when these local tutorials are posted. Find my page at www.facebook.com/WattersGardenCenter where just last week 100 new fans joined the garden page.

Easy Step #3 – Watch for aphids on willows, aspens, and apple trees. These pests are easily eliminated with an application of the liquid ‘All Season Spray Oil’. All fruit trees also should be sprayed before their spring bloom. I spray my roses and aspens at the same time.

Easy Step #4 – Feed everything in the landscape by the end of March. I created an all-natural plant food especially for the mountain gardens of Arizona, and it really works. Use my ‘All Purpose Plant Food’ on lawns, flowerbeds, shrubs, trees, and all garden soils you will use for planting. Because of our exceptionally low temps this year, this is an opportune time to help natives like ponderosa and pinion pines recover from such a harsh winter. Fortunately, the extreme cold has thinned pests and with a little food now the trees can push more growth this spring. I also administer an application of ‘Soil Sulfur’ at the same time. If you’re uncertain about what, when, and how to feed your gardens, ask for my free handout ‘Plant Food in 4 Easy Steps’.

Easy Step #5 – Top dress flowerbeds, shrubs, and tree roots with a 2” layer of shredded bark. This new layer of bark or, if you prefer, composted mulch, will insulate the roots from the combination of cold nights and drying effects of spring that lie ahead.

Easy Step #6 – Feeding with my ‘All Purpose Plant Food’ will nudge old lawns awake and jump start new seedlings. This is the best month to start a new lawn and to overseed an old one. I never dethatch my lawn because when I fertilize I use ‘Soil Activator’ at the same time; it eats up the dead matted layer and encourages deeper lawn roots. A very effective technique!

Easy Step #7 – The first customers with scale on their pinion pines appeared at the garden center this week. If you see signs of scale, treat it with ‘Annual Tree & Shrub Insect Control’; it will eliminate this pest for the rest of 2011.

Easy Step # 8 – Add a 2” layer of composted mulch and manure topped with ‘Gypsum’ and my ‘All Purpose Plant Food’ over vegetable gardens. Turn this organic rich material into the garden’s soil to one shovel’s depth and you are ready to plant.

Easy Step #9 — The first early spring vegetables, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, garlic, and onions are all ready to plant so go ahead and get them in the ground this month. Warm days and freezing nights encourage better flavor out of our spring gardens.

That’s my list. Indulge your garden with these minimal maintenance tasks and you’ll find your spring flowers brighter, the evergreens greener, and all spring growth especially impressive.

I host free gardening classes at 9:30 a.m. every Saturday. This week our class topic is ‘Lawns to Beautiful’, March 13 is ‘Container Gardens Designers Love’, and March 20 I teach ‘Growing Fresh Herbs in the Landscape’. Join the fun and learn gardening tips that are guaranteed to make your plants fall in love with you.

Until next week, I’ll see you at the garden center.