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Dirty Hands, Flower Buds - Spring Is Here

Fri., March 28, 1997, midnight

I am soooo envious. As I drive around town, I hear mowers humming and I see people puttering in their yards. I haven’t had time yet to experience this wonderful rite of spring, though today I did take a moment to walk around the garden. Winter aconites, February daphne, crocus and dwarf iris are in full bloom. Perennials are popping up everywhere. Plump flower buds on lilac, viburnum and forsythia will soon be bursting in glorious color and fragrance. As I admired a patch of emerging leopards bane, I couldn’t resist pulling a few nearby weeds. Spring soil under the nails, what a great feeling.

As I strolled about the garden, I noted a number of chores that should be worked on now.

A general yard cleanup is very important right now, for more reasons than the obvious. All those downed leaves and dead perennial stems may harbor insects, their eggs and fungus spores. Slugs are always a threat. They hide in the matted leaves and feast on the new tender growth of unsuspecting plants. By cleaning up the debris now, we may help eliminate some potential summer problems. Plus, it’s a whole lot easier cleaning up winter debris around emerging perennials and bulbs than it is around full-grown plants.

Because of all the downed trees and shrubs this spring, there’s a lot of chipping and shredding going on. This may lead to quite an accumulation of fresh sawdust. It’s not a great idea to incorporate fresh sawdust into planting beds or use it to top-dress the lawn. Microbes that break down the sawdust require tons of nitrogen. They draw it out of the soil, starving your plants. If you must use the sawdust, mix it with either 14 pounds of 21-0-0 or 7 pounds of urea per ton of sawdust. Use this same formula if you wish to save the sawdust for future use.

You can get a handle on weeds now by patrolling the yard armed with an action hoe. Intruders are easy to control at this stage of the game. If you don’t intend seeding in the weeded area, apply a pre-emergence such as preen, surflan or casoron. Pre-emergence does not kill existing weeds, it only prevents seed from germinating.

Fertilize trees and shrubs only if they need it. If plants are producing healthy leaves and normal growth, fertilizer is not necessary. Many plants damaged from the ice storm have a storehouse of energy ready to produce bundles of new growth. Fertilizing may stimulate more growth than is healthy for the injured plant. However, if you decide to fertilize, try this: In a circle, outside the drip line (furthest branches out from the center of the plant), dig holes six inches deep and 18 inches apart. Drop 1/4 cup of lawn fertilizer into the holes (the fertilizer must not be a weed and feed product).

Remove suckers and watersprouts that may be developing. This year we’ll see a million of these.

Suckers emerge below the bud graft of grafted trees. They are best pulled off or rubbed off with your thumb. If you prune them, you will probably wind up with dozens more around the scar.

Watersprouts appear as straight up twigs on the limbs and trunks of trees. They can quickly make a once open, graceful tree into a thick, homely bush. They usually develop quickly on poorly pruned trees. However, some varieties of trees just naturally produce watersprouts. Prune them out now, before they develop leaves.

Special note: The WSU Master Gardeners and the Cooperative Extension invite you to “Wonder in a Woodland Garden,” presented by horticulturist Sydney McCrea. Lose yourself in dappled shade, fabulous colors and exquisite plants. The workshop is Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Spokane County Ag Building, 222 N. Havana. Cost is $5 at the door. For more information, call 533-2048.

Cancellation: The “Water Features” class scheduled for April 17 at the County Ag Building has been canceled.

Bring ‘em back: Recycle those flower pots and flats at Manito Park on Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. Bring pots to the lath area east of the Conservatory.

Garden tour: The Friends of Manito are offering a chance of a lifetime to visit our regions most exquisite gardens - Ohme in Wenatchee, the Bloedel Reserve in Tacoma, Butchart in Victoria and the Bellevue Botanical Gardens - May 14-18. Cost is $330, which includes bus, four nights lodging, ferry rides, admission to all the gardens and two box lunches. For more information, please call International Tours, Diane Kelly, 326-9501.

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Phyllis Stephens The Spokesman-Review

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