In the Garden: Get ready for spring

In the Garden: Get ready for springBy WANDA CHURCH

Our unusually cold winter weather really does have a positive side. Those low temperatures will surely be a boon to in-ground tulip bulbs and other bulbs, plants, and trees that require a chill in order to do their best. Even though yellow daffodils are now blooming under my front window, I have this nagging feeling that we haven’t seen the last of winter. However, the urge for spring in a gardener’s heart is a strong, latent feeling that comes to life right after Christmas and frenzied thoughts turn to getting ready for spring.

It’s pruning time for your trees and shrubs. To quote Mr. Richard Shiell, who writes a column for the Bakersfield Californian, “Pruning is an art based on a few simple principles. Understand these and little mystery remains. These can be summed up as: time it right; only the trunk should aim straight up; make room for light penetration and air circulation; and avoid leaving dead stubs.” Yes, those are the basic principles, but in reality, it’s not quite that simple – knowing the correct time of the year to prune different types of trees is a must, (they are not all alike). Knowing where to cut and how to make the cut, is also very important. Please don’t just run out and chop off some branches. Take time to study the art, or hire an experienced arborist or tree trimmer to keep your trees beautiful and healthy.

Right now is the time of year to plant bare root trees and shrubs. These are plants that are sold without soil around the roots and the nurseries and garden shops stock them with roots buried in saw dust or other such material to keep them moist. They need to be planted within 48 hours after purchase. Roses can be bare root plants sometimes sold in grocery stores, but buy them when they first appear and put them in a bucket of water immediately. The roots dry out very quickly when stored without water for any length of time. For planting directions, there are excellent videos on the web, or consult a garden book or an experienced gardener.

Our warm weather now makes it a good time for cleaning up the garden plots and yard. Give them a good raking and clear away debris that may harbor undesirable bugs and insects. Prepare the soil for planting and amend established beds with compost to improve the soil. Take some soil samples to determine if they need additional nutrients to produce healthy growth.

It’s also a good time to check out your irrigation systems. Check for obstructions and leaks and make repairs, replacements or additions. Your plants will only be as good as your watering system.

Visit the garden shops often for new seedlings for your cool weather vegetable and herb gardens and think ahead about your summer garden. You can start seeds indoors for a fraction of the cost of buying live plants. Buy some early flowers in bloom or ready to bloom to add some cheer to the landscape right now.

Last fall I planted violas and pansies in pots and found that the violas withstood the freezing nights unbelievably well. They presented me with rich violet color at my front door through the worst of winter and are thriving still.

Story First Published: 2014-01-22