Spring is almost here!! What a wonderful feeling to be able to spend more time outside enjoying what Mother Nature is unfolding before our eyes. The lengthening of days is a welcome site, and the warm sun on our faces feels great. We “spring forward” with Daylight Savings Time on Sun., March 11 this year. That in itself is exciting.
March welcomes ‘Spring’, and it will be met with open arms!! This is the month to open up the gardens and get things in shape for the new growing season, which means there is plenty that can be done. To name a few; mowing time is upon us; have you sharpened those mower blades? To keep that lawn looking fantastic, it is time to add Fertilizer with Crabgrass Prevention. Make sure to follow directions and do not try to skimp on the amount of product used, so you get great coverage from the Crabgrass Prevention. If you feel you need to over-seed the lawn, check with the professionals on proper steps for spring treatments. Most crabgrass preventers will also prevent new grass seed from germinating.
Clean up those perennial beds and cut down all Liriope and Ornamental Grasses to about 3-5” above the ground. Once this has been done, it is time to re-mulch your shrub and flower beds. Top-dress these areas with a slow release fertilizer as well, such as Osmocote. Do not put mulch or fertilizer too close to the crowns of plants. You could cause either rot or burning of the plant crown.
Nesting boxes for Bluebirds and Purple Martin houses should be put out early this month. Purple Martins return to our area between St. Patrick’s Day and the end of the month. So now is the time to be prepared. Are you considering doing some vegetable gardening this year? Well there is no better time than now to start those preparations. You can start seed in the house for plants such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. Plant or sow seed for peas, lettuce, radish, kohlrabi, collards, turnips, potatoes, spinach, onion sets, beets, carrots, and parsley outside this month. Set out broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and pansy transplants now. This month is also good to set out strawberries, blueberries, blackberries grapes and other fruiting plants. It is likely we will see an influx of home gardening this year because its popularity is growing. It can be done in containers on the patio, as square foot gardens, or large plot gardening. There is nothing better than a home grown tomato!! Check out our website for instructions on these items, www.hillermann.com.
Here is a fun project for the family to try --‘Taters in a Basket’. Have you ever tried growing potatoes in tough clay soil? The results are usually less than bad. However, here is the perfect solution for growing great potatoes. Grow them in a pot. Now, whether you’ve got clay soil, live in an apartment, or don’t have a garden at all, you can grow potatoes the ole’ yard boy way. And that’s in a container.
Here is what you will need:
1. The container, I like to use bushel baskets. They breathe well, allow for good drainage and look great! However, any container, plastic, wood or clay will work as long as it has good drainage and is at least 14-18 inches wide and at least 10-12 inches deep.
2. Soil-less potting mix works best. Use the good stuff for better results. If you have a compost pile, good compost will work too. Finely shredded is best. People have even used straw and ground leaves.
3. An all purpose garden food such as Osmocote is great.
4. Seed potatoes - these aren’t the ones you buy from the grocery store. They can be found at the garden center and are used specifically for growing potatoes. Do not use potatoes from the produce department at the grocery store; they have been treated with a growth inhibitor to keep them from sprouting.
Fill the bottom of your pot with 2-3 inches of soil-less mix or compost. Take a large seed potato, or a couple medium sized, cut up into pieces that contain the eyes, and evenly distribute those on top of the soil-less mix. You can plant 6-8-10 pieces with eyes per basket. If you’re not sure about the ‘eyes’, you can plant whole potatoes, or cut them in half and plant the halves. Cover with another 3-4 inches of soil-less mix, add the fertilizer and water in thoroughly, and place in the sun. Water as needed, thoroughly moistening the soil, then letting it dry before watering again. Once your potatoes start to grow, water regularly, being careful not to over water, which can cause the tubers to rot.
When your potatoes are growing, you have a couple options: 1) As the potatoes grow, keep adding soil-less mix or compost to the container, keeping about 4 inches of foliage showing. Continue this process until the container is filled to within 1 inch of the top of the basket. 2) Let the foliage grow until it’s approximately 3-4 inches above the basket, and then fill in around the foliage with your soil-less mix or compost unit the basket is full. Now you’re set for growing potatoes! Let your potatoes grow all summer. Don’t forget to keep them fed too. Come late summer or fall when the foliage starts to yellow, cut the foliage off, dump out your soil, and you’ll have a basket full of taters! It is that easy. Good Luck!!
Now it is time to go, so we will “See you in the garden!”
Sandi Hillermann McDonald