It's time to get dirt under your fingernails

I've just come in from working in the yard, and boy, does it feel good to have dirt under my fingernails again. True gardeners understand what I'm talking about. There's nothing quite so satisfying as being able to get out after a dry spell in the winter and get some work done. I've always found that garden tasks performed at this time of year not only set the tone for the rest of the year, but they can determine the amount of success you will have this season.

As with many activities, timing is crucial in gardening. This past week has seen a great change in the outside world. Bulbs are pushing up everywhere they've been planted, the earliest coming into bloom. Right along with them come the flowers of our earliest weeds. If we fail to control them now, seed will be sown for next year and we will be inundated with another crop even larger than what we have this year. We spent an afternoon in the iris garden tending to the weeds. I don't know why iris will attract more than their share of early competing weeds, but they always seem to. We knelt on boards while weeding to help spread our weight on the soil to not compact it, and were pleasantly surprised to see that the soil was not at all saturated and was in perfect shape for pulling those unwanted plants from the bed.

We spent the next day working on renovating an entry bed that will contain vegetables this year. What a perfect time to transplant the emerging perennial flowers that were in the bed. We moved and divided day lilies, oriental poppies and mums. We had to transplant a couple of shrubs, both deciduous and evergreen, and I wish I had done this earlier, but I don't think they'll have suffered too much and it had to be done. We won't have the ground ready for all the planting that can be done in March, such as peas, lettuce, chard, cabbage, onions and kale. We need to add to the retaining wall on the downhill side before we can level the bed with more soil and install deer fencing. Quite a project, but I believe we're off to a good start.

March is an excellent time to feed all the landscape plants that are beginning to wake up from their winter rest. Most will respond to being fed with a balanced fertilizer, and I'm switching over to organic fertilizers this year for all my landscape plants, as well as my vegetable garden. I appreciate that most organics are slow release by their nature and will provide slow, steady, sustained feeding over a long period, which spells less work for me. Yea! If you have rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias or other acid-loving plants like blueberries, be sure to use an acid-based food on them.

March is the time to start tuberous begonias indoors. If you have stored bulbs, check for growth. When you see the "eyes" starting to grow from the tubers, place them about 4 inches below the rim of your pot on top of fresh potting soil. As growth proceeds, bury the stems with more soil until within a half inch of the rim of the pot. Look to your favorite nursery for new bulbs now.

The Master Gardeners' Spring Fair will be held this year on April 26-27 at the Expo Grounds in Central Point. Anyone who has garden-type products to offer and would like to be part of the largest show of its kind in Southern Oregon should contact Connie Burns at or 541-944-4517. The Spring Fair Book Shack is looking for used books to sell to support its scholarship programs. Topics should include gardening and landscape, bees, birds, butterflies, insects, rocks, wildlife, worms, how-to books, arts and crafts, cookbooks, and canning and preserving. Donated books can be dropped off at the Southern Oregon Extension Office at 569 Hanley Road in Central Point. With your help they can turn your unneeded books into needed dollars for education in a plant-related field. Please help if you can.

Stan Mapolski, aka The Rogue Gardener, can be heard from 9-10 a.m. Saturday mornings on KMED 1440 AM and seen in periodic gardening segments for KTVL Channel 10 News. Reach him at

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