Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Natural Gardener, Gardening in March

          March has come like a white wolf in sheep’s clothing, with snow in the middle of a week of rainy weather on the 5th and 6th.  Can’t garden until it melts, but unlike the storm in January, it is gone on the 7th.  February didn’t have its usual two-week break of warm, sunny weather; there was some sun between the rains, but not a lot of warmth.  Daffodils barely started to open, when they are usually in full bloom by mid-month. 
          We are told, in this area, that we should cut back the roses when the forsythia blooms, but as often happens, roses have broken buds and are leafing out well before the forsythia even breaks a bud.  This gardener crowned most of her roses before the end of February, though there remain two customers who haven’t been served yet.  Not to fret; growth is slow and little will be lost in waiting another week or two. 
We cut roses back to the crown, the hard knot of wood at the base, rather than the usual foot tall, because black spot grows all over the stems, and will just re-infect the leaves if any stem is left on the crown.  Nearly every rose in town has black spot due to our mild winters, though Rosa rugosa is pretty resistant.  This is not the only time one can crown a rose.  A rose crowned during the spring growing season will come back to nearly full height and bloom within a couple of months.  Crowned in summer, it will grow back and bloom even faster in the heat. 
March has the equinox, the day and night of equal length, on the 20th.  One can plant cannabis clones or seed outside after this date, and they will not bloom prematurely as long as one does not deprive them of the increasing day length before 6 weeks after planting.   The way to do that is with a “light depo” or light deprivation house, in which one pulls a cover over the plants to give them only 12 hours of light, which starts them blooming heavily and makes their buds more solid.  These are being advertised on the radio and elsewhere.  
This year, it may pay to wait a little longer to plant, for sunny weather to warm the soil up, as your clones or seedlings will be eaten by bugs if they are planted in soil too cold to get them growing.   The same goes later for regular summer food crops; if bugs eat your plants, replant.
But now is a good time to plant peas, potatoes, onions, lettuce, spinach and other greens, preferably from seed or bulb.  Pansies and petunia plants are in the stores and will be happy in the chilly ground.  Cyclamen and hellebores are blooming and will be available at the Growers Market this month.

Blueberries at Sandy's Nursery.  Southern "Legacy" are on the right, with leaves.

It is time to plant blueberries, which are available now at Sandy’s Nursery in #2 pots.  They have included one variety of Southern, Legacy, with their usual Northern varieties.  Southern blueberries take our hot Southern Oregon summers a bit better than Northern varieties; they keep most of their leaves through the winter and will drop them after they bloom and new leaves grow.  Their branches are thinner and their leaves smaller, and they often turn colors through the winter.
Keep in mind that blueberries want to be planted in very loose, rich soil.  If yours is not loose enough to dig with your gloved hands, put the plant on top of the ground and surround it with compost to the top of the roots and at least 3 feet wide.  Unlike most other potted shrubs, blueberries will sink into the soil as the compost around it is worked in by worms, rather than being left high and dry.  
Their spongy root system does not grow deeper than about 6 inches for about 5 years, when they put down a deep taproot for water.  To grow big blueberries before that, run a mister near your plants through the heat of the summer to keep them happy, and always keep their roots covered with coarse bark, straw, or hard leaves that will stick around, like oak leaves or pine needles.   They want full sun and their feet well covered and cool.
Rycke Brown, Natural Gardener          541-955-9040        rycke@gardener.com