How To Make This Year A Topnotch Garden With Bright Flowers

By Thomas Fryd

If you're a Northwesterner or a Northern Californian, put those dreaded memories of spring flood conditions behind you. Determine now to make this the year for a topnotch garden with bright flowers, finer shrubs and greener lawns.

Make this a year of changes. Dont be content with the same old flowers of yesteryear. Take a good look at the flower seed stands at your neighborhood seed store and select lots of those brightly colored packets.

One way to prevent your garden from looking just like every other garden in the block is to select some of the less familiar annuals.

The "big three" - petunias, marigolds and zinnias - may be planted heavily, but at the same time be adventurous and try plants such as the exotic bells of Ireland, linaria and nemesia (especially good for covering a bed where spring bulbs are planted), appealing dwarf dahlias, fast-growing cosmos for hedge effects, and mixed gourds for their wonderful harvest of curiously shaped fruits in the fall.

The cool weather annuals such as calendula, sweet alyssum, larkspur and nasturtium, can be sown in the open ground now. The seeds will germinate quickly if the ground is kept moist.

But theres more to March gardening than seed planting. Its the time to finish planting roses; begin to do the spring pruning; plan for summer bulbs; start spraying or dusting the garden for disease and insect control; and sow some backyard vegetable crops.

Timing of these jobs depends on the region you live in. If youre gardening in the Southwest, youre probably up to your ears in chores right now. But as you go northward to the Canadian line, the pace slows down. But in these areas, too, once the ground warms up, gardening will start in earnest.

How is your lawn?

Except in the colder spots of the Northwest where the soil usually cannot be worked, March has always been an ideal lawn planting month. Then it is warm enough for the seed to germinate rapidly yet early enough in the season for the grass to develop into a thick, healthy turf before the summer heat arrives. If you are starting a new lawn, dig the soil to a depth of 6 to 12 inches.

Better than digging, of course, is a mechanical tiller. This piece of equipment will pay for itself because it does so many other jobs, in addition to preparing a lawn site. At least look at renting one!

Remove all rocks from the soil and then roll it. The usual advice at this point is to sow the grass seed. However, youll find it worthwhile to soak the soil instead, to encourage the weed seed to germinate. Then you can dispatch the weed seedlings with a chemical weed killer like Round-Up. Ten to twelve days later you can plant your grass seed, with a lot more confidence and the knowledge that a few weeks hence you wont be on your knees pulling out unwanted weeds. The secret of getting a lawn off to a good start is to keep the seed bed moist.

Children should share in the spring gardening enthusiasm, too. Give them a spot to grow some nasturtiums and some radishes, and you may win a garden convert for life. Its true that theres nothing new about nasturtiums or radishes, yet their very speed of growth means they must have been designed to win the hearts of young gardeners. In 21 days from sowing, the youngsters will be eating plump red radishes. In 35 - 40 theyll have good-sized nasturtium plants and a couple of weeks later, incredulous bouquets of honey-loaded nasturtium blooms. Part of the fun of growing nasturtiums is to suck the nectar from the base of each flower after the tip has been pinched off.

Your backyard vegetable garden design and plan can be started now. Outdoors, radishes, spinach, peas and parsley can be sowed. Indoors, sow early cabbage, cauliflower, tomatoes, celery, eggplant and, in the Northwest, lettuce. In most coastal areas with lawn irrigation system California lettuce can be planted outdoors practically the year round.

Perennials that can be divided now include most of those blooming after June. Some of these are Shasta daisies, campanulas, helenium and rudbeckias. Some perennials, such as peonies, appreciate being left alone for twenty years or more. But generally speaking, its time to use the dividing knife on most perennials about the third year.

Transvaal daisies, though hailing from South Africa, will withstand Northwest winters west of the Cascades as long as the soil drains well. In the other sunny, warm parts of the West, Transvaal daisies really thrive. Set out husky young plants now. The blooms are available in all colors and are excellent for cutting. - 29857

About the Author:

Sign Up for our Free Newsletter

Enter email address here