March 2007 gardening notes:
About 4 weeks before the last frost is the time to plant dormant roses and bare-root shrubs. Dogwoods and magnolias should only be planted in the spring.
A young tree will develop a stronger trunk if the tree is not tightly staked, but allowed to sway with the wind.
To quicken the decay of tree stumps cover the stump with soil. Tree stumps may be used as an attractive base for flower pots. Or plant flowers in the rotten areas.
This is a good time to repot houseplants into larger containers. Leggy plants should be cut back. Root your cuttings to grow additional plants. The secret to rooting coleus and wax begonias is to cut the top 6 inches of a leafy stem below a leaf node. Then remove the leaves from the bottom 3 inches and place the cutting in water adding a few drops of bleach. Place in a partially sunny window. Place in soil after roots have developed.
Perennials such as hostas, liriope, daylilies, Shasta daisies, astilbe, and coral bells can be divided before new growth starts. Plant the extras in containers for gifts.
Fertilize lilies, clematis, lilacs and bearded iris with bone meal or 5-10-5 plus lime. Also fertilize pansies and houseplants. Do not begin fertilizing peonies until after they have been planted for 2 to 3 years. A great all around fertilizer is liquid seaweed.
Vegetables that can be planted before the last frost are lettuce, cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Also plant seeds of carrots, beets, radishes, and parsnips. Plant onions, potatoes, peas, radishes, asparagus, and turnips near the end of the month. Seedlings started inside will appreciate fertilizing at half strength every two weeks.
Add mulch to asparagus, artichokes, bramble fruits and fruit trees. Don’t remove mulch from your other plants. The ides of March can bring surprises such as our 80o week followed by two frosts.
For two nights an opossum has met me at my door. The pests are appearing. If you use wire fencing around your vegetable garden; let the wire have some slack between posts. This makes it more difficult for groundhogs to climb your fence. However, I found out that opossums are not a pest, but eat insects, such as cockroaches, crickets, and beetles. They catch and eat rats, mice, and they consume dead animals. They like over-ripe fruit, berries, and grapes. They think snails and slugs are scrumptious! Opossums are North America's only marsupial; since they carry their young in their pouch. To learn more for $25 a year you can join the National Opossum Society (www.opossum.org).