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Fresh Dirt for March


New life emerges from the remnants of old.



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Do you have a notion of what you want your garden to look like and how you want to feel while you're in it? It's fun to think about your garden and view it as a "room". It is your outdoor room. A place to relax or party, a place to throw a ball, swing on a swing or just escape into your dreams in a shady spot. Let your garden reflect who you are.

Don't be afraid of color. It may be time to take a fresh look at your present landscaped garden. Think orange. Orange is bold and bright. It makes a strong statement. Orange in all its shades stands up to brilliant summer sunlight. Orange is striking in a monochromatic scheme, and sparkles with purple, white or blue. There is so much to choose from among the annuals such as violas, calendulas, nasturtiums, geraniums, cannas, Mexican sunflowers, cosmos, zinnias, dahlias, gazanias, gladiolus, marigolds, black-eyed Susan vine, and California poppies. Perennials include poppies, yarrow, dwarf and tall bearded iris, red hot pokers, crocosmias, day lilies and true lilies, butterfly weed and blackberry lily. And of course, you'll need a rose.

The bulbs are emerging. Crocuses and daffodils have awakened. Pansies in every color of the rainbow are ready to be planted among them They are so bright and welcoming during the cool March days. It's fun to mix colors or keep to large blocks of a single color. Pansies can be arranged to suit almost any style or taste. We also love filling containers with them.

Water levels are down due to the small amount of rain and snow over the winter. It is critical that plants are checked to ensure they are receiving adequate amounts of water. Mulching becomes more critical than ever. Two to three inches of mulch around plants, shrubs and trees will help keep the soil moist and water from evaporating. A good layer of mulch will also inhibit weed growth.

Think about your summer vegetable and herb garden. Cool season vegetables like snow peas, English garden peas and nonedible sweet peas can be planted now. Soak the seeds in water overnight. This will help them germinate faster.

Prune fruit trees, summer and fall blooming shrubs and vines. Pruning stimulates growth. Especially with fruit trees, pay attention to the horizontal branches. This growth is ideal for fruit production. Spring-blooming shrubs such as forsythia, lilac, deutzia, and white-flowered spireas should be pruned after they bloom. However, summer-blooming shrubs such as Rose of Sharon, beautyberry, crape myrtle, butterfly bush, and the summer-blooming, pink-flowered spireas can be pruned now until early spring before growth begins.

If you haven't had your soil tested in the past few years, this would be a good time to test it while you prepare for the coming planting season. The test results will help you determine how much and what fertilizer to use and will also help you identify other soil amendments (such as lime) to add to your garden. Add nutrients such as potassium, phosphorous and nitrogen to your soil test's specifications. This will give the garden a head start and can be done at the end of March.