In the Organic Garden: Week of March 20, 2017

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March 20 to 26, 2017 Happy first day of spring! We’re sowing the first of our vegetable crops and planting spring container gardens this week.

Kitchen Gardens

In fruit and vegetable gardens, we’re

  • checking to see if soil is dry enough for planting. Planting in too-wet soil means seeds just rot. Squeeze a handful of soil. If it stays in a ball when you poke at it, it’s still too wet to plant. Wait until it crumbles easily.
  • sowing the first of our cool-weather vegetables outdoors. When we measured the soil temperature today, it was 42 degrees in our garden, which is warm enough for lettuce, peas, and potatoes. (Use this chart as a guide to soil temperatures.) Assuming the soil dries out from today’s rain soon, we’ll direct-sow those crops this week.
  • nurturing our cool-weather seedlings. We caring for indoor seedling by feeding them with a half-dose of compost tea or organic fertilizer once a week. Good air circulation can help keep them healthy too.
  • sowing peppers and eggplants indoors. If you didn’t sow peppers and eggplants last week, catch up this week.
  • planting out fruit trees and berries. Nurseries are now shipping on-line orders of fruit trees and berries; plant yours as soon as they arrive.
  • pruning raspberry canes. To get maximum fruit this summer, thin out your raspberry patch following these guidelines from Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service.
  • knocking down cover crops. If you have not already taken down cover crops, do so now. You can work cover crops in if the soil is dry enough, or remove the top growth and add it to your compost pile. If you planted winter rye, you need to remove it at least three weeks before you try to sow seeds in that bed.
annuals flowers container garden

We’ve assembled some spectacular cool-weather annuals for container gardens.

Ornamental Gardens

In other parts of the garden, we’re

  • planting spring container gardens. Nurseries are receiving their spring annuals now; shop for stocky, sturdy plants. Our spring favorites are pansies, lobularia, dianthus, ranunculus, and snapdragons. Lettuces and beets can be a great addition to spring containers, as can cuttings from red- and yellow-twig dogwood and pussy willows.
  • pruning summer-blooming shrubs like Hydrangea spp. and Abelia spp.
  • pruning summer-blooming cut-back shrubs, like butterfly bush (Buddleia app.), blue-mist shrub (Caryopteris spp.), and beautyberry (Callicarpa spp.). We cut these back to about 6″ to 12″ about the ground; they all bloom better on new growth. Cut back red- and yellow-twig dogwood now too; the best stem color is on new growth.
  • turning the compost heap.

Amy graduated from DePauw University with a degree in physics, a lifelong love of theatre, and a problem-solving style that combines the approaches from both those fields. A Master Gardener and long-time communications professional, Amy conducts gardening seminars and blogs about gardening in addition to her work with Spotts.

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