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Old 03-01-2009, 10:45 AM
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Smile Seven ways to quiet your gardening urges in the middle of winter's meanest month

These were in the WY paper but have good tips for all...

1. Flip through the catalogs.

At the Logue house, the catalogs start arriving around Christmas. Annuals and perennials, fruits and vegetables.

"You just can't decide, there are so many neat things. There's new varieties and there's the tried and true."

This year, she's going retro, sticking to what she knows works well -- including a small squash in bright orange for an instant color splash to her vegetable garden.

Looking, at least, quells some of her growing desires.

Whether flowers or vegetables, look for plants suitable for Wyoming's relatively short growing season -- about 100 days. Some years, you might get away with plants that need 110 days, but you're safer shopping for plants that need about 90 days.

When shopping, either order from the catalog, or jot down the names and go to your nursery or seed dealer.

2. Plan your plot.

If your ambitions include a new bed or vegetable garden this summer, plan it out now.

The best spot for vegetable gardens in Wyoming's short growing season is one in full sun facing south, southeast or southwest,

according to "Gardening: Vegetables in Wyoming," a publication by the University of Wyoming Cooperative Extension service. If possible, plant on the south side of a building which will reflect heat back to the vegetables and may protect from wind.

For flowers, consider color, height, water needs and sun requirements to plan your bed. The catalogs are invaluable for this.

3. Get out the calculator.

If you're super organized, you can start planning when to germinate seeds you will start indoors. Seed catalogs will often tell you days to germination. Then, calculate when to transplant outside.

"Most Master Gardeners won't put plants out until Memorial Day, which is really late," Logue said.

Think soil temperature. Some gardeners will go outside with a thermometer testing for warm dirt, others will put down plastic to get the soil to warm faster. (The danger is planting in that warm soil too early and allowing a late Wyoming frost to kill all your efforts.)

4. Work the wood.

One thing you can, and should, do on nice March days is to give your trees a little TLC.

Anytime in the winter months when temperatures rise to 40, 45 degrees and the wind isn't blowing, get outside and water your trees and shrubs, especially your evergreens, said Donna Cuin, horticulturist with the Natrona County Extension Office.

It's also the perfect time for pruning, because leaves on deciduous trees and shrubs haven't yet sprouted and it's easy to see what and where to cut.

You want to keep one strong central leader on trees and make sure you have good branch spacing, Cuin said. On most trees, that's about 12 to 18 inches between branches. Also, you generally want the lowest limbs about 6 to 8 feet above the ground.

Proper spacing keeps the tree's weight well distributed and gives the branches more stability in high winds and during those early spring and late fall snows. That's when we tend to lose branches, Cuin said.

5. Gather your materials.

Eventually you will get to plant. Depending on your calculations, you may even get to plant this month.

Gather your pots and starting trays and sterilize them. Logue washes them in a bleach solution, 1 part bleach to 10 parts water. Because the trays and larger parts are so awkward to work with, she uses a big plastic tub filled with the solution. Just scrub out all the debris and give the solution enough time to kill the pathogens left over from last year.

Next, gather the soil, peat moss, organic material and any other dirt-like product you'll use. Some like bagged potting soil, others make their own from peat moss and other material. Some bake their dirt to kill harmful microbes and spores.

"That's always interesting to say: Wait until I get my dirt out of the oven," Logue said.

Don't wait until planting day to find your stuff. You'll spend more time getting ready than you will playing in the dirt.

One word of caution when starting plants indoors to be transplanted outside: Keep it realistic.

"When I was younger and didn't know any better, I would start stuff now. I'd have all these plants and they'd just sort of push me out of the house," Logue said.

6. Venture outside.

When the warm days start to outlast the cold, open the doors and step outdoors.

Clean debris and last year's stalks from flower beds. Organize the gardening shed. Sharpen tools if you really need an excuse to stay out.

But be careful when the ground is thawed and you find yourself staring at the rototiller, seemingly so lonely in its winter corner. Tilling when it's too muddy destroys the texture and aggregates of the soil, Cuin said. Make sure the soil is dry enough to till.

And, you should always be tilling in organic matter, Cuin said. Don't just till the ground to fluff it up.

Find your organic matter a few weeks before you expect to till.

7. Trim the fruit trees.

Once the yard is clear of snow, March's first order of business for fruit trees is pruning.

Master Gardener Bill Rohrer has about 30 fruit trees in his backyard, from cherries to apples, from currants to plum.

While every fruit tree is different, Rohrer offers advice for apple trees, which is generally the fruit of choice for Wyoming gardeners.

A standard apple tree will grow 20 to 30 feet high, but Rohrer doesn't let them get that tall. "How many people are going to go up to that height to pick apples?" he asks.

On a young tree, prune back new growth by about 50 percent. As it gets older, prune more and more until it gets about 13 feet high. Then prune back all new growth in the spring. Mature trees will put on 3 to 4 feet of new growth a year because of their extensive root systems.

For an apple tree on dwarfing rootstock, maintain it to about 6 or 7 feet high.

After pruning, Rohrer sprays a dormant-oil spray -- a very light-weight oil that suffocates scaling and other tiny insects.

Then, he's finished until after the blooming period. When 80 percent of the blooms are gone, he sprays for larger insects, such as the codling moth, which makes wormy apples. He does not want to harm the pollinators, so he makes sure the blooms are almost gone.

"I'm sort of champing at the bit. I want to get started on the pruning but I still have a bunch of snow on my back yard," he said.

"Just as soon as I can, I want to get outside and get after it."

Oh, don't we all.
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Old 03-01-2009, 11:01 AM
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beanie beanie is offline
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well, i do mostly all that anyways. It really doesnt help the urge to get out in the nice warm sunshine and get my garden going.. but I guess it kills a little time till I can.
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Old 03-02-2009, 07:10 AM
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no gardening going on here anytime soon. cant even see the ground....and i thought spring was coming.....
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