31 March 2010
In The Garden With the Fluvanna Master Gardeners
By Irene C. Burke - Fluvanna Master Gardener
Fluvanna County Extension Office: 434.591.1950
Test your soil every three years. If its time, pick up at least 3 kits from your nearest extension office. Youll need 3 for the different soils and conditions that cover your landscape. Follow the directions and send them in yourself.
When replenishing mulch, approach no closer than 4 inches from the stems of shrubs and perennials, or tree trunk flares. Apply to a depth of 4 to 6 inches. For annuals and vegetable gardens use 2 to 3 inches of shredded leaves, dry grass clippings, finely shredded bark chips, or pine needles. To cut costs, lay one of these mulches over an inch of moistened finely shredded newspaper, brown paper or cardboard.
First harvest all the humus you can; then turn-in the new scraps from your spring cleanup. Screen partially finished compost for use as mulch where it will continue to decompose.
Annuals and biennials
To protect self-sowing annuals like cleome, and biennials like hollyhock, be very gentle with you spring-cleaning. Seeds and seedlings are easily damaged with rough raking.
Compost the deadheaded blooms from spring bulbs like the miniature tte--tte daffodil then all the others as they flower and fade. The stored sugars in the bulb will nourish more abundant blooms for next year instead of using them for seed production.
Herbs and Perennials
Remove all deadwood and tips from chives, oregano, rosemary, sage and winter savory. Clear away all debris especially heavy oak leaves as you refresh the mulch. Prepare some sunny space for basil, French tarragon, lemon balm, dill, and parsley. Remove the dead centers of creeping thyme and either redirect the outward bound stems to the bare spot or insert a new thyme plant. About mint: Contain a mighty clump in a one-gallon plastic pot inserted into the ground with the pot lip a half-inch above the soil or mint will take over your garden. As with self-sowing annuals, nurture seedlings and press into the earth but do not cover any scattered seeds that you can see.
Step scarcely and lightly to avoid compacting the mushy loam or use a broad board as you go along to spread the weight. Depending on your sense of order and aesthetics you may choose to let the horsetail flop and propagate or clear away the winter damage for newly emerging spikes. Allow heavy oak leaves and withered bog iris straps to mulch any bare soil. Trim the mildewed forget-me-nots to healthy leaves. Remove dead astilbe leaves and stalks.
Disturbed soil invites weeds; so avoid vigorous raking unless you follow with over-seeding the bare spots. Prepare mowing and trimming equipment.
Ground covers, ornamental grasses, and vines
Last call to trim grasses like pennisetum and miscanthus to just above the crown; the same is true for all liriope. For carex trim away the yellowed blades. Just grab a bunch in one hand; twist to create a ponytail and clip a few inches above the crown. Be cruel in clearing and thinning lambs ear. Theyll come back more vigorously. Clean debris from ajuga or it will rot away.
Shrubs and trees
Prune all damage to greenwood.
Tip of the Week
Homemade potting soil recipes vary depending on what grows in that pot. For annuals and perennials, mix 3 parts potting soil to one part screened, finished compost; or one part screened compost, one part garden topsoil and one part perlite (when low weight is important), or builders sand (when the container needs heft). Use pebbles or coarser compost for mulch, never peat moss.