by Charlene Burgi
As gardeners, we never know what we'll face in March. This month can find us enjoying warm sunny days in the garden, or further confined indoors due to more rainy weather interspersed with cold frost. Yet, this uncertainty never seems to interfere with the avid gardener who works around weather challenges. Let's face it, some of us just like to have our hands in the dirt year-round and are willing to find any excuse despite barometric pressures or thermometer readings.
|Garden hoe in need of
There are garden chores to keep one occupied all year, depending on your viewpoint. Some jobs are required maintenance, while others are more easily put off. For example: Garden tools are often neglected. For optimum performance, sharpen pruning shear blades and chainsaw chains before pruning. Shovels can be cleaned of caked-on soil and sharpened. Wooden handles will last longer if they are wiped down with a rag coated in oil to preserve the wood.
Some chores shouldn't be put off due to potential long-term ill effects. One of these is pruning trees and shrubs, which shouldn't be postponed much longer. The long wet winter may have curtailed this task, but it can still be accomplished this month. At the very least, remove all diseased, dead and dying branches.
Weeding is another job that can cause hours of unnecessary work if not nipped in the bud early. The winter rains coupled with warm sunny days are a sure recipe for abundant weed growth. Sheet mulching
is a simple technique to suppress weeds, as well as improve the health of your soil and reduce the need for irrigation. Proper sheet mulching will eliminate the light that weed seeds require for germination. In addition, some light garden hoeing can easily remove tiny seedlings from further development if caught early enough.
Checking the irrigation system this month can help ward off any surprise leaks, breaks or clogged nozzles that may have occurred over the winter months. Earwigs and other small insects are known to take up residence in the orifices of emitters and spray nozzles. Turn on the valves one at a time to quickly identify these intruders. While each station is on, walk around the irrigated areas to identify misdirected spray heads, popped emitters or worse, broken pipes. This head-start check-up will allow plenty of time for repairs before irrigation season is upon us. This is also a good time to check the batteries in your controller, if it is equipped with them.
For this gardener, chores have been put on hold as the balmy days, beautiful flowers and warm sandy beaches of Jamaica are beckoning. In between scuba dives, I'll be gathering some botanical knowledge of the Caribbean tropics to share with you upon my return.