Peony 'Sarah Bernhardt'

Peony 'Sarah Bernhardt'

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Last week of March-First Week of Spring

Good morning gardening friends!

I somehow completely missed the spring equinox and first day of spring because I was housebound so sick with an upper respiratory infection I am calling the super virus from hell. It has been over 2 weeks and I am still plagued by this nagging cough. It has been such a mild warm dry winter in Portland I feel that spring started pretty early. Even so, I am still sad to have missed the official beginning of spring.

Spring is bursting everywhere in the garden. The ranunculus, primrose, cyclamen and tulips are all still a riot of color. The daffodils, crocus, hyacinth, grape hyacinth, hellebores and daphne have all begun to fade. Making way for the new blooms of tiarella, brunnera, mock orange and bleeding heart. The early foliage of clematis, peonies, hostas and lilies have burst from the warm soil and are reaching for the sky. Fern-lady, sword, autumn-fiddleheads are beginning to unfurl. Our four maple trees are leafing out in succession. I can see the wisteria blossoms beginning. The seeds I planted 3 weeks ago-peas, radish, orach and chervil have all germinated into tiny hopeful sprouts.

Today I spent a blissful 4 hours in the sunny garden. Glorious is the yellow-orange foliage of 'gold flame' spirea! Tedious is another spring of yanking out the loathsome bluebells we inherited with this yard. My muscles ache after 3 weeks of rest. It feels great to stretch, soak up the sun and sink my hands in the soil.

At one point I heard the familiar buzz of the hummingbird that hangs out year round in our garden. She buzzed right by me staying only for a few moments to happily feed on the pink blossoms of the native bleeding heart dicentra formosa. I try to plant year round nectar sources for our favorite little hummingbird.

In my perennial flower garden I grow 3 varieties of peonies, 5 varieties of dahlias, 3 varieties of lilies, bee balm, rudbeckia, echinacea, coreopsis, asclepias and clematis. I like to underplant these perennials with annuals every spring. Next month I will tuck in starts of alyssum and marigolds. Today I planted seed for dill and 4 varieties annual poppies. I am so excited for lilac pom pom, black swan, purple & blue bread seed types. Poppy seeds require light to germinate so I scattered them on the soil surface, lightly raked over and then lightly watered. The seed bed needs to stay evenly moist, not soaked, to germinate. I also planted seed for sunflowers and amaranth. Usually I plant these in April when the soil is warmer, but it's been so warm and mild I judged it safe to get started early.

By mid summer this bed will be a riot of color and provide endless cut flowers for our home. Not only is the flower garden beautiful for us to enjoy, many of these flowers provide food and habitat for bees, beneficial bugs, butterflies and hummingbirds. I don't use any chemicals, herbicide, pesticide, fungicide in our garden. That includes no organic chemicals or home remedies either because even they can harm bees. I aim for biodiversity, crop rotation and companion planting to attract beneficial bugs. By adding organic matter, organic fertilizer, cover cropping and no-till methods I nurture the health of my soil. Healthy soil=healthy plants. Following the concept of right plant right place my plants are less stressed out and therefore less susceptible to disease and pests.

Here are some tips on what cool season crops to get started planting now:

Mustard greens
Peas-sugar snap, snow & shelling
Salad greens-arugula, cress, endive, escarole, mache, mesclun mix & radicchio
Swiss Chard

Herbs-chervil, cilantro, parsley, chives, lavender, sage, rosemary, thyme, mints. I think most perennial and cool season annual herbs would succeed now. I'd just hold off on until May on your heat lovers like basil.

Perennial veggies-

I'd also go for it with your potato tubers! I feel confident it's warm enough and dry enough. If you didn't plant your garlic, onion & shallot sets in the fall you could do that now. And it's a great time to begin your onion bunches-this is the way we grow our favorite sweet onions "walla wallas" every spring for summer summer harvest.

Don't forget about your fruit. Late winter and early spring are the very best time to plant your fruit trees, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, grapes and kiwi.

Happy planting!

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