Author Linda Cobb
Master Gardener Linda Cobb

Linda Cobb is a garden writer and certified Master Gardener who lives in Spartanburg, South Carolina. She is the author of My Gardener's Guide: Easy Steps to a Better Garden.

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Our Garden by Linda Cobb

Garden Notes March 2006

Time to roll up those sleeves, dig in the garage for the shovels, clippers, and wheel barrels. Find out how to get the garden ready for spring.

As we start to get outside and clean up the garden, remember to inspect all of your garden tools.  Spend some time repairing any tools that need it, and I like to use a brillo pad on my clippers to clean them up.  Oil them and do not leave them outside.  They will rust.  Check out a transplanting shovel.  It is my most valuable tool.  It is available at most home stores or hardware stores.  It has a small pan or shovel on a normal sized handle.  It is easy to handle and is the most perfect size to transplant any plant in the garden.  It generally costs about $14.00 and is well worth the price.  The other most valuable tool I own is my Rubbermaid lawn cart.  This cart has two big wheels on it and is a great size.  It holds alot of garden garbage and clippings.  But the best thing about it is that it is light and easy to manuver.  Make sure that you use tools that you can handle.  This will make things alot easier for you. 

Now for the clean up.  Begin by cutting down all of the dead perennial seed heads.  Spend some time raking out the beds.  Cut down all of the dead leaves.  After you perform these clean up chores around the garden, it will be time to put down some mulch. The practice of adding mulch every spring does wonders to improve your soil. The soil conditioner breaks down over the next year and improves your existing soil.  Over the years, my soil has improved 100%.  Apply 2 to 3 inches of soil conditioner in all your garden beds.  Fafard (www.fafard.com) makes a great soil conditioner and that is what I use.  Applying soil conditioner does three things.  It will keep the roots of the plants cool, keep the moisture in, and keep the weeds out. That is a very beneficial practice.  Before I apply the soil conditioner in early spring, I feed my perennials, peonies, and hydrangeas with my special feed formula.  In a large wheel barrel mix 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 10-10-10 fertilizer with trace elements, and 1/3 cottonseed meal.

You can get these ingredients at your local farm supply store. Mix them up. Apply to perennials, peonies, hydrangeas in late March or early April. Apply 1/3 to 3/4 cup around the drip line of the plant depending on how large the plant is. Ordinarily you would dig it in, but the great thing to do is to then put down 2 to 3 inches of soil conditioner over it and then water it in.  Now the most important thing here is to remember to not get any of this feed formula on the leaves of the plant.  It will kill the leaves.  This is a very strong feed formula that I add only once a year.  So respect it and follow the directions given here carefully.

I love the perennial called Dianthus.  This year’s Perennial Plant of 2006 is Dianthus ‘Firewitch’.  It is the first to bloom each spring, heralding the arrival of the best time of the year.  This cheddar pink plant is a great edging plant, blooming in full sun or light shade.  The dark pink blooms smell like cloves with a spicy fragrance that drifts through the garden.  After this plant blooms, trim back the flowers and hope for more flowers later.  Be sure to check it out.  Check back with me next month, as we continue to get the garden ready for Spring.

Posted by Linda on Feb 19, 2006

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