What a month we have before us, with the Ides of March, Easter and the first day of Spring right upon us. In March our neighborhoods shimmer with spring flowering trees and shrubs along with bulbs bursting with such sweet fragrances. Hurrah for Spring. We also associate spring with spring cleaning in our homes. Well, we can also include spring cleaning in our flower beds. This will include raking away old soggy mulch, broken dead twigs, and sticks. If the last cold snap killed other plant material such as cannas, Christmas Holly, and outdoor ferns, then take these out of the beds and into the humus pile or rubbish heap.
As I have mentioned above, bulbs are synonymous with this time of year. I read recently in a garden catalog about early bulbs for the lawn. Planted now, these bulbs will be up and blooming before the grass needs to be mown or they can be delayed until after the last mowing in the late fall. A variety of bulbs provide a rich tapestry of vivid color a full 2 months before the late spring and summer bloom of the growing season. The show is over about the time the grass greens up and starts growing. At the first cutting, raise the mower deck on the highest setting to allow for the bulb foliage to dye back naturally or to photosynthesize. This process will ensure that energy will be stored for a more robust bloom next spring.
The following make for good lawn bulbs: crocuses, dwarf irises, grape hyacinths, squill, snowdrops, and spider lilies (which bloom in the fall, but can be planted now).
My irises have multiplied tremendously over the past 6 years, to the extent that the blades are smaller and the blooms are smaller also. So, it is time to divide and transplant. If we do this now which is about a month before they bloom, we must dig them up carefully, leaving the feeder roots along with the corms. Otherwise, it will take them longer to reestablish. Irises thrive even in very poor soil. Their main requirement is excellent drainage. After they are transplanted, a top dressing of compost will pick them up even more. It is also good to water them weekly until they are established.
If we are going to have a vegetable garden, there is wisdom in pairing plants together that are known to repel a certain pest that would otherwise attack the other plant. For instance, plant basil and tomatoes in close proximity as the basil has properties to overcome disease and pests for the tomato plants. Beans and cilantro are a good combination since cilantro attracts a species of parasitic wasp that attacks the Mexican bean beetle. Beans and potatoes are good planted together since the beans dispel Colorado potato beetles, while the potatoes repel the same vicious Mexican bean beetle. Also plant lettuce with sweet alyssum since the alyssum attracts predatory insects that fed on aphids which are a scourge for lettuce.
GOOD GARDENING AND HAPPY EASTER.