By Peg Keenleyside
March, with its longer days and warming soil, is the month when the garden wakes up from its winter sleep.
It’s the time when you want to get some tasks done to encourage all the new growth and budding that’s happening. And if you’re wanting to add a shrub, a specimen tree or some berry plants, this is also the time to get online and do some “bare-root” plant ordering.
If you’re dreaming about some great colors in your summer garden, you’ll find March is also the time to order or shop for summer blooming bulbs and those easy-to-grow-from-seed flowers. Shade-loving begonias, dahlias and sweet peas started from seed are all great choices.
Check your Farmer’s Almanac for the last expected frost date in Point Roberts (farmersalmanac.com/almanacs/2018) to do some forward planning. Point Roberts is Zone 7, although our gardens can generally handle Zone 8 hardy plants as well.
Once the danger of frost is past, well-drained soil is going to be ready for some planting. If you’ve got heavy clay in your soil where you want to do some planting – say for a new shrub – you’ll have to wait a few weeks until it’s drier.
From experience, you do not want not to get too carried away with your buying this early in the season. Lots of plants can’t handle the cold nights of early spring, so read plant tags at the nurseries and online plant night-time temperature requirements carefully.
But first up for my March to-do list tasks, always, though, is soil amendment. In gardening, everything starts with “the dirt”. Whether you head to your local hardware store for some bags of compost, or seek out a local farm source for DIY manure, this is the time when your garden needs all the complex nutrients it can get to promote good plant health and great blooms.
Check out this website for the low down on different kinds of composts and manures and what to look for in them at bit.ly/2oo0wKx . Pay careful attention to veggie garden soil amendment. For any plant that comes to my table I will use only an organic plant material based compost product.
There are some really great online resources for bare-root plant buying (this is where the company ships you a plant that has been removed from the soil) and if it’s a shrub or shrubs (even hedging) that you’re looking for, visit the Online Tree Farm at online-tree-farm.us.
One of my all-time favorite shrubs for spring blooming can be found at the Tree Farm site; it’s called the Japanese Flowering Quince. Planted under a kitchen or bedroom window, it will be just the visual harbinger of spring you need to call you out to the garden for years to come.
Try the Romence Gardens site for buying some fabulous great big statement grasses online. Find it at romencegardens.com. This is one of the best sites I’ve seen for pictures of mature grasses and how to grow them.
Cloud Mountain Farm out near Sumas has a great online selection of native plants, shrubs and berry plants that they ship bare-root. They carry native huckleberry plants and I notice they are carrying a raspberry bush hybrid that fruits in the fall. Cloud Mountain is well known for its excellent fruit trees; unfortunately however, you generally can’t get trees mail ordered to the Point; their website is cloudmountainfarmcenter.org.
For summer flowering bulb and tuber ordering, I’d check out the Brecks site at brecks.com. Looking for a shade plant that will give you continuous colorful blooms throughout the summer? Begonias are a great choice. The online selection at Brecks includes the very charming Angelique begonia with a profusion of cascading white flowers with pink fringing.
March is the time to direct sow some easy to grow cool-weather veggies like peas and lettuces right out in the garden. You can also start flowers like fragrant sweet peas, hollyhocks and zinnias from seed sown directly in the (amended) soil. Use some tags made from thrift store blinds to mark what and where you’ve planted your seed.