Western Mountains and High Plains

March, 2005
Regional Report

Start Perennial Flower Seeds

Many perennial flowers require a 45- to 60-degree germinating temperature, and this is often difficult to find in today's home environment. Use an attached garage or unheated basement as a cool location for starting seeds. Have a shop light ready, suspended with adjustable chains. After seeds germinate, place the young plants under the fluorescent lights to encourage strong and healthy growth. Check seed packets for information as to whether the seed requires light for germination.

Begin Lawn Care

Avoid the practice of early-spring power raking. Improper use of a dethatching machine can be destructive to lawn grasses by tearing or killing tender rhizomes just as they are beginning to grow. It's much safer to hand rake areas if accumulations of dead grass clippings are a concern. Mow the lawn short this one time of year to remove dead, brown tips. This allows for new growth to receive more of the spring sun, and improves air circulation for vigorous, strong growth.

Prune Summer-Flowering Shrubs

The practice of renewal pruning can revitalize shrubs, such as caryopteris, shrub althea, beauty bush, summer spireas, golden elder, and potentilla. Renewal pruning means to cut the oldest stems to ground level, which will activate latent buds at the base of the plant to grow into new stems. This new growth will bloom within a year. This practice keeps shrubs forever young. Old stems can be identified by their thicker girth, lighter color, and cracked and/or peeling bark. Spring-flowering shrubs, such as lilac, forsythia, quince, etc., can be pruned immediately after they bloom.

Prepare the Soil

Begin soil preparation in the annual flower and vegetable garden. If your garden soil has started to dry out enough so that a squeezed handful will crumble easily and not stay packed together, the time is right for adding compost to loosen heavy, compacted areas. Use your homemade compost or a quality compost made in your area. Avoid cheap products that are foul smelling; they may be contaminated with herbicides, weed seeds, and diseases.

Add Nutrients to Your Soil

If it's been over two years since you've added phosphorus, till or spade in 1 pound of superphosphate (0-20-0) per 100 square feet into the top 6 to 8 inches to get ready for spring planting. If you are uncertain, get a soil testing kit to check what your soil may be lacking.

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