Mid-Atlantic

August, 2006
Regional Report

Order a Bounty of Spring Bulbs

As bulb catalogs pile up, several of the latest have special offers difficult to resist. What colors and style appeal to you? Yellow, gold, bicolor, and pinkish daffodils are such cheerful, steady spring friends! They naturalize to return in greater numbers year after year -- if you fertilize and allow declining foliage to feed the bulb and turn brown naturally. Bright, outrageous, exuberant tulips in red, purple, chartreuse, orange, and other myriad colors, combinations, and shapes make heads turn. Most new, fancy tulip bulbs don't have the vigor to rebloom so that means planting new bulbs each fall. Small species tulips, select older varieties, and Darwin Hybrid tulips are exceptions; they act as perennial tulips that rebloom.

Keep a Garden Photo Diary

On a frigid winter day or sparkling spring afternoon, it's easy to forget what your garden beds look like in autumn. Or vice versa. So three or four times a year, take photos from the same angles for a seasonal overview. A picture from beside the patio, one from a main door or entrance, another from the second floor window, perhaps a shot from your favorite meditation spot. Besides showing the garden's progress from year to year, keeping a diary will help as you shift plants and update the garden's design.

Consider a Cover Crop for the Veggie Patch

After your vegetables bite the dust, plant a cover crop to enrich the soil, control erosion, and control weeds. You don't have to be a farmer to use this green manure technique for fertilizer and biomass. Seeds of Change catalog sells cover crop seeds in small amounts. Nitrogen-fixing legumes are best planted in late summer/early fall -- before frost kills them. Winter tritical and winter rye are winter-hardy and improve soil structure. Before planting veggies next spring, cut down and till in cover crops. Their stems and leaves will provide a sugar feast for microbes, which means more humus for your vegetables in seasons to come.

Remove Seedpods and Propagate

Clip off ratty-looking annual and perennial seedpods -- cosmos, balsam impatiens, columbine, black-eyed Susan -- at the stem base. There may be a few ripe seeds left, so if you'd like those flowers in different garden spots next season, shake the pods thereabouts to scatter the seeds. Mark the spots now to remind you not to mistake spring seedlings for weeds. Next year's flowers may not be the same color or height as the parent plants, but they'll be a fun surprise nonetheless.

Anticipate and Act

Every spring seems more busy, rainy, and frantic than the last. So I'm trying to anticipate what garden projects I can do NOW, while my energy is high and the cool temps are inviting. There are paths to be laid; new beds to be turned and amended; trellises to be replaced, repaired, or repainted; garden pots and tools to be tossed or cleaned. What can YOU do now to make spring gardening go more smoothly?

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