Mid-Atlantic

March, 2008
Regional Report

Tend Your Coralbells

Vascillating winter temperatures mean the ground has experienced several freeze/thaw cycles. That often causes tap-rooted coralbells to heave up and out of the soil. Don't despair. When the soil is thawed and loose enough, use your boot toe to gently and firmly press the plants back into the soil. Or dig out the plant and roots with a small shovel, deepen the hole and replant.

Fertilize Spring-Blooming Bulbs

Fertilize as soon as green shoots from your daffies, crocuses, camassia, and other spring-blooming bulbs poke through the soil. Best practice is to sprinkle water-soluble, granular bulb fertilizer (8-8-8 or 10-10-10) on wet soil around the stem and leaves before the flowers bloom. If the soil is dry, apply liquid fertilizer such as fish/kelp fertilizer.

Start Tithonias Indoors

Yellow and orange Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia rotundifolia) bring zest and butterflies to the garden. They're gorgeous in containers. They supply nectar to sulphurs, fritillaries, and black swallowtail butterflies. Seedlings aren't to be found in most nurseries though, so I start seeds now for this tall, cut-and-come-again annual. They'll germinate in two weeks. 'Tithonia Torch' is the common cultivar, with prolific, medium-sized orange flowers on 4- to 5-foot stems. Scarlet-orange 'Sundance', at 3 feet with 3-inch flowers, is a favorite. 'Fiesta Del Sol' is a compact 3 feet with 2- to 3-inch orange daisylike flowers. All tithonias thrive in summer heat and humidity.

Mind Your Peas and Sweet Peas

Crispy snow peas, plump garden peas, fragrant-flowering sweet peas. Tradition says to plant on St. Patrick's Day. They're cool-season plants that will need support (trellis, fence, tepee) for long stems and tendrils. 'Oregon Sugar Pod' is my favorite tender, sweet snow pea variety.

Measure Before Buying Mulch

Your perennial, shrub, and mixed ornamental beds may need mulch this spring, or they may not. An effective mulch layer is 3 inches thick -- to retain moisture, keep weeds from sprouting, and control erosion. If existing mulch is from 2 to 3 inches deep over all exposed soil, that will likely be enough for the upcoming season. If it's more or less in spots, smooth out the mulch mounds. Look, then measure. Your garden may only need an inch or so on top of last year's two remaining inches. One cubic yard of mulch will cover approximately 100 square feet with a 3-inch-deep layer.

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