Pacific Northwest

March, 2013
Regional Report

Test Leftover Seed

If you've saved seed packets from last year, test the seeds for germination before wasting time and space in the garden. Place ten or so seeds between the folds of a moist paper towel and place it on a kitchen counter. Keep the seeds moist and check daily. If less than six seeds germinate after a week, germination is poor, and you're better off discarding the packet and purchasing fresh seed for planting this year.

Control Fungus Gnats

If you've had trouble with fungus gnats (small black flies that emerge from potting soil in indoor plants), try topping the potting soil with a decorative layer of gravel. The gravel prevents the female gnats from laying their eggs in the moist potting soil, so the population of adult flies will eventually be reduced.

Consider Edible Ornamentals

As you plan for this year's garden, consider planting blueberries. They are among the easiest of fruiting plants to grow, they make attractive shrubs, and they live many years while producing lots of tasty, nutritious berries. You can time your harvests by planting early, mid-, or late-season varieties. You'll need at least two different varieties for cross-pollination and best fruit set.

Plant Onion Seeds

Start onions indoors from seed now and set them in a sunny spot. Sow the seeds 1/4 inch deep and cover them lightly with vermiculite or sand. Keep the soil temperature at about 70 degrees F. Once the seeds germinate, place the trays under grow lights, thin seedlings to 1-2 inches apart, and keep the plants watered and fed. Keep the plants trimmed to 3 inches tall and set them out in the garden in late April.

Add Wood Ashes

Adding wood ashes to your garden can help reduce soil acidity, but it's always a good idea to test your soil first so you'll know how much to apply. Wood ashes not only add potassium to the soil but also raise the pH. Don't apply ashes to your garden if your soil pH is already 7.0 or higher. In general, use one-half to one pound of wood ash per year mulched around shrubs and roses, 10-15 pounds per 1,000 square feet spread on the lawn, and 10-30 pounds per 1,000 square feet turned into the soil of vegetable and flower gardens.

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