Inland Northwest, High Desert
Hold Off on Spraying Oil
Holster that spray gun, pardner. Despite all the advice to spray trees with dormant oil this time of year, be careful. If you spray too early, you can do more harm than good. Evergreens may yellow if sprayed now. Wait until the temperatures are consistently above freezing and then spray. Fruit trees are best sprayed just before bud break.
Avoid Adding Lime
Don\'t add lime to bring your soil pH up. Despite what national publications say about adding lime to raise pH, we don\'t need it. The inland northwest region and Rocky Mountain region features low rainfall and alkaline soils. Always have a soil test done before adding any chemical amendment to your garden.
Give Manure for Gifts
Instead of giving the usual fattening chocolates as a gift, why not give a more practical gift: horse manure. The older the manure, the better, but even if it's fresh, it makes great compost. Most manure contains weed seeds, so hot composting it first before adding it to your soil is a good idea. By spring it will be ready to add to the soil, and your waistline will be better off, too.
Squeeze-Test Your Soil
You can tell when your soil is dry enough to work and till if you give it a little squeeze. Those in the warmer parts of the region are probably getting close to that magical time of early spring. Pick up a handful of soil and squeeze. If the imprint of your fingers is clear, the soil is still too wet. Wait another couple of days. If it crumbles after squeezing, work away.
Give Gift Certificates
Another gift suggestion for gardening friends or spouse is a gift certificate to their favorite Web site, catalog, or nursery. Many places have preseason sales, so your loved ones can stock up on potting soil or order that prized flower they always wanted. Most catalogs will ship live plants to your area when it's safe to plant outdoors.