Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Ides of March

KCB is a professional gardener and friend who does wonderful work in the Greater Portland area. KCB is also an accredited Master Gardener by the Cooperative Extension Service and we are honored to have KCB as part of our Skillin's Garden Log family. KCB can also be found at the awesome Finishing Touches website.

Who hasn’t heard the expression ‘Beware the Ides of March’? Long before I knew the meaning, actually thought it was ‘the eyes’ of March, I sensed its connotation filled with dread by and large for the manner in which it was said. The Soothsayer’s warning to Julius Caesar was not heeded; he did not take the precautions that were needed to save his life that day. While my prediction is not so outrageous, for we all know spring is approaching and its fever quite contagious, I do hope you will take a hint or two from the suggestions I will relay.

It is time we gardeners get off our duff and begin to do outdoor stuff. Start slow and steady there is much we can do to get ready before we take out spade or hoe.

This following tale has been often told, and I hope you forgive me for being so bold, but repeat it I will. Death or disease will not come upon us it is our plants, shrubs, and trees that will flourish from your gesture of goodwill.

• First, take a walk around your property. Doing so is helpful for garden and gardener. Walking is one of the best ways to begin your spring training for marathon gardening. Bring a friend, a pet, or both. In any case, bring your garden journal.

• Remove or at least pull from your garden beds any branches or limbs that may have fallen over the winter. As your ornamentals wake and push thru the earth, they will thank you. Would you want to wake with the equivalent of a 40-foot maple on top of you?

• Check and make note of any winter damage especially the inside of shrubs. Often dead branches can be overlooked once the shrub is in full leaf or bloom.

• Gently clear away any leaves or debris from the base of plants that has accumulated over the winter. Patience is key, as you will need to wait until the layers have thawed. Do not be too aggressive as to damage any new growth or seedlings. Hand clearing is best and if done in stages the effort is minimal. The sooner we get to this the less hiding places for slugs and other pests.

Remind yourself that no matter what the calendar may say it is still March in Maine so there are some things you may delay:

• Avoid removing any winter protection or fencing too soon.

o Straighten or remove if the protection is interfering with the shrub or tree*

• Don’t be in a rush to pull away any mounded protection of mulch or compost. *

• Prune roses too soon. *

*Topics to be revisited in future writings.

There may be those whose property isn’t ready to be ‘walked around’. Alternatively, you may not be ready. Nevertheless, there is one thing we all should do; Check your tools.

If they weren’t sharpened upon retiring them for the winter, now is the second most perfect time. We have all been there; ready to prune our roses, or cut back spent foliage and stems with the only action being the bending of the target. Your efforts only produced a partial or worse no cut. While, you attempt to finish the job with your hand some of the bark or outer layer is peeled away. You are faced with potential damage due to disease or insect infestation.

Therefore, now that you have been given your task, do not hesitate to question or ask on any other topics of interest or concern. Also feel free to dare, to offer hints and share as I am not only here to write, but also to learn.

One finally thought I give to you, do not fret over the ‘Ides of March’. The 15th of this month means no harm. It is the Ides of April, the day my taxes are due in which I will be asked to give leg & arm

KCB for Skillin's Greenhouses
March 15, 2011

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