"A gardener exhibits great faith when planting a seed"
01 March 2010
Life Springs Eternal
I love March. Spring is coming and so is my birthday (rats!). Towards the end of the month early tulips, snowdrops and crocuses will be coming up. For the green thumbs out there dying to do some gardening, there are a few things you can get a headstart on. If you have an apple tree, March is the time to prune it. It is imperative that this is completed before the tree starts leafing out, notwithstanding the occasional need to remove a broken branch, suckers and such but the formative pruning needs to be done in early spring before the sap begins to run and the tree forms its flowers. Remember to never prune more than a third of the overall growth of a tree each year, to do so could seriously set back your tree. Remove crossing branches, diseased growth, overcrowded branching in the centre of the tree. I found an excellent site with detailed information and diagrams illustrating the correct method for pruning a young apple tree and a mature tree. Follow this link: http://www.weekendgardener.net/how-to/prune-apple-trees.htm. You may train it to grow with a central lead or eliminate a central lead for a rounded canopy which is the most popular style, especially in orchards.
You may continue to plant indoors some of your vegetables and annual flowers I like to use peat pots and pellets for seeding. Place these in a tray with a clear plastic dome lid (available at your local greenhouse), plant the seed and water. Watch carefully over the next few weeks for signs of damping off. Fungi such as Phtophtora and Pythium cause this condition. Living at the soil line where air meets the moist soil surface, these fungi take advantage of overwatering and attack your seedlings. To avoid this problem, allow the surface of the soil to dry out between waterings. Should your soiless mix remain moist for an extended period you may prevent problems with damping off by sprinkling an anti-fungal agent such as Damp-Off on the seedlings and soil or use ground cinnamon. It is a natural fungicide.
If you see blackened constricted stems with collapse of the stem, you will likely have to discard those plants and take measures to protect the rest. If you see a grayish mold on the stems of the seedlings, you will have to discard these as well. It too can be caused by an overly wet medium and high humidity. The key to growing healthy seedlings is to keep in a bright location, under grow lights if you have them, and water when the soiless mix is dry to the touch. Don't allow the area to be exposed to drafts.
Follow the instructions on the seed packet for seeding times. Start seeds requiring dark to germinate in an appropriately dark place and those needing light to germinate in good light.
Some plants to start now:
marigolds, sunflowers, verbena, matthiola (night-scented stock), cabbage, herbs.
Prune apple trees
Continue sowing seeds based on plant and area specific information provided on seed packages
Wash leaves of houseplants
Transplant rootbound houseplants