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Carolyn Singer: Warming soil brings blossoms

Magnolia soulangeana (tulip tree) in full bloomnear the fairgrounds.
Submitted by Carolyn Singer |

While the earth certainly did not cool as it usually does in winter, March is always a time when volunteer seedlings appear in gardens. Weeds certainly do not need much moisture or spring warmth to germinate!

Bulbs continue to bloom, some miniature Narcissus just now adding to the spring bouquets I treasure. Even the small groupings of pale yellow Narcissus ‘Hawera’ add their sweet fragrance to garden paths I wader almost daily as I take in the heady beauty of the season.

Deer-resistant alliums will be the next bulbs to blossom in my rural landscape. Allium triquetrum is already flowering at the base of the 125 year-old walnut. Lovely in a shady area where it can naturalize, its spread is too aggressive for a small garden in our mild Mediterranean climate. It would be a perfect bulb choice for shady areas of a meadow.



Every year in fall I have added bulbs. They need no irrigation, and have continued to multiply despite periods of drought. In spring I use short pieces of bamboo to mark where I want to add more in the coming fall. Then I make notes about what goes where.

While I am doing this planning, I remove faded blossoms from daffodils (Narcissus), tulips, and hyacinth. Energy does not need to go into seed production.




Each one of us lives in a unique setting in the foothills. Where the earth is warmer, seeding greens every couple weeks will ensure a steady supply in your kitchen beginning in April. Bok choy, tatsoi, spinach, most lettuce, and raab are just a few that prefer the cooler temperatures of spring.

In my cold frame a couple of weeks ago I seeded 36 containers of edible pod peas, snap peas, and flowering sweet peas. Just as they were germinating, some critter ate then all in a single afternoon, while my back was turned!! Was it birds? Ground squirrels? A gourmet delight. I had the containers protected with a small piece of shade cloth, but that had been moved aside.

In my edible garden, young seedlings must be protected from the birds. Years ago, my parents used hardware cloth, fashioning tent-shaped covers for seedbeds. The finer mesh may also keep sow bugs and earwigs from munching on the spring greens. I have the ones we used in the Sebastopol family garden, plus a few I have added over the years.

I continue to use precious water to irrigate once a week the plants I have added or transplanted since last fall. I water the root ball and the soil adjacent to it. Plants are mulched with straw, my favorite choice for holding moisture in the soil. With so many birds on my property, I do have to keep an eye on the mulch, often replacing what they have scattered.

Clematis is one of the first vines to show new growth in spring. Look closely at their vining habit. It is the stems of the leaves that reach for support. Providing horizontal wires for them to wrap around as they climb will strengthen the primary shoots in their upward journey.

While you are attending to any Clematis, check the mulch and secure shading of the base of the plant. Most Clematis will be more vigorous and bloom more when the base is protected, especially from summer sun. A nearby plant may accomplish this, or a garden bench. Simple placement of chunks of wood or bark will also work.

March is the month foothill landscapes burst into bloom, natives and old shrubs dependable despite repeated years of drought. In a Cedar Ridge garden this past week, the fragrant lure of Viburnum tinus caught my attention. Native redbud, Viburnum, Spiraea (bridal wreath is one of these), flowering cherries and plums are just a few enticing people and pollinators into the landscape.

Carolyn Singer has gardened organically in Nevada County since 1977. Carolyn will be teaching Raised beds and other container gardening at Peaceful Valley (272-4769 X 106) from 9:30-11:30 a.m. April 11th. She is the author of the award-winning “The Seasoned Gardener, 5 decades of sustainable and practical garden wisdom”, and two volumes of “Deer in My Garden” (deer-resistant plants), available locally. For more information and class details, visit http://www.carolynsingergardens.com.


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