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Marching into the gardening season

JoAnne Skelly
For the Appeal

What does a home gardener do in March? I turned to Master Gardener and local fruit tree expert Michael Janik for some advice. He says March is a good time for planting bare-root trees purchased at local nurseries or from catalogs.

You can also prune apples and pears in March. But wait to prune stone fruits, such as peaches and nectarines, until the first color shows on the buds.

If you had aphid problems last year, apply a dormant oil spray before the buds start to open and show color. If your apple trees were diseased last year, applying a fungicide 10 days after dormant oil application and before bloom is also a good idea.

In Janik’s March newsletter, available at michaelsapples.com, he suggests planting peas now, and starting lettuce, cabbage, and spinach inside in potting soil to set out when the plants develop two sets of leaves. Add compost to the garden area now, and work it in well.

Then, you can immediately plant peas, fava beans, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, chard and other cold-hardy vegetables. These will produce until summer heats up, when you can replace them with more heat-tolerant crops.

Many gardeners new to Northern Nevada get excited about warm March days and want to prune roses. It’s best to leave rose pruning until early to mid-April to prevent new growth that will be hard hit by late freezes. Wait to prune spring-flowering shrubs, such as forsythia and lilac, until they are done blooming. Otherwise, you will cut off all the flowers.

Aerate the lawn at the end of the month then fertilize it. With all the rain we have had, there’s one garden activity we don’t have to worry about in the next couple of weeks – watering! But one job we can’t get rid of is weeding. Plan on lots of that after all the rain.

Attend the “Gardening in Nevada” series Tuesday evenings, 6:30-8:30 p.m., this month at Bartley Ranch, 6000 Bartley Ranch Road, in Reno, sponsored by University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and Washoe County Regional Parks and Open Space. Tuesday, Master Gardener John Phillips will talk about “Organic Soils for Healthier Plants.” Master Gardener Randy Robison will share his award-winning techniques for growing vegetables on March 28.

For more information, e-mail skellyj@unce.unr.edu or call me at 887-2252. You can “Ask a Master Gardener” by e-mailing mastergardeners@unce.unr.edu or call your local University of Nevada Cooperative Extension office. Check out many useful horticulture publications at http://www.unce.unr.edu.

• JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.