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U of I master gardener program

Instructor Andy West poses for a portrait Feb. 13 at the University of Idaho Extension office in Twin Falls.

Spring is one of my favorite times of year because it is the beginning of the growing season. Winter is about over in Idaho (maybe). All the nurseries in the area are gearing up for the season. Having perused the many seed and plant catalogs that have come in the mail, I made my seed order and have begun planting my vegetable starts for the year. I have one calendar in my home dedicated to gardening that has all the vegetable and herb starts planned out by the week I need to start them, so they are ready to plant outside around Mother’s Day. I just finished pruning my fruit trees in preparation for this season’s growth.

If you planted bulbs last fall or have bulbs planted around your home, take a walk around your yard for they have begun to break the ground and grow. I noticed when I walked out to get the mail that a few of our early weeds have begun to grow. The annual bluegrass is starting to grow and one of our worst weeds, bur buttercup has begun to spread its green carpet along the roadways and bare ground areas.

Cool season vegetables

With spring comes the early cool season vegetable crops that can be planted in March or April (weather permitting). A soil thermometer is a helpful tool when planting early season crops. With the thermometer you can see when the soil is warm enough for the seeds to germinate and it will help you get an early start on these cool season crops. A good list includes peas, spinach, lettuce, greens, kohlrabi, broccoli, cabbages, cauliflower and Brussel sprouts.

Spring pruning

Now is a good time to get out and prune trees and shrubs. Not all of your plants will need pruning. Spring flowering shrubs bloom on last year’s growth and should be pruned after they bloom to eliminate removing the flowers. With your other trees and shrubs follow the A, B, C, D’s of pruning; “All, Broken, Crossing, Dead and Diseased” parts need to be removed. When pruning, keep in mind the natural look of the plant. Only remove up to 1/3 of the plant material. The best pruning tools are your hand pruners, loppers and a hand saw.

Spring cleanup

Get out on a warm day and begin your spring cleanup by pulling out the lawn mower and cleaning up your lawn. If you have a thatch problem, now is a good time to remove it. Core aeration is great to do in the spring before the first fertilizer application. Don’t get into a big hurry to turn the sprinklers on unless we get very warm extremely fast. Holding off on turning the water on the lawn will force the grass roots deeper in the soil to follow the moisture and provide you with a healthier lawn when we get hot.

Bare root fruit trees

Spring is a great time to plant fruit trees. Most garden centers will have bare root trees for much cheaper than a potted tree. Bare root trees establish very well as they are dormant when you purchase and plant them and will wait on Mother Nature to wake them up when it’s warm enough. Here are some tips to planting bare root trees:

Before you purchase:

Inspect the tree for damage to the stems and trunk.

After you purchase:

Put the trees in a bucket of water overnight before you plant to soak the roots.

Select the warmest, sunniest spot on your property.

Dig a hole two to three times the width and to the depth of the roots.

Lay the roots out in the hole.

Backfill with soil and water it in to settle the dirt.

Most tree issues are associated with planting incorrectly, usually too deep. The proper planting depth is with the trunk flare at ground level. This is the area where the trunk gets wider and the roots come off.

Follow these tips to begin an enjoyable growing season.

For additional tips and information, contact Andy West, University of Idaho Extension horticulture educator, Twin Falls County, at 208-734-9590 or email andywest@uidaho.edu.

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Garden Wise is presented by the Magic Valley Master Gardener Association. We will try to answer questions of general interest submitted by the community. Email questions to gardenwise@cableone.net.

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