Fertilizer and Compost

By: Kent Higgins...

March can be the worst or the best month of the year in the Midwest! Sometimes spring sets in during March, with little freezing weather thereafter. At other times, I have seen frosts in June, even in the area. near the Great Lakes.
All this makes any gardening program an uncertain proposition. At least it calls for great flexibility. If the weather takes a favorable turn, be ready to spread fertilizer, compost, etc., and dig the vegetable garden. Provident gardeners usually prepare a small part of this plot in fall, so that the earliest crops, like peas, can be planted, even if they must be "mudded in." Except for the a few varieties there is little use planting peas after April 1st.
Dont hesitate to do a little gambling. I recall how years ago, inexperienced gardeners planted string beans in March. They were laughed at by old-timers, but the laugh was on the other side of the mouth when these early plantings came through and produced a crop weeks before the experts saw a pod.
Try an experimental planting during March, at least in sections near the Ohio River. It pays off. The same is true of endive, which if not planted early, matures during summer heat and is bitter.
Be ready to apply dormant sprays for scale, on some day when the thermometer promises to stay above 40 for several hours.
If you have an extra supply, slip in a planting of gladiolus, setting these with 5 inches of soil over the tops. These should give you your earliest blooms. They are more resistant to cold than you think.
Beware of your lawn. The worst enemy lawns have is soil compaction, and rolling increases this condition. Where earthworm casts and frost heaving have made the surface rough, a very light rolling with an unweighted roller is the only thing needed. Dont try to correct big irregularities by mashing the lawn flat. Most gardeners make the seasons first application of fertilizer to lawns, gardens and shrub borders in March. This should be an inorganic plant food, since organic lawn fertilizer are not soluble, and wont start feeding until later in the spring.
If you start tomato seedlings indoors, plan to sow seed eight weeks ahead of the date they are normally planted outdoors.
Feed the asparagus bed as early as possible to increase the size of the spears.
Uncover perennial borders and strawberries, gradually. Take the top layer of covering off the rose beds, but dont remove too much.
Repot house plants so they can take advantage of increased light to make new growth.
South of the Great Lakes, pansies can be set out during favorable weather. Better wait until the first week in April north of that area.
Start caladiums and tuberous begonias now. Start up tubers of dahlias if you make cuttings.
If the soil has thawed, dig up old plants of hardy chrysanthemums and divide into single-stem divisions. Replant these about 12 inches apart.
Turn the compost heap at the first opportunity, returning unrotted material to start a new pile. This "seeds new material with the necessary bacteria to start the rotting process.
Dont rush out the first fine day and work until dusk! Take it easy.

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