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Fri, Sept. 20

Time is ripe for spring planting

Courtesy photo

Courtesy photo

Spring officially starts March 21, and now marks a good time to make the transition from winter to spring planting for flowers and vegetables, nursery experts say.

"Everyone has been pent up inside so long, so we all want to go outside and get our hands in the soil," said Ken Lain, owner of Watters Garden Center in Prescott. "That is kind of what I hear a lot this time of year. Things are coming alive right now.

"The number one thing you do in March as things wake up is feed the landscape with all-purpose plant food - fertilizer," he said. "Anytime in March is fine."

The nice weather in March tempts gardeners to plant summer, warm-season flowers and vegetables, Lain said. They include tomatoes, geraniums and petunias.

"But it is just too early," Lain said. "Plant them in late spring."

Lain recommends planting now for flowers and vegetables "that love warm days and cool nights." The list includes pansies, ranaculas, violas and English primrose.

He said March is a good month for planting flowering shrubs and bushes, such as lilacs and forsythias.

"If you are planting vegetables outdoors, stick with the cool-season vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, Brussels sprouts and more," Lain advised. "It's also a good time to plant potatoes, garlic and onions."

Gardeners who tend tomatoes, peppers and eggplants should consider placing their seeds in pots this time of the year and transplanting them outdoors when the weather gets warmer, said Jeff Schalau, director of the University of Arizona, Yavapai County Cooperative Extension in Prescott.

"They will probably need frost protection in May," said Schalau, who recommends frost protection such as Wall O Water.

Schalau said a number of people use pots "to get an early start on warm-season vegetables. So, otherwise, people are probably sowing some lettuce and some peas and carrots and other crops (outdoors)."

Nursery manager Valerie Phipps of Mortimer Nursery has prepared a checklist for planting with the arrival of spring:

• Prepare garden soil by adding amendments and mulch, and tilling them. "That means if you are doing an organic vegetable, you would use things like bone meal," Phipps said.

• Plant cool-weather vegetables, such as peas, spinach and chard.

• Divide and replant summer- and fall-blooming perennials.

• Fertilize established plants, trees and shrubs.

• Aerate lawns and fertilize them.

• Sow seeds of perennials that germinate in cool temperatures, such as penstemons.

• Sow seeds of cool-weather annuals.

• Check the irrigation system to make sure it works.

• Prune roses and amend with organics, such as soil sulphur, cottonseed meal, alfalfa meal and triple super phosphate.

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