Gardening with Galligan: Mulching and other spring chores

CAROL GALLIGAN PHOTO | Galanthus, one of spring’s earliest blooming bulbs, has the common name ‘Snow Drops.’

Galanthus, one of spring’s earliest blooming bulbs, has the common name ‘Snow Drops.’

The Island will soon be bathed from one end to the other in bright yellow, with daffodils and forsythia everywhere.

It’s already begun and soon we will be cheerful. So let’s try to have spring chores done ASAP. Then we can relax and enjoy the bloom and fill vases for every room in the house!

We left off last week addressing mulch. I cited a number of reasons why mulch is a key ingredient for any bed. One reason I neglected to mention but which is germane to our next topic is that if your beds are mulched, when it’s time to fertilize, the task will be easier. And fertilizing is our next spring chore.

Fertilizing should take place once a month beginning in late March, but if you haven’t done so, now is a perfectly good time to begin. On whatever day of the month you choose, you should then follow through in May, June and July. You should not feed in August because you don’t want to encourage new growth at a time when the plant should be winding down its cycle, preparing to go dormant.

Any standard fertilizer is fine.

Reading books or websites about fertilizer is enough to turn anyone off on the entire subject. I know this because for years, they turned me off. Two things were the rub. First was a whole lot about square footage and how much fertilizer you would need, which I could never figure out. Second was the instruction to “scratch it in.” Wisely, the books never mentioned the exact position you would have to be in to “scratch it in” but you didn’t need ingenuity to figure it out. So I simply didn’t do it. Now that I’ve discovered a better way, I see the difference that it makes and I am a faithful feeder. This method will only work if your beds are well-mulched.

Put your large bag of fertilizer ­­— I buy the 40-pound bags ­— in your wheelbarrow with a saucer. Scatter the fertilizer onto the mulch and the little grains will fall down onto the soil with the next rain. Doing this when rain is expected is certainly a good idea, but it will work even if you don’t. If your bed is not mulched, have fun “scratching it in.”

This brings us to our last chore, preparing a large container of conditioned soil for potting seedlings, young plants and filling window boxes. I would recommend the following: In your wheelbarrow, make a mixture of one-third topsoil, one-third peat moss and one-third compost. Stir it well, with or without garden gloves depending on how fussy you are about your fingernails.

Then store it in one of those tin cans. My daughter, when she was young, called this mixture “yum,” because she imagined the plant roots reaching down, finding it, and, I suppose, rubbing their plant- equivalent  tummies and saying “Yum.” And I must confess that I still think of it this way.

Next week we can talk about both forsythia and daffodils, the problems they present and how to solve them. In the meantime, we can enjoy the sunnier days and above all, the absence of snow!