GARDENING BY RONELLA: March brings work in flower beds, gardens
by Ronella Stagner, Columnist
Mar 05, 2014 | 58 58 recommendations | email to a friend | print
March, the month of madness, is finally here. There is such a rushing to get our flowerbeds in order, planting new things and getting the vegetable garden ready for planting. Spring bulbs seem to spring up overnight and soon some of the perennials will be coming up. It’s hard to know which gardening chore to tackle first.

The grass will soon need mowing and the wise gardener will know to set the mower at 2 or 2 ½ inches. If you mow too close, you can throw the root system into shock and also encourage disease and insects.

Most gardening people that I have known are thrilled to have an early spring so they can get out sooner and break their backs, digging and hauling and planting. Sometimes it’s wiser to just “sit on it” until the soil warms but a few of the cool-season flowers can be planted in March. Some of these are snapdragons, pansies, sweet William pinks and a few others. When you see these plants on display, it’s OK to take them home and plant them. They are very tough and even if we have a light frost, they just keep on blooming. They can be planted from mid-March on through April. Nothing says “spring” so much to me as the sweet Williams,which Ma called “pinks” and so that’s what I call them. Her big bed of pinks was planted many years before by Ma’s mother-in-law and it was very special to her.

As soon as your spring-flowering bulbs have bloomed and faded, cut off the spent flower stalks and feed the plants with 5-10-5 fertilizer, about ½ cup per 10 square feet of beds. If you had fertilized them as they were just emerging this spring, forget the last step. Do not cut the foliage after the flower fades. The leaves must stay alive to feed the bulb underneath until the leaves begin to yellow.

I am often asked about the time to divide hostas and the answer is that you can do it now as soon as the soil is dry enough to dig them.

March is a good time to bathe your houseplants to get them ready to put outside when the weather permits. It’s also time to start feeding your indoor plants about every two weeks to get them ready to move outside.

Whenever I write about getting houseplants ready for spring, I think of Ma and her numerous pots of plants, which were brought out to the front porch as soon as the danger of frost was past. That was a major job, which Pa usually got involved with.

As a child, I lived in two different worlds and it was hard to decide which I liked best.

In my grandparents’ house, all was in order and things were done in an orderly fashion.

Monday would be washday and Tuesday would be ironing day. Ma washed, rain or shine, winter or summer, on Monday. She ironed with flat irons heated on her kitchen stove and that was quite a lengthy process. For some strange reason, I liked to iron as a little girl, though I got over that when I was grown up. Ma ironed everything, even dish cloths, handkerchiefs and sheets. Cleaning day was every day, it seemed. Her routine never changed unless she was sick. Ma suffered with migraine headaches and that was about the only thing that interfered with her set routine. I still remember loving the clean, orderly house.

Now, on the other hand, my mother was never bothered if she didn’t get to wash on Monday or Tuesday, for that matter, and sometimes ironing just had to wait for a more convenient time, if ever. Mama would far rather ride with Daddy on the tractor or make a trip to town with him or just anything more interesting than housework. She could find time to make cookies, donuts or sometimes she made meringue for us to eat. She loved to work in the garden or check on little pigs or any chore with animals.

Mama was an avid reader and always took time to read a good book.

Mama was the original multi-tasker because she could nurse the baby, read a book and churn, all at the same time.

My parents were totally different than Ma and Pa and I loved being in both worlds.

I was cherished in both places so I made it my practice to spend time with both my parents and my grandparents. When I was at Ma and Pa’s, there were no sisters to share their time and perhaps that is the answer to my preference but I would always be glad to get back home to my parents.

Thanks to those readers who love stories about Ma and Pa.

Please feel free to call me at 270-522-3632.
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