Bust Out Your Bulbs

February's a prime time for planting

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There's a lot going on right now if you're going to plant a vegetable garden in the spring, said Glen McCombs, owner and operator of Plant Fair Nursery in Star Valley.


McCombs said it's time to get the soil ready for seeds that should be planted in February -- carrots, peas, beets and lettuce.


Elaine Drorbaugh, who's been gardening in the Payson area since 1948, said she gets ready for planting by turning the soil over with a shovel, fork or rototiller.


"If you're going to add mulch or compost," she said -- now's the time to do it."


Drorbaugh said she makes her own compost and uses the same mixture to mulch with. However, commercial bags of compost and mulch are available at local nurseries and gardening departments.

And it's also time to plant those spring bulbs -- gladiolus, dahlias, lilies and ranunculus, McCombs said.


For bulbs, Drorbaugh follows the directions on how deep to dig the hole -- it varies for every type of bulb -- and puts bone meal in with her compost. "But that's about all," she said.


"Right now is the time to plant bare root fruit trees and shade trees," McCombs said. "This is the time to get those in. If anyone's thinking of an orchard or fruit trees, this is the time to do it."


"And also grapevines and blackberry bushes," Drorbaugh said. "When the trees are dormant, within the next week or two, I will start spraying my plum, peach and apricot trees for bore worms."


Gardeners should only spray fruit trees that grow fruit with pits for bore worms, she said, not apples, pears and fruit with small seeds.


And in just a couple of weeks, about the first of February, it'll be time to plant rose bushes.


If the weather were sure to hold, now would be a perfect time to plant roses, Drorbaugh said.


"But I'm sure we'll have a cold spell and there aren't many things that will grow when the ground is cold," she said.


When Drorbaugh does plant roses, she digs a hole no deeper than the hole the plant was in at the nursery. She puts a mound of compost and soil on the bottom of the hole and drapes the roots over the mound before filling the hole.


She explained that the roots need to grow down, not out, and if they're just put in the hole, they'll have to grow out first before growing down.


"The other things we need to be doing around this time of year is pruning existing plants," McCombs said. "That ought to give those home gardeners something to do."


He also had words of advice for people with indoor plants who are watering them on their regular schedule.


"One thing to do right now is water indoor plants with Oxygen Plus. It's a product that puts oxygen down in the soil. They tend to get overwatered in the winter. On a normal watering schedule, the soil doesn't tend to dry out like it does in the spring and summer."


Indoor gardeners also can start their cold-hardy plants now, such as cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and lettuce.


"But it's way too early for squash, tomatoes, peppers -- anything that would freeze," McCombs said. "They need to wait a month or two for that."


He said March is a better time to start those plants indoors to get them up to size for the outdoor garden.


Drorbaugh said she has too many house plants to start seeds indoors, and she prefers to start with nursery-raised plants because Payson's growing season is so short.


"I have found better luck planting the rest of my garden in May or June," she said. "If we don't have warm weather, the seeds will lay in the ground and weaken."


March is the time to start planting perennials, McCombs said, and April is a good time to plant vegetables and flowers such as pansies, petunias, dianthus, and snapdragons.


Recently, McCombs said, he has received calls from concerned residents who say their newer manzanita bushes, scrub oak trees and tender evergreens haven't been faring well this winter.


"With it being a mild winter -- no moisture except for one snow -- things are freezing more than they would," he said.


McCombs said the leaves on the plants are dying, but not to worry. The dead leaves will fall off in the spring and the plants will sprout new leaves.


"I've gotten lots of calls from people about their photinias," he said. "And other calls about the mild winter not killing off the bugs. "About the only thing you can do is use a dormant spray. That kills those little bugs that are trying to find a place to hide for the winter."


And what about the poinsettias that survived the holiday season?


McCombs said the Mexican natives are basically "throw-away" plants in this neck of the woods.

"But people do try to keep them as a house plant," he said. "They can be put in pots and taken outside in mid-May and brought back indoors before the first frost in the fall."


Drorbaugh said she kept one of her poinsettias for five years.


"And it never did bloom after the first year," she said, "so I gave it up as a bad job."


McCombs welcomes questions from indoor and outdoor gardeners. For information, call Plant Fair Nursery on Highway 260 in Star Valley, at 474-6556.

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