3/18/16: In the garden this week

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Elderberry leaves are beginning to unfold. If you have space for a large shrub, consider planting this gorgeous native. The birds will thank you!

It’s supposed to snow on Sunday and then get warm again. It’s definitely too early to plant; luckily, plants are not available yet, or this early spring would tempt me to plant too soon. But there are lots of things you could be doing if you’re dying to get into the garden this week:

— you should have cleaned up the vegetable garden last fall, but if you didn’t, do it now! Remove dead plants and weeds, spread compost or rotted manure, and get ready for spring planting.

— direct sow seeds of cool-weather crops such as lettuce, mesclun mix, spinach, arugula and peas. They’ll germinate and grow when the weather is warm and stall when it turns cold again. But cold weather won’t hurt them, and you’ll have spring greens as early as possible.

— start vegetable seeds for warm-weather crops such as tomatoes and squash. You can find a list of dates for starting seeds in this post.

— Weed! Dig up wild garlic and dandelions and pull garlic mustard and western bittercress in your garden plots. The mustards go to seed particularly early, so it’s a good idea to pull them as soon as you recognize them. And they’re easy to pull.

— as weeds and lawn grasses begin to grow, neaten the edges of your perennial and shrub beds. It’s easier to do it now, when the weeds’ and grasses’ root systems are relatively small, than it will be once the weather turns warm.

— it’s much too early to fertilize the lawn. Wait until Memorial Day. Even better, don’t fertilize at all this year.

And go out and see what’s growing in your garden.

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This is one of the many cultivars available of our native honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens. As you see, it begins to grow early in the season. I planted it over 20 years ago; today I would plant the species instead.

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