Northshore Magazine

March 2016

Northshore magazine showcases the best that the North Shore of Boston, MA has to offer.

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68 | MARCH 2016 It may not feel like spring to you, but your garden knows that the growing season is at hand. While we are still reaching for our wool sweaters, our perennials, roses, trees, and shrubs are reaching for fresh nutrients and for the light brought by our lengthening days. What do we do first? Can we help our gardens when it's still too early to plant, before we see fresh green growth? For answers, we turned to Deb Lambert, a horticultural consultant and gar- den author on the staff of Corliss Brothers, the long-established Ipswich garden center. "Mid-March is the time to wake up your garden," she says. "The first chore, before the new growth appears, is to apply dormant oil to fruit trees, ornamental trees, and shrubs. This smothers out disease spores." Dormant spray- ing combines horticultural oil with an elemental chemical, either sulfur or copper. Doing this before new growth starts acts as a powerful preventative. "Roses, especially, benefit from this," Lambert says. She recom- mends this early application to halt diseases like powdery mildew, black spot, and rust, as well as red spider mite. Dormant oil will smother insects and their eggs, preventing renewed activity. "The watchword is 'prevention,' rather than control, so don't skip this step. This is probably the most important application for the home orchard and rose garden." Mid-March is also the time to remove winter mulches. "Even before you might think your peren- nials are awake, they need sun on their crowns to help them get started. They also need the expo- sure to air. For roses, this is vital; if you wait until April, they will die from mildew." She warns against compressing garden soil still wet with melting winter snow and frost. "In March, don't walk on your garden beds and, especially, on your lawn. Your weight compresses the soil just when plant roots are beginning to wake up. Even if it's beautiful out and you're raring to get going, don't do any heavy work yet." Late March and into early April is the time to apply a garden's first feeding. "Now, things are anxious to start growing," Lam- bert says. "I cannot overstate the Above, one of the greenhouses at Corliss Brothers Garden Center and Nursery photograph by Anthony Pira (above), shutterstock (below)

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