The Cranky Gardener

The Cranky Gardener by Karin Bylander Woltjer As I begin my first piece for this column, I would like to introduce myself. I am Karin Bylander Woltjer, live on the family farm north of Vermillion and am close to fulfilling my 50 payback hours in becoming a "Master Gardener."

I would also like to take a moment to thank Sharon Allen (Master Gardener par excellence) for allowing me the opportunity to write in this space.

Now that we have dealt with the niceties, let's get down to the real dirt. What shall we do in the garden now that the weather is teasing us with spring? The answer is "nothing."

The ground is still frozen, and we still have March and April to get through. Although you may be tempted to start working your lawn and garden, resist. The topmost inch or so may have thawed, and your walking through may tear that layer.

I have several other suggestions for you to consider in preparation for the garden. First of all, get your trowel, hoe, pruner and spade ready by scrubbing off last year's dirt in a mild solution of soap, water and bleach (1 part bleach to 9 parts water).

Check the edges � do they need sharpening? As the last step, coat them with a thin layer of oil.

For the bigger garden implements like your wheelbarrow or garden cart, check the air in the tires. On my dad's hand-me-down wheelbarrow, I will be replacing the front (and only) tire � no more hauling with a flat tire.

If you are a do-it-yourselfer, do the spring maintenance on the mower; change the spark plug, wash the filter, and change the oil. If you bring the mower to the hardware store, be the first in line for spring maintenance, and beat the rush.

Besides taking care of your hardware tools, inventory the garden ingredients in your potting shed. How many bags of potting soil do you have? How many bags (half-used or whole) of soil amendments like composted manure, peat moss, and humus are in the shed?

Be careful as you check out the weed control products like pre-emergent weed-m-and-feed or weed killer spray concentrate. Jot them down in your garden journal.

You can also give tender bulbs a head start by planting indoors from mid-March through early April. It seems like it took forever for my caladiums to "bloom" last year. Consider starting cannas or plugs of grass like "Little Bluestem" or "Prairie Dropseed."

Why not peruse that latest garden catalog and place your seed order now?

While you are waiting for the order to arrive, disinfect the flats that you saved from last year with that same solution of soap, water and bleach. After flats have dried, fill with sterile starting mix.

Visit the Sioux Falls 2004 Lawn & Garden Show at the Convention Center on March 26-28. In the demonstration room, Sharon Allen will be demonstrating "Starting Seeds" at 1:15 to 2:15 p.m. on Saturday, March 27.

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