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Gardening With Gutner: Springtime, Where To Begin…

By Mark Saidnawey, WBZ-TV Gardening Expert, Owner of Pemberton Farms in Cambridge
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Breaking records seems to be the norm this month, four record highs so far and more on the way…

So what does this warmth really mean for our us gardeners? Well first off, It means we can get out there and start the clean-up process a lot sooner than normal; and with days like we’re having, there’s no excuse so far this year. Mother Nature is giving us plenty of beautiful days to get the garden work started.

So where to start? Well I for one always start with the job I least enjoy, raking the lawn. This past weekend I raked my entire yard, front and back removing that old brown grass from the winter’s dormancy period. Although not a fun task your lawn will thank you for allowing it to breath again and begin putting out new growth.

Once done with that task I turned my attention to my perennials beds.

If you put down a protective layer of mulch or hay last fall on your flower beds, it’s now safe for you to remove them. Even though it could and will dip below freezing again, it’s time to expose your dormant plants to this record heat of mid March. Just today I saw new growth emerging on my Tulips, Dicentra (bleeding hearts), Hemerocallis (day lilies), Galium (sweet woodruff), Rudbeckia (black eye susans) and a few others showing signs of life about two weeks ahead of schedule.

What (if any) effects will this mild winter and record warmth of March have on our plants? Here are a few things to be aware of:

- Since the ground never completely froze this past winter (at least around the Boston area) you should be able to work the soil a lot sooner than in years past, and you will also see perennials emerge from dormancy a couple weeks ahead of schedule. You should also be able transplant a lot sooner than normal as the soil is not as wet as it could be for this time of the year.

- The Winter Moth will be its worst ever. Since there was not a prolonged period of below freezing days this winter, scientists are predicting this year winter moth population will be at its highest ever. Experts warn of wide spread damage this year. Although difficult to prevent this time of year, you can spray with a dormant oil to help combat these tree eaters.

- Watch for the Forsythia to bloom early. Usually the first to show their color in mid April, if the temps stay above average as they have been trending, I would expect them to be a week or two ahead of schedule. That also goes for all our other spring bloomers too, like lilac, cherry, rhody’s and a few others.

- Don’t be surprised to see some hardy annuals come back this spring. Pansies, Dusty Miller, Snapdragons, and a few other strong survivors may peak their heads up soon – that is if you left them in the ground last year.

So what does all this mean? In the long run, probably nothing. Mother nature has a way of regulating things over time, and if a plant or two is early this year it will settle into it’s normal growing pattern once the weather gets back to normal. Although, after 9 straight months of above normal temps, one never knows.

Thanks for reading. If you use Twitter, follow me @MarksGardening.

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