Learn about historic plants Seeds that colonists brought to North America succeeded if they grew well when sown directly in garden beds, resisted pests and diseases, and delivered wonderful flowers, fragrance, flavor, or medicine. In Flowers and Herbs of Early America (Yale University Press, 2008; $50) by Lawrence D. Griffith and Barbara Temple Lombardi, 56 of the best of those species appear in gallery-quality photos by Lombardi and eye-opening descriptions by Griffith, curator of plants at Colonial Williamsburg.
See Sunset’s top tool picks As you gear up for spring, having great tools can help get garden jobs done faster and more easily. To see some of our favorites, go to freshdirt.sunset.com and, under “Categories,” click on “Tools of the Trade.”
Grow camellias Sunset climate zones 4–7: Some of the finest garden camellias are also some of the oldest. Try white ‘Alba Plena’ from 1792, a pink bloomer with white markings from 1831 called ‘Elegans’ (or Chandleri Elegans), the blush pink ‘Magnoliiflora’ from 1886, and an orangey rose-pink type called ‘Kumasaka’ that dates back to 1896.
Plant vegetables Start cool-season veggies: seedlings of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, herbs, onion-family members (including chives), and Swiss chard; roots of asparagus and rhubarb; seeds of peas, radishes, and leaf crops such as spinach and Asian greens; and potato tubers.
Sow seeds of warm-season edibles such as cucumbers, eggplant, melons, peppers, squash, and tomatoes now so they’ll be ready to plant out in May.
Refresh or start lawns As grass starts growing this month, fill in bare spots by roughing up the soil and sowing seed. If planting a new lawn, grow from seed or sod. Use a blend of perennial ryegrass and bent grass in sun, fescue in shade. East of the Cascades, try unthirsty buffalo grass in sunny spots.
Use heaths and heathers Most of the spring-blooming varieties produce flowers in red, pink, white, and purple tones. For a fine-foliaged, plump, 6-foot spire, try Erica arborea alpina; for a long-flowering, 14-inch-tall ground-covering plant in magenta, use ‘Kramer’s Rote’ (also called Kramer’s Red). If you want something a little taller and wider in white, grow ‘Silberschmelze’.
Divide perennials Zones 4–7: This is the best time to divide summer- and fall-flowering perennials like asters, black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), chry-san-themums, purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), and Shasta daisies. Zones 1–3: Divide in April. Wait until autumn to divide spring-flowering perennials.
Patrol for slugs Kill European black slugs (these are mostly brown, but sometimes white or black) when you find them, since they love tender seedlings. Don’t kill banana slugs (usually yellow or yellow with black spots, sometimes green or white, up to 10 inches long), since these natives are most interested in mushrooms, dead plants, and leaf litter. Leopard slugs (gray with black spots) are omnivores ― which is bad when they’re eating your lettuce, but good when they’re devouring European slugs.
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