It's time to start the yard chores


March 14, 1992|By LINDA LOWE MORRIS

This has been the kind of week that makes you want to push time around, to pull Monday and Tuesday out of their place in line -- along with their wonderful warm temperatures -- and move them to this weekend.

But since we can't, we have a little more time to get ready. Don't let little details like snowflakes and arctic fronts slow you down. This may be the last serious bit of winter we have to endure. After all, the daffodils and the tree frogs seem to believe it's already spring.

There is one advantage to cold and stormy weather -- the chance to indulge in cut flowers. Next time you see bad weather coming, run out and pick some of the flowers that are in bloom. They'll often look better and last longer in your living room than they would outside in the elements. Wind and rain can do as much damage -- and often cause more -- than cold temperatures.

Don't worry about the overall health of your flowering bulbs. If the flower dies, it doesn't affect the survival of the plant. And those bulbs that are still in tight bud will be unaffected by the cold.

Here are some chores for the weekend:

* March is yard-cleaning time. Last weekend the neighborhood sounded like a chorus of rakers. Be careful not to damage flowering perennials. You may find some of the plants have been heaved out of the ground by alternate freezing and thawing during the winter. Carefully push them back into the soil.

Make a compost pile from the debris you collect when you clean the yard. Think of a compost pile as a layer cake -- or maybe more like a torte. Technically you should alternate layers of materials rich in nitrogen with layers high in carbon. You can think of that as alternating dry layers with wet ones. Start with a layer of dry leaves (and chopped up twigs if you have a shredder) and wet things like vegetable peelings and cow or horse manure. Keep the pile wet if it doesn't rain and turn it every few weeks. The more you turn it, the faster it will break down.

* As soon as the soil is dry enough to work, till the garden. Potatoes, radishes, turnips, spinach, rhubarb, asparagus, cabbage plants, smooth-seeded peas, onion sets, chives and garlic can all be planted when the weather warms up again -- and that could be next weekend if we're lucky. Buy your seeds and transplants this weekend.

* Start tomato and pepper seeds inside for planting outdoors in early to mid-May.

* If it doesn't rain this weekend, you can plant grass seed -- either in a new lawn or to patch a bare spot in an older lawn. Loosen the soil in the bare spots. A soil test would tell you whether or not to add lime, but if you haven't had one lately, you can probably just take a chance and add lime, about 40 to 50 pounds per 1,000 square feet. It should look like a light dusting of snow after you're finished. Much of Maryland -- except for some areas toward Western Maryland -- has soil that tends to be too acid. Grass seed, vegetables and many kinds of flowers grow best in soil that is nearly neutral.

Cooperative Extension Service

There have been some changes at the Maryland Cooperative Extension Service. It used to be that you'd call your county office of the CES for yard and garden advice, but now they have one source for the whole state. It's the Home and Garden Information Center at (800) 342-2507. You can call them from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays to Fridays with questions.

Soil tests are still done through the local offices. If you want to have your soil tested, call them and they'll explain the process of collecting and sending a soil sample. There is a $5 fee for each sample.

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