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MailTribune.com
  • Spring into your garden

  • In the Rogue Valley, the average date of the last spring frost is April 28 at the 1,300-foot elevation of the Medford airport. So we have a while to wait for spring, and if your altitude is higher, your wait may be even longer.
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  • In the Rogue Valley, the average date of the last spring frost is April 28 at the 1,300-foot elevation of the Medford airport. So we have a while to wait for spring, and if your altitude is higher, your wait may be even longer.
    But gardeners get itchy-fingered to use their pruners as soon as the sun comes out and nighttime temperatures are above freezing for a few nights; this is called false spring. So what is wrong with pruning now instead of waiting for the "real" spring to arrive?
    Pruning can promote new plant growth and encourage flowering, which might be fine if we could depend on the weather. However, Rogue Valley weather in the spring is often erratic, with more cold weather following the February teaser. But cheer up — there are some things in the garden that can be done now.
    For instance, it's a good time to check your watering system, making sure the hoses and drip system survived that December cold snap. This gives you time to repair any damage and make any necessary changes. Are your tools clean, sharpened and ready to go? Do you need to order any soil, compost or mulch for your planting areas, including raised beds?
    This is a good time to plant rhubarb, asparagus, grapes, cane berries and strawberries. Don't delay, as they need time to establish a good root system before hot weather hits. If you already have established beds of these plants, give them a top dressing of well-rotted manure. This not only feeds them, but adds compost, too.
    If you have, or wish to purchase, starts of cool-weather vegetables, they can be set out now, as they will withstand a nip of frost. These include broccoli, cabbage, chard, spinach, onion sets and lettuce.
    You can also plant seeds of peas, spinach, radishes and lettuce directly in the ground. You will no doubt have greater success with these, though, if you plant them in a raised bed, a large pot, or a warmer, sheltered place in your yard. To have a constant supply of these veggies, repeat the seeding every couple of weeks until hot weather comes.
    Still wanting to prune? This is the time to cut back grapes and fruit trees, and it's nearly time to prune roses. Remember: "President's Day for grapes; St. Patrick's for roses." Blueberries, raspberries and currants can be added to your list, too. Just keep an eye on the weather, and try not to jump the gun. In the long run, you'll be glad you waited.
    It's too early to start seeds for warm-weather crops such as tomatoes, though. They need only eight weeks to grow indoors before being set out in the garden, and that should not happen until mid to late May. Unless you are using a greenhouse, starting tomatoes too early just results in weak, leggy plants that won't thrive like they would if we just curbed our enthusiasm a bit. Never fear, spring is on its way!
    Coming up: Retired Oregon State University Extension agent George Tiger will teach a class on fruit-tree grafting from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, March 13. Class members will choose apple varieties to make a minimum of three grafted-starts to take home. A prepayment of $35 is required, which covers both materials and the class fee. The class will be held at the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center, 569 Hanley Road, in Central Point. Call 541-776-7371 to register.
    Carol Oneal is a past president of the OSU Jackson County Master Gardeners Association. Email her at diggit1225@gmail.com.
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