“Beware the ides of March” – but garden anyway

“A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.” ~ Brutus in William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” Act I, Scene 2

When Julius Caesar hears this ominous warning, he blows it off by saying, “He is a dreamer; let us leave him.” Yet, on March 15, the mystic’s vision becomes horribly real when Caesar is assassinated by none other than Brutus, himself. Shakespeare may have forever colored the phrase “ides of March” with foreboding portent; however, before the Bard’s play the ides of March simply meant the first full moon of the month, which usually fell between the 13th and 15th. In fact, before Caesar changed the calendar, the ides of March marked the new year, a cause for much joy and celebration.

Leave it to the most famous tragedian in the world to turn a holiday into a real downer.

Yet, the ides of March in the Rogue Valley can be somewhat gloomy. One day it’s shirtsleeves, the next day snow mittens. In fact, the most important thing I’ve learned about gardening in the Rogue Valley during March is to get out and garden whenever I can. If I wait until the perfect gardening weather to stay put, I’ll still be sitting around without anything done in May!

In Sunday’s column (March 4, 2018), I wrote about sowing seeds indoor and outdoors for spring and summer veggies. Indeed, March is a busy month for Rogue Valley gardeners for transplanting starts and fertilizing perennial plants, too. Here are some more vegetable planting tips provided by the OSU Extension Service:

  • Transplant asparagus roots this month. In your garden bed, create a trench about one foot deep and wide, and create mounds at the bottom of the trench with about 6 inches of compost. Spread the roots of 1-year-old crowns (asparagus is a biennial vegetable) on the top of the mound and cover with 2 inches of soil. Continue to fill the trench with compost as the plants grow, but avoid covering the leaves.
  • Transplant head lettuce starts into the garden this month.
  • Transplant onion sets smaller than a dime this month. Onion sets are small, dry bulbs whose growth has been disrupted). When onion sets are planted, they regrow and slough off the old bulb.
  • Transplant strawberries this month. Select a combination of June-bearers, ever-bearers and day-neutrals to harvest strawberries from late spring until fall frost. Also fertilize established strawberry beds with balanced nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium (N-P-K).
  • Divide artichoke crowns from your established parent plants this month and fertilize; also fertilize established artichoke beds with balanced N-P-K.
  • Fertilize all cane berries this month (raspberry, blackberries, gooseberries, etc.) with a balanced N-P-K or higher-phosphorous mixture (promotes flowering and setting fruit). Some gardeners say to delay fertilizing blackberries until they flower.
  • Fertilize established grapevines this month with lower-nitrogen fertilizer.

    Asters need to be divided and re-planted

For my flowerbeds, I’m working around the weather to cut back my perennials, clean up debris, and add compost dressed with slow-release, organic fertilizer (balanced N-P-K). I’m also transplanting some

overcrowded perennials: daylilies, gaura, foxglove and asters.  Finally, I’ve cut back my rose bushes to knee height. One of my rose bushes has black spot on the stems, so I’ve cut this bush back pretty hard and applied a fungicide.

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