The Snow is Gone

By BILL CARAS

The snow is gone. What does that mean for spring gardening? Well, first of all, let me say there may still be more snow – who knows?  March and April weather is notoriously unpredictable here in the Missoula valley, along with other western Montana valleys.

For the gardener, planting time is near but, really, there’s no rush since soil temperatures are still pretty cold. In fact, in a lot of places, under our sometimes muddy on the surface soil lies frost (frozen ground), particularly in shaded spots such as the north side of structures.

Planning, early planting, dormant spraying, and seed starting are some things which can be done now but, mostly, March gardening revolves around preparation of the garden for the season just ahead. In plain terms, this simply means sprucing up the yard.

In particular, the cleaning up of garden and landscape beds is a kind of “spring is here” ritual which, beyond therapy for the soul, can really improve the, sometimes, late winter/early spring dreary look to the beds. A light topdressing of mulch can also enhance their appearance.  Additionally, there may be practical benefits to tidying up the yard as insects and disease often overwinter in garden debris and other nearby materials

A spring cleanup is usually low intensity work and helps (re)familiarize the gardener with some of the various aspects of the garden such as spots that need more mulch, hidden early bloomers, buds that are swelling and where a little trimming might be warranted. You might also discover some early germinating weeds: these are easy to pull compared to midsummer when they feel like they’re pulling back.

If you like, add a little organic fertilizer to your lawn and plantings and get ready to watch a great show this spring-that is, assuming the snow really is gone!

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Bill Caras is a lifelong Missoulian whose family has been here over a century.  The family business, Caras Nursery and Landscape, has operated from the same location on S. 3rd W. since 1896. Bill is a plant nut and draws from many years observation of all things related to gardening in western Montana. Still, he says, he learns something new everyday.