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“I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden.” – Ruth StoutSpring has sprung since the robins arrived early this year. They usually arrive around March 14. We may have an early spring this year and be able to get to our garden clean up early. I checked the frost layer and we have a long way to go before the ground thaws. Because of all the mulch I use, it will take a while longer. If you get out and about, check your perennial beds for roots heaved out from frost. Gently step down on any exposed roots and cover with mulch.

The last week in March should be a very busy week in the garden. If the ground is not frozen and is fairly dry, rake off last season’s mulch in the vegetable garden so the soil can be warmed by the sun. Remove any plant residue. It also is time to fertilize and cultivate established asparagus beds before the shoots pop up. Add fresh kitchen scraps to your compost bin and give it a turn. The fourth week in March is time to start tomato seeds indoors. Research shows 7-week-old transplants produce earliest fruit and best overall results. It’s also a good time to start peppers and broccoli.

Wait until buds swell before fertilizing established fruit trees. Use 1-ounce of actual nitrogen per year/age of tree. Do not exceed one-half pound per year. This is also a good time to apply fertilizer to grapes. March is also the best time to fertilize shade trees and evergreens. The rule of thumb for fertilizer on these on these trees is 16-8-8.

All of our yards have microclimates and if you’re observant you can see them this time of year. Things to look for include where does the snow melt first? This could indicate this is a warmer area of a property. Zone 5 plants could grow there and survive. Upland gardens tend to melt faster. If a garden is downhill, shady, or on the north side of the house, I would only plant very hardy zone 4B plants. Plants such as magnolias, forsythias, rhododendron, and some hydrangeas are best grown in microclimates. Look for a sheltered area from the wind or put up a windbreak. The warmest areas are the south walls, fences and slopes. Avoid planting less hardy, early-blooming shrubs and trees in these locations because it may cause early bloom and then can be damaged by frost.

There will be a master gardener class this fall if there is enough interest. Call 608-355-3250 for details. Don’t forget the “Get Ready, Get Set, Garden” seminar from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. March 24 at the West Square Building, 505 Broadway, Baraboo. For more information and a schedule, visit sauk.uwex.edu.

Contact Phyllis Both by email at pboth@charter.net or by telephone on Monday mornings at the Sauk County University of Wisconsin-Extension office, 608-355-3253.

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