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Maddening March frustrating month for gardeners

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We have had enough of winter, yet spring is at least a month away.

Many gardeners beat the winter blues by starting seeds indoors. We may purchase some flowering plants or cut flowers to brighten our outlook. Shamrocks are fun to have for St. Patrick's Day and soon there will be lilies, azaleas and florist hydrangeas available for the Easter season.

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One thing all gardeners could do this month is make a plan. Study pictures you have of your past gardens or of other gardens that you have seen. Look for areas that did very well that you will want to repeat or copy. Check for areas that did not do well and decide what you need to do to improve them. If you keep garden records, you will have a head start in planning for this season.

Over the years, we learn things like 'thin the carrots' and 'don't let the tomatoes dry out too much before watering them' (large variations in moisture causes blossom end rot). We have learned which varieties of a certain plant is our favorite. However, even with all of this knowledge we don't do as well as we could. There are so many variables and so much to learn that we can't keep it all in our heads. According to writer, Shannon Francis Fenaly, 'Some people who have been gardening for 20 years don't have 20 years experience, but one year's experience 20 times.'

The solution is to keep a diary and record everything you do. At the very least, record the seeds or plants and the company where they were purchased. Write down or type in your computer the planting dates and note the rainfall amounts and temperature extremes.

In order to not start all over again, repeating the same mistakes, a more detailed garden journal is necessary. The lessons we learned from insect invasion, blights or over abundant crops and the events we thought we would never forget often evaporate into thin air. Here is a list to consider recording. List the variety and source of seeds or plants that you purchased. The dates seeds were started, when they were planted out, and when they produced the first fruits or blooms. Keep track of the weather, including last frost, rainfall, extreme temperatures, wind, hail and first fall frost. Note all of the problems with insects, animals, diseases and weeds. Keep track of the yield of vegetables and the abundance or scarcity of flowers. Were some plants too close together or in too shady an area? Did some plants strangle out their neighbors? For instance, my scarlet runner beans overwhelmed and shaded my tomato plants. All of this is helpful information for following years.

Include a diagram of your gardens on graph paper in your journal. This is useful for crop rotation and indicating how much space is allotted to each crop. Record what fertilizer and soil amendments you apply. Add snippets of information that you have garnered from magazines and newspapers.

One good way to relieve gardening anxiety is to attend a garden seminar. The first garden day in the area is at the Underwood, Minn. Public School on Saturday, March 27. It is hosted by the West Ottertail Master Gardeners. Registration is at 8 a.m. and there is no pre-registration. There are 73 sessions in six time periods. They include, seed starting, propagation, composting, spring lawn care, cottage gardens, raised beds, rain barrels, rain gardens , workshops on growing and preserving, and garden arts and crafts. The cost is $25 and it includes lunch, snacks and door prizes. There will be more seminars in April and I will mention them later.

Breitling is a longtime

West Fargo resident and

avid gardener always in

search of new ideas.

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