COMPLEAT HOME GARDENER: Start planning for the garden of your dreams

By Marianne Binetti

The start of the New Year is the perfect time to imagine the garden of your dreams. Especially when snow or frost covers the ground. This is when the dormant garden is like a sleeping baby – ready to grow, full of expectation but at this moment, no work.

January is also the month to start fresh so here are 12 resolutions for 2010, one to write down on the first day of each month of that empty calendar. If you want more details, get your green thumbs on a book I co-wrote several years ago called “Gardening Month by Month in Washington and Oregon,” published by Lone Pine Press:


Start reading seed catalogs, garden books and garden magazines. This is the month of dreaming, scheming and planning. This is also the month to write the rest of these garden goals on your calendar.


Buy and plant bare root fruit trees, berries and roses. Prune branches of forsythia, quince and cherry to force them indoors. Find out how nice it is to fool Mother Nature.


Get out there and weed! Yes, weeding in March is the No. 1 way to get ahead of that pesky shot weed, “Stinky Bob” wild geranium, oxalis and dandelion. A quick trick is to smother these young weeds with a mulch before they can flower and spread their seeds. Weed in the rain; it’s good for your complexion. Give peas a chance. Plant them in March.


Add spring-blooming trees and shrubs to the landscape. You can pick out just the right shade of rhododendron or azalea and enjoy decades of carefree color by planting old-fashioned favorites like lilac, quince, forsythia, hydrangea and spiraea. Plant seeds of cool season crops like lettuce, kale, radishes, carrots, cabbage and brussel sprouts.


Buy annuals, hanging baskets, potting soil and fertilizer and dig in. Nurseries are well stocked this month, the weather is (usually) frost free and you’ll find great deals on potting soil and plant foods. Fertilize the lawn if you haven’t done so already and make sure your hungry roses, perennials and potted plants get food as well. This is the month of rapid growth.


The soil is finally warm enough to plant heat-loving beans, basil, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers. For a tropical touch you can add tender, summer-blooming bulbs like cannas, papyrus, pineapple lilies and patio tropics like jasmine and tender hibiscus. Invest in more weeding.


This is your last chance to prune back chrysanthemums so they won’t flop over in the fall and also a good month to add a second planting of beans, kale and onions. Keep up with weeding, watering and harvesting and you’ll have a bountiful and beautiful autumn ahead of you.


One word: Water. Two words: Dead head. Three Words: Enjoy your garden.


Harvest beans, keep cutting dahlias as they open and don’t prune or fertilize tender plants like Hebe or roses this month as you want them to start slipping into dormancy.


Buy spring-blooming bulbs and resolve that is the year you will get them planted early. Prune raspberry canes and harvest the last of the vegetables.


Use a slow-release winter lawn food and don’t forget to add lime to your lawn at least once a year. You’ll have less moss and better-draining soil.


Move your pots, garden ornaments and tender plants to a protected spot out of the weather. Dig up carrots and turnips from the soil as needed. The cold weather will sweeten them.

• • •

Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” and several other books. For book requests or answers to gardening questions, write to her at: P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw, 98022. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a personal reply.

For more gardening information, she can be reached at her Web site,

Copyright for this column owned by Marianne Binetti.

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