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Master Gardener: March gardening notes

FOR THIS THEY CAST LOTS: Dateline - March -30, 1929, in McAllen, Texas. A citrus grower locates a limb producing a mutation on his pink grapefruit tree. Gregor Mendel (the geneticist) would have loved it! Improved taste, almost no seeds and fruit flesh red in color. Only problem a couple of other fruit growers found similar fruit mutations in their orchards. Who would get the distinction of getting the patent for the first ruby red grapefruit - the growers drew lots and the rest is history. The “Ruby Red” transformed the local economy and changed the American breakfast table.

Your garden’s success is gauged in large part how you prepare it for the coming growing season. Make sure soil is dry before you work it. Wet soil can’t be turned, loosened or amended effectively. To judge whether soil’s dry enough, pick up a handful in your palm, squeeze it into a ball and drop it. If it breaks up, go to tilling. If not, wait!

Tillers do an adequate job of working up areas of 100 square feet or more. Machine will cultivate about a foot deep. Rear tine tillers (with counter-rotation) perform best in all soil types.

Mini-tillers or garden forks are suitable for breaking up smaller areas. Press tines in fully, lift and turn soil over. Use the head of the fork to break up large clods. Work slowly backward, pacing yourself, from one end of the garden to the other. That way you don’t walk on soil you just loosened.

Amend soil by working in organics such as sphagnum peat, compost, chopped leaves or pine straw - loosens the soil and returns nutrients.

Soil testing is important as well. Testing reveals soil’s pH, how much phosphorus, potassium and magnesium are in soil and whether you need to fertilize or lime. Test soil yourself with a store-bought kit or submit a sample to local county Extension office.

Yes, my eyes grew to the size of saucer plates when the first starts of broccoli, cabbage, etc., arrived at Sikes Feed Mill here in Scranton two weeks ago. Got my stuff and got right to planting in protected beds. Just picked young lettuce from the window garden. Who’s not ready to jump in and get dirty in the garden after the dreary winter we’ve just experienced!

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