Check Your Irrigation Systems

English: Irrigation equipment. Potatoes need a...
Irrigation equipment. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now is a good time to look over stored irrigation equipment and order replacement parts. Make sure you have a plan for irrigating new plantings this year and order additional parts if needed. All new plantings need at least some irrigation in their first summer, unless you receive about 1” of rainfall every week.

In warmer, drier locations it may be time to install (re-install) systems and start irrigating. Regular irrigation of new plants is essential for establishment, and may also be necessary for mature plants to thrive.
Provide enough water to penetrate the soil to 1 foot deep, then wait to irrigate until the soil has begun to dry out about 6” below the surface.
Check the moisture content of the soil by poking your finger in to a depth of about 4-6”. It is hard to sense wet or dry with your finger, but it is easy to sense temperature.
If it feels cooler than the air temperature, there is generally plenty of water available. If the soil feels closer to air temperature, then it is time to water again.
Mulching the soil surface with bulky material, such as wood chips or straw, reduces moisture loss from the soil surface.
We get a lot of our drip irrigation equipment from Dripworks. Call them at 800 522 3747, and they will help you pick out what you need.
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Fertilizing Your Container Plants

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file0001947198072Select a fertilizer that is appropriate for the plant you are growing to get optimal performance in the container. Use citrus fertilizer for citrus plants, and blueberry/rhododendron fertilizer for vacciniums (blueberry, huckleberry, lingonberry and cranberry). For Bananas, encourage lots of vigorous growth initially with a foliage supportive formula that has a high nitrogen content, then switch to a formula that is higher in phosphorous (a bloom fertilizer) to encourage flower and fruit development. Bamboo, lemon grass, and sugar leaf all benefit from higher nitrogen fertilizers once they are actively growing. Many fertilizers either list what kinds of plants they are formulated for, or what kind of growth they support (such as foliage vs. fruiting).

Start fertilizing your outdoor container plants as their buds begin to swell. If you are using a liquid fertilizer, at first use ½ strength doses, once a week or so. As your outdoor temperatures increase and roots are better able to absorb nutrients, you can increase to a standard dose.

Slow release fertilizers: If you prefer not to mix liquid fertilizer in when you are watering, consider spreading a long lasting slow release granular or pelleted fertilizer on the soil surface (or you could have mixed some in when you re-potted last winter).  Most slow release fertilizers depend on temperature to regulate nutrient release. Don’t expect much performance from the fertilizer until the weather has warmed up. Choose a long release period (such as 6-9 month) to ensure your plants continue to grow well through the summer. Use an appropriate formulation for what you are growing. Fruiting plants need a different balance of nutrients than foliage plants.

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Mason Bees Emerge in the Month of March!

Homes of mason bees
Homes of mason bees (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As temperatures warm in the spring the mason bees start emerging from their over-wintering cocoons. The males emerge first, followed by the females after a few days. Make sure — if you haven’t already done so — that there are plenty of clean new tubes for the females to deposit their eggs in.

Newly emerged bees can be hungry! Review your landscape and make sure there are flowers with nectar and pollen for them to feed on, especially if your fruiting trees haven’t opened their blossoms yet. Pussy willows, filbert catkins, Pieris japonica, Indian Plum (a northwest native) and Mahonia species (Oregon Grape) are all good early season bee forage plants, and are attractive in the landscape as well.

If you are managing the release of your mason bees, watch your early apples and European plums (I’m assuming Asian plums have already come into bloom). When you see the beginning of color in the buds it is time to put another batch of cocoons out, or continue with putting a batch out every 6 weeks through May.

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How to Prevent Frost Damage on Non-Dormant Hardy Plants

English: Hoar frost on plants on a very cold w...
Frost on plants on a very cold winter morning. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most of the plants we ship are dormant from cold storage. However some are potted and are growing. The following is how to handle those leafed out plants.

Sometimes you might receive non-dormant plants that would normally be dormant and ready to plant outside. Our hardy plant greenhouses are kept to a minimum of about 28-30°F at night, but by February the day time sun can warm them up well into the 70’s. The resultant new growth is tender and can be damaged by freezing weather, especially below 28°F for more than a couple of hours. Most plants will put on a second flush of new growth after early frost damage, in about 4-6 weeks. To prevent frost damage on non-dormant potted plants you have received here are a couple of options:

Keep the plants where they will receive bright light and remain cool, but above freezing, until danger of frost is past. If you can keep the plants cool (32-50°F) their growth will be slowed down, so they won’t stretch as much, and the leaves will be a little tougher. Fertilize them lightly with a low to medium nitrogen fertilizer, such as fish fertilizer with kelp to supply micro nutrients, or maybe compost tea. The kelp fertilizer may improve plant tolerance to cold temperatures.

As the day time temperature you are holding your plants at increases so will the rate of growth of your plants. Provide supplemental light if the plants seem to be stretching or getting leggy, fertilize lightly as above.

If you are expecting night time temperatures to be mostly above freezing, with an occasional frost still possible, then you could go ahead and plant outside. Be prepared to put some frost protection over your new plants if necessary. A paper bag, spun-bonded floating row cover (such as Reemay), or a blanket (with support) will provide a couple degrees of protection.

Plants that have been actively growing indoors need to gradually get used to being outside in the direct sun and wind to continue to perform their best. Put them outside in a partially sunny location for a few hours a couple of days, then over the rest of the week gradually increase the time and decrease the shade until they spend the full day outside. After a week you can plant following instructions in the Raintree Nursery Owners Manual.

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Planting and Growing Raspberries

English: Raspberries Français : Framboises Deu...
Raspberries. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Raspberries are typically grown in a two foot wide row. Prepare the soil for planting by first clearing weeds in a 3-4’ wide strip the length you are planning to plant. Put a 3-4” thick layer of composted manure (cow, steer, or other ruminants, not chicken) or leaf mold on the surface of the row. Work it in to the top foot or so of soil, then rake up to form a mound about 2’ wide at the base. Then make a furrow 3-4” deep down the center of your mound. To determine your row length allow 18-24″ per plant, which will generally fill the bed in in 2-3 years.

You will receive bare root plants that look like a stick with some roots at the bottom. Plant your raspberry every 18-24 inches along the row, starting 1 foot in from the end, laying the roots along the furrow (don’t worry if they overlap with the next plant). Cover the roots with 2-3” of soil and water in.

Raspberries spread vigorously from their roots. Keep your plants in check by roto-tilling or digging around the mound to remove spreading roots, 2-3 times a year after the first year. Install support for the vigorous canes during the first year. Keep the soil in the mound moist, but not constantly wet. Apply composted manure to the mound each winter.

July (floricane) bearing and fall (primocane or ever-bearing) raspberries have different pruning requirements. See the Raintree Nursery Plant Owners Guide for instructions. To support ever-bearing raspberries 1-2 wires down the center of the bed, at 3-5’ high, will suffice. To support July-bearing types attach 2 cross-bars to each end post; make one 18” long and install at 3’ high, the second crossbar 24” long at 5’ high; string wire to the crossbar ends to make a v-shaped area for the raspberries to grow within.

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