Only the brave will work in garden before winter ends

The month of March is for the lion hearted as hints of spring coax gardeners outdoors but only the brave will actually plant, prune and prepare the soil this first week of March. Winter is still lurking but if you have raised beds for vegetable growing you can plant seeds of peas directly into the soil. This is also a good week to plant bare root roses, trees and shrubs and divide up perennials such as daylilies, mums, heucheras and hardy geraniums.

Q. I have been told to “pre sprout” my sweet pea seeds before planting. How does one pre-sprout sweet peas?

J., Email

A. Tricking peas or sweet peas into emerging from their tough seed coats before they go into the ground is a great way to prevent seed rot. Here is what works for me: Line a cookie sheet with a damp dish cloth. Sprinkle seeds onto the damp cloth. Now either cover with a second damp cloth or roll up the first cloth. A piece of plastic wrap set loosely over the top will seal in the moisture. Mist to keep cloths damp and in a few days you will see roots and shoots emerging from the seeds. Plant directly into the soil covering with half inch of soil pressed down firmly. I add a board on top to keep out the crows. Be sure to remove the board in a few days and warn family members that the sprouting peas in the dish cloth are not to be added to stir fry meals.

Q. I see a few green shoots coming up from my daylilies now. Is it too late to divide them up? Last summer I noticed less blooms from my daylilies so I know they are growing too crowded.

S.F., Olympia

A. March is a great month to divide most perennials. Do not fret about the early new leaves on daylilies or other plants that need dividing. These plants are still half asleep from the winter cold and won’t feel a thing if you dig them up, attack them with an ax or saw and then replant the best sections back into the soil. An exception to this dig and divide rule is with peonies and hellebores. These two perennials hate to be divided no matter what time of year you want to do the math. Let them age in place.

Q. When can I prune my summer blooming clematis? I do not know the name or the type or the group. It has big, lavender flowers every summer but has become a bit of a mess.

C.P., Auburn

A. Early spring is a fine time to snip this vine. Summer flowering clematis bloom on new and old wood so if you have a tangled clematis mess you can just grab all the vines in one hand about two feet from the ground. Now snip them all off like cutting a pony tail. This drastic haircut will mean a later bloom time this summer but a fresh start for your wild child. Do not prune any clematis that flower in the spring such as clematis armandii until after they are done blooming. You will know when it is safe to prune the summer flowering clematis when you see signs of new green growth sprouting from the tangled mess of brown stems.

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