By Nolan Madden
Temperatures have taken a seasonal dive this week, overshadowing last week’s glimpses of warmer weather.
Although it doesn’t feel like spring will show up any time soon, area gardeners say now is the perfect time to start planning for the best spring blossoms.
The Winslow Gardener’s Club held its first monthly meeting of the year last Thursday, and the first since its last gathering in May 2015.
The group’s organizer, certified Master Gardener Richard Larson, exchanged with participants some of the successes and failures–“flips and flops,” as he calls them–of their green endeavors last season, and how to prepare to improve things this year.
“It’s a good time right now to deep water your fruit trees,” said Larson. “I did it this afternoon.
“We haven’t had enough rain lately, water tends to percolate through the soil very quickly, and the high winds in this area dessicates the plants and dries them out, so dormant fruit trees and, really, anything that’s a perennial in your garden, you should deep water, get that moisture down into the root system.”
He pointed out that deep watering at this time of year is critical in this region because of how unpredictable the warmer weather can be once it arrives.
“We really don’t know what kind of spring or summer we’re going to have. We had a gorgeous spring last year and everything had burst out vibrant, but then we had a terrible, cold morning that affected the mulberry trees,” he said.
Larson suggests deep watering once per month when daytime outdoor temperatures are around 60 degrees, adding that even plants and shrubs in containers can benefit without any damage from freezing overnight weather.
His garden currently includes almond, apricot, apple and currant trees, with other members enjoying success with peach, pear and fig trees as well.
Member Stephanie Caldwell Gutierrez related that she regularly replenishes a thick layer of straw at the base of her garden’s fruit trees, and has seen great results.
“It has been composting for two years, and now the soil is rich and black, and the roots are protected through the winter,” she noted.
According to Larson, now is also a good time to prune the bare branches of roses and deciduous trees, and to apply a dormant tree spray as a preemptive repellent for insect pests, such as moths and aphids.
Gutierrez recommends neem oil dormant spray or a similar product, which can be found for sale online.
As a caution, Larson suggests resisting the urge for intensive garden clean-up, at least for right now.
“If you have a vegetable garden and you want to start tilling, that’s no problem. But I see a lot of people cleaning and raking that vegetation away. I would advise to leave it, just let it compost for later,” he said.
For “the best mulch, hands-down,” Larson recommends the Nature Life brand, available from Casey’s Hardware at 219 E. Fourth St. in Winslow.
However, the group warns against low-cost manures, which may be listed for as low as $1.99 per bag but have been found to contain only cinder rocks coated in manure. Instead, they suggest looking for high-quality, organic brands.
The group’s upcoming meeting topics will cover seed propagation (Feb. 25), vegetable gardening (March 24), a mailbox garden decoration contest (April) and garden photography (May), culminating in the Winslow Garden Tour (June).
Winslow Garden Club meetings will be held monthly at 6 p.m. at the Winslow Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center, 523 W. Second St.
For more information, call (928) 289-2434 or visit the group on Facebook at winslowcommunitygardenproject.
By Nolan Madden