‘March Madness’ leads to winning garden in 2018


By Matt Clayton - For the Sidney Daily News



Master Gardeners Nancy Russell, left, and Conelia Dixon, right, examine some of the tools of the trade for successful gardening

Master Gardeners Nancy Russell, left, and Conelia Dixon, right, examine some of the tools of the trade for successful gardening


Matt Clayton | Sidney Daily News

Master gardener Nancy Russell shares the value of testing lawn soil and explains how to use a core-sampling tool to get soil samples.


Matt Clayton | Sidney Daily News

SIDNEY — Old man winter decided not to leave town without giving Shelby County residents something to remember him by. However, spring is officially here and now is the time to prepare for lawn care and gardening.

“March Madness: A winning Season of Garden Prep” was the theme Tuesday evening when the Shelby County Master Gardeners held a seminar about preparing for the upcoming spring season at the Amos Memorial Public Library. Light refreshments were served and a drawing for a door prize was held. Lots of informative literature was on hand and the gardening club brought a nice display of gardening tools and plant fertilizes for those attending to examine.

On hand and presenting a wealth of information were Master Gardener Volunteers Conelia Dixon and Nancy Russell. The discussion was not focused on a particular subject associated with gardening alone but covered preparation aspects of pruning trees and shrubs, lawn care, vegetable gardens and perennial flower planting and upkeep.

Russell opened the meeting pointing out that now is a great time to get organized for the upcoming opportunities that will arrive with warmer weather.

“We’re looking at preparation versus the weekend warrior approach, being prepared saves a lot of time, helps us maintain or resources and improves our ability to be more productive in the long run,” Russell said.

An outline of ways to prepare during the months of March, April and May for the topics being discussed was made available for those listening and watching to follow.

Russell first discussed lawns and ways to make lawn care more manageable.

“March is a good time to get our lawn mowers ready. Things like replacing spark plugs and sharpening blades are a given but so is changing the oil, replacing filters, and filling the fuel tanks with fresh fuel; it’s nice to know your mower is ready when the time comes for that first trim,” said Russell

As for the lawn Russell pointed out the need to walk the lawn and make an assessment of what needs attention.

“Look for weeds and dead spots that may need to be reseeded and take the appropriate action. Many just use the ‘spray and pray’ method rather than determining the cause of the problem and addressing it properly which can be costly and put an additional strain on things like water quality from runoff after heavy rains. If your lawn doesn’t look good we suggest doing a soil test about every three years to check for fertility and composition. It’s best to test the soil in the fall apply a light fertilizer; it’s also a good idea to determine the pH to check for acidity and alkalinity either of which can be a problem if the numbers are too high,” Russell said. “We suggest alternating the mowing pattern and cutting the grass at a height of 2 to 3 inches. A lot of folks roll their lawn in the spring to eliminate bumps but we do not recommend it as it compacts the soil which is not good for a healthy lawn.”

Dixon spoke about pruning; why and when we should do it, the tools to use and how to proceed.

“Choosing good tools is a must, there are a lot of styles out there that that come in a variety of qualities and costs. It’s a good idea to find something that will not only meet your needs but fit your hands as well. Make sure you keep your tools sharp and clean and replace them if they no longer work properly,” Dixon said. “A little research on how and where to cut limbs or branches is a must to make for a healthy and attractive looking plant.”

Dixon shared a number of photographic slides to demonstrate the do’s and don’ts of tree trimming and how to get the job done right.

“It’s important to learn the parts of a tree and trim them accordingly; a good rule of thumb is never trim more than 1/3 of a tree or shrub’s mass, you can compare what’s lying on the ground to what’s left on the tree to see where you’re at. Cutting off too much or not doing so in the right way can have bad affects later on, you must do it in a way that will allow the plants to heal quickly and properly. Different trees and shrubs require different types of care and again it’s a good idea to go to the library or internet to read up on the subject,” Dixon said.

After discussing pruning, Dixon talked about preparations for raising vegetables and a variety of approaches from conventional to raised beds. She discussed the advantages of starting your own plants early in the house or in permanent or temporary green houses.

“There are a lot of great ideas out there and no one way is best for everyone; you have to decide what you want to accomplish and then figure out what is the best way to proceed. It’s a good idea to join a club or work with someone who has prior experience in gardening if you are new to the hobby, going by trial and error is slow and ineffective at best and I recommend working with someone local or joining the Shelby County Master Gardeners Club,” said Dixon.

Dixon also pointed out that there are often opportunities to work in a community garden setting like the one at the Agape Distribution Center at 209 Brooklyn Ave.

“Agape has an extensive garden setting on the premises and grows produce as a part of their ministry, is so rewarding to see the look of appreciation people have when provided with something fresh from the garden,” Dixon said.

Dixon noted there is more to having a nice garden than just planting some seeds.

“I also suggest planting flowers in the vegetable garden to attract pollinators like bees and putting up a bird house or two or a bat house to provide living quarters for birds and bats both of which are good for eating unwanted insects,” said Dixon.

In closing Russell shared information on how to prepare for perennial flower care like cleaning beds in the spring and applying the proper fertilizers.

“There are a number of fertilizers available and you want to know what to apply. I suggest keeping the tags that come with your plants for future reference. I put mine on a ring and hang them up so when I have questions on how to care for them it’s handy,” said Russell.

As with all the other plants discussed Russell talked about how to make adjustments as the season progresses.

“Watering and fertilization must be done at the right time and place so as to have the optimum affect, a little attention to detail is profitable in more ways than one and makes for a great looking garden,” she said.

The Shelby County Master Gardeners will be having one more seminar on April 17th at 6:30 p.m. at the Amos Memorial Library and those who are interested in how to improve their gardening skills or have questions are encouraged to attend.

Further info and advice can also be can also be found at by stopping by or calling the Master Gardeners at the OSU Extension Office, 810 Fair Road, Sidney, or calling 937-498-7239.

There is also a wealth of information available online at https://extension.osu.edu/ask-an-expert/ask-master-gardener.

Master Gardeners Nancy Russell, left, and Conelia Dixon, right, examine some of the tools of the trade for successful gardening
https://www.sidneydailynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2018/03/web1_RussellDixon.jpgMaster Gardeners Nancy Russell, left, and Conelia Dixon, right, examine some of the tools of the trade for successful gardening Matt Clayton | Sidney Daily News

Master gardener Nancy Russell shares the value of testing lawn soil and explains how to use a core-sampling tool to get soil samples.
https://www.sidneydailynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2018/03/web1_NancyRussell.jpgMaster gardener Nancy Russell shares the value of testing lawn soil and explains how to use a core-sampling tool to get soil samples. Matt Clayton | Sidney Daily News

By Matt Clayton

For the Sidney Daily News