Thursday, February 18, 2010

March Garden Tips

This March seems to have taken a really long time to get here. The poor robins came back by Valentine’s Day.

Robin in the snow.

Usually my crocuses are blooming by now and they are all, hundreds of them, still fast asleep. The cold bothered more this winter than any that I can remember. I spent most of my time hunkered over a hot computer keyboard and I seem to have achieved a roly-poly groundhog shape which is not at all attractive on a mature woman. I need to get back outside.

This is a tough month to decide what to do in the garden. One day it’s snowing. The next day it is warm. As day lengths increase, house plants begin new growth. Repot root bound plants, moving them to containers 2 inches larger in diameter than their current pot. Check for insect activity and apply controls as needed. Leggy plants may be pruned now.

Trees, shrubs and perennials may be planted as soon as they become available at local nurseries. The first of the big trucks of trees should be rolling in any day now.

Before doing any major digging, call your utility companies to locate any buried wires, cables or pipes to prevent injury and save time and money.

Dormant mail order plants should be unwrapped immediately. Keep the roots from drying out, store in a cool protected spot, and plant as soon as conditions allow.

To control Iris borer, clean up and destroy the old foliage before new growth begins.

Fertilize bulbs with a "bulb booster" formulation broadcast over the planting beds. Hose off any granules that stick to the foliage.

Seeds of hardy annuals such as larkspur, bachelor's buttons, and Shirley and California poppies should be direct sown in the garden now.

Summer and fall blooming perennials should be divided in spring.

Spring bedding plants, such as pansies, dianthus, primrose, and snapdragons can be planted outside now.

Apply a balanced fertilizer to perennial beds when new growth appears.

Apply sulfur to the soils around acid-loving plants such as azaleas, rhododendrons, hollies and dogwoods. Use a granular formulation at the rate of 1/2 pound per 100 square feet.

Start cutting back our perennials and grasses. This will allow the new foliage to emerge without the messy look of the old, dead foliage. Be sure to cut the grasses almost all the way to the ground, it looks best to round it off if possible. An easy way is to gather the grass into a “pony tail” and tie them up, and then goes through and cut them back (we use a hedge trimmer and shears). This also allows the sun to get down and warm things up.

Shrub roses can be pruned back in mid-March as well. A heavy pruning will help control size and ensure a tidier appearance later in the season. Remove extra mulch if you had piled it on in late fall/early winter.
Keep off your lawn when it is frozen, bare of snow and/or thawed and wet to avoid damaging the grass or compacting the soil.
Do not rake the yard until it feels firm and fairly dry. If there is a heavy concentration of road grit or sand on the boulevard, use a broom to sweep it away.

If the ground is dry, mow lawns low to remove old growth before new growth begins. The first application of lawn fertilizer is typically in mid-end of March.

Apply crabgrass preemergent and /or broadleaf herbicides now for control of cool-season perennial and annual weeds. These must not be applied to areas that will be seeded soon.

Apply controls for wild garlic and violets. It will take several years of annual applications for complete control.

Thin spots and bare patches in the lawn can be over seeded now.

Cultivate weeds and remove the old, dead stalks of last year’s growth from the asparagus bed before the new spears emerge.

Be sure to test your soil if you are going to be planting in a new area. Amend new beds with compost and plan your garden with sun exposure and water conditions in mind.

Delay planting if the garden soil is too wet. When a ball of soil crumbles easily after being squeezed together in your hand, it is dry enough to be safely worked.

Asparagus and rhubarb roots should be planted as soon as the ground can be worked

Plant peas, lettuce, radishes, kohlrabi, mustard greens, collards, turnips, Irish potatoes, spinach, beets, carrots, parsley, parsnip and onions (seeds and sets) outdoors.

Set out broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, Chinese cabbage and cauliflower transplants into the garden.

Gradually remove mulch from strawberries as the weather begins to warm.

Continue pruning apple trees. Burn or destroy all pruned plant matter to minimize insect or disease occurrence.

Peaches and nectarines should be pruned just before they bloom.

Apply dormant oil sprays now. Choose a dry day when freezing temperatures are not expected.

Spray peach trees with a fungicide for the control of peach leaf curl disease.

Aphids begin to hatch on fruit trees as the buds begin to open.

Mulch all bramble fruits for weed control.

The month of March provides little food for wildlife. Continue to feed your animal friends so they don't spend so much time nibbling on your garden.

Squirrel at feeder table in snow.

Mama Cardinal at feeder table in snow

Keep plants and shrubs safe with wire cages or blood meal. Check any trellis, fence, or arbor that may have been damaged during the winter.

Don’t forget to enjoy the sights, sounds, and fragrances of spring while you are doing all these chores

Until next time, Happy Gardening

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