Sow seeds outdoors when soil temperatures are at or above appropriate minimum temperatures: lettuce (40°), peas (40°), beets (40°), carrots (40°), onion (45°), spinach (45°), turnips (50°), radishes (50°) and Asian greens (50°). Test soil temperatures with a soil thermometer.
Plant cool-season Bonnie vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, greens, lettuce, etc.
Begin planting dahlia and iris as well as other summer-flowering corms, bulbs and tubers. You can continue planting additional bulbs every two weeks until mid-June to ensure a continuous source of blooms. Don’t plant caladiums, gladiolus, canna or coleus yet … wait until the soil temperature reaches at least 70°.
Divide and transplant summer-blooming perennials.
Plant sweet peas from the middle to the end of the month. Soak seeds overnight in lukewarm water to promote germination. Provide a trellis or other support for the plants to grow up.
Establish or renovate the lawn as needed. Re-sod or replant with turf grasses adapted to your part of the state and suited to the planting location (shade or sun).
It’s too early to plant Bermudagrass. You would be better off waiting until April.
Plant container-grown trees and shrubs as soon as possible. Be sure to make a 6-foot circle around the tree for mulch which will keep the grass at bay. Do not add organic material to the planting hole. The tree needs to root in the soil in which it will live the rest of its life.
In areas which receive shade where grass is difficult to grow, consider planting a dependable groundcover such as English ivy, Asian jasmine, vinca, hostas or ferns.
It is best to get a soil test before fertilizing to determine needs. Your local Co-op store has the testing material needed.
FYI: Sulphur, sawdust, composted oak leaves, wood chips, peat moss, cottonseed meal and leaf mold lower soil pH while lime, ashes of hardwoods, bone meal, crushed marble and crushed oyster shells raise the pH.
Early March is the ideal time to fertilize landscape plants to give them food just before the spring growing season starts.
Fertilize shrubs and trees if this wasn’t done in February. Use an acid-type rhododendron fertilizer to feed evergreens, conifers, broad leaf evergreens, rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias. Use an all-purpose fertilizer to feed roses and other deciduous trees and shrubs. If you use a granular-type fertilizer, be sure to water it in thoroughly. Follow the recommendations on the fertilizer bag.
Fertilize pecan trees with one pound of 10-10-10 for every inch of trunk thickness.
Divide and fertilize water lilies.
Don’t jump the gun and feed your summer lawn too early. In most areas, it’s best to wait another month or two when the grass starts actively growing.
Fertilize any bulbs that have finished blooming with bone meal or bulb booster.
Fertilize established perennials as soon as new growth appears.
As soon as the first leaves surface on your butterfly bush you can pinch them back to spur new growth and bountiful blooms. This may be an April task depending upon how early or late spring is this year.
Clean up perennials and cut back ornamental grasses to a few inches above the ground to make way for new growth. Compost the old foliage.
Cut back the old leaves on Lenten rose (Hellebores).
Cut English ivy back hard. When new growth emerges in spring, it will be strong and healthy.
Early in the month is the last chance for dormant pruning of fruit trees. You still have some time to prune back diseased wood, water sprouts (suckers) and crossing limbs. Don’t prune back fruiting spurs unless you are intentionally thinning them out.
Finish pruning summer-flowering plants forming blooms on new growth such as butterfly bush or rose of Sharon.
Leggy houseplants can be cut back. Cut above a leaf node far down on the stem so the plant can regain a bushier form.
If overgrown shrubs are in need of renovation, this would be the time to cut them back. Although most broadleaf shrubs will eventually recover from severe pruning, needled evergreens will not.
Pinch off tips of sweet pea seedlings and chrysanthemums when they are 4 inches tall.
Prune away any cold injury to canes on your roses. Prune back to a healthy outward facing bud. Complete all your pruning activities before the buds break.
Prune summer- and fall-flowering clematis. These clematis produce flowering buds on new wood and can be pruned now to the strongest canes. Spring-flowering clematis should be pruned right after they flower.
Prune winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima) after it blooms or it could get out of control.
Wait to prune spring-blooming shrubs and trees until after flowering.
Cut seed pods from spent bulbs.
You can cut tulip foliage down as soon as it is unattractive because they probably won’t come back. On daffodils, Dutch iris and other low-chill bulbs, leave the foliage until it turns brown. The green leaves are replenishing the bulbs for next year’s blooms.
A severe pruning now of overgrown beds of groundcovers will remove woody stems and induce new, compact growth from the base whereas later pruning will retard growth.
When peaches are the size of your thumb, thin them to one fruit every 4-6 inches of stem. If you don’t thin, you will have a tree full of small fruit and broken branches.
Check the plants under the eaves of the house and under tall evergreens to make sure they have sufficient moisture.
Start watering trees and shrubs planted in the fall as soon as new leaves appear. Newly planted trees and shrubs need supplemental watering for a FULL YEAR to stay healthy.
Check out the automatic lawn sprinkler system for leaks, broken pipes or heads, or wasteful misting.
Water all bulbs during times of growth and especially during foliage and bloom development.
March watering may not be necessary for established lawns. However, lawns started within the last year are especially susceptible to winter desiccation injury and need supplemental cool-weather irrigation.
Follow instructions on pesticide labels carefully.
Gather and dispose of fallen camellia blooms to prevent blight from developing and spreading.
If you had a lot of crabgrass last year, you may want to consider applying a pre-emergent herbicide to prevent crabgrass seeds from germinating. This is most effective when done before the end of March.
The most dreaded task of all is weeding, but it is one that really needs to be accomplished before the weeds have a chance to flower and go to seed. Remember, once the weeds go to seed, you can be fighting that weed’s progeny for decades!
Apply pre-emergent broadleaf herbicides if you didn’t apply them last month. Read the labels carefully and be sure your weeds are listed.
Dandelions will begin to make themselves known in your lawn this month so get them now before they make seed heads.
Be careful not to get lawn herbicides too close to trees. Weed-and-feed type fertilizers are notorious for killing young shade trees.
You can spray fungicides while the trees are in bloom, but not insecticides. The bees are still pollinating your fruit trees and are susceptible to the sprays.
Last chance for dormant oil sprays of fruit trees. Fruit trees like apples and pears benefit from dormant oil sprays which help to control (by smothering) sucking insects like aphids, scale, spider mites and thrips to name a few. Don’t apply after any buds have broken because dormant oil spays (unless they are an all-season oil spray) are more concentrated than summer oil sprays and can burn new growth.
Grubs become active this month and feast on grass before molting. Check with your local Co-op store to learn which treatments work best in your area this time of year.
You will start to see more slugs this month as they become more active. Set out bait.
Examine the backside of euonymus and camellia leaves for scale insects. Thoroughly spray with horticultural oil if the pests are found.
A wide variety of caterpillars may soon begin appearing throughout the landscape and garden. Check tender foliage on such plants as petunias, broccoli, kale, lettuce, cabbage and cauliflower.
Aphids can become a major early-spring insect problem on tender spring foliage. Use an insecticidal soap, Neem Oil Spray or an insecticide such as Malathion or Orthene.
Keep up the spray regimen with roses. Orthene and Funginex are the favorites.
Start a garden journal. Simply buy a ruled notebook and use it to keep an account of your daily activities.
Remember to rotate the vegetables in the garden to reduce insect and disease problems.
Pick a permanent spot for Bonnie herbs in the garden. You’ll be amazed at the variety offered and many of them will come back year after year.
Turn the compost pile.
When your vegetable garden is dry enough (feels crumbly like chocolate cake, not squishy like Play-Doh), it’s time to till and prepare it for planting. Add organic matter before tilling.
Mulch tree and shrub plantings up to 4 inches deep, keeping mulch away from trunks.
Wildflowers will begin blooming this month. Remember, they must be allowed to mature their seeds if you want new plants next year.
Clean debris and muck from the water garden and add it to your compost pile.
The single best thing you can do to save time and energy in the garden is spread mulch. A 2- to 3-inch-deep layer of mulch will stop many weeds from growing. It also helps your soil stay moist during hot, dry periods this summer.
Feed your pond fish when the water temperature hits 50°.
Check garden tools and equipment. Clean, sharpen and repair everything before you need it.
Have you had the mower tuned up and the blade sharpened? Tarry much longer and you’ll have to wait two weeks to get your machine back.
If you don’t have tulips or daffodils blooming because you didn’t plant any last fall, put it in your garden journal to buy some bulbs this fall.
If you have a greenhouse, it is time to take cuttings of "wintered-over" plants.
Love your soil and protect it by not walking on sodden lawns and in wet gardens.
Make maintaining your garden easier with raised beds. You can add high-quality soil to solve any problems with clay or sand. And you don’t have to bend down so far to weed, plant or tend your plants.
March is a good time to note areas of poor drainage. Fill in the low spot or scoop out a channel for the water to drain away.
Repair any fencing, arbors or trellis work that is weak or has broken over the winter ... before you get too busy tending plants!
Repair damaged areas of the lawn ... dethatch, rake or aerate.
Repot root-bound houseplants. If plant lacks vigor, roots are coming out of drainage holes or water drains through the plant before it can absorb the water, it is more than likely time to transplant. Move up two inches in pot size.
There is often a strong temptation to start removing winter mulches from your flower beds. Pull the mulch off gradually as the plants show signs of new growth. The purpose of winter mulch is to act as a protector from sudden changes of temperature and chilling winds, so keep in mind that it is still winter. Acclimatize your plants by removing the mulch over a period of days, allowing the light and air to reach the new growth slowly. It is much better to remove the mulch a little later than to remove it too early.
They’re on their way …. Clean out all of your birdhouses NOW before it’s too late.