Gardening Tips for March

Ahhh…Spring!

With winter almost behind us, it’s time to get ready for nature’s “green-up”.

If you plan to cut back older woody shrubs, now is the time. Hollies will
bloom near the end of the month, and then begin to send out new growth, which will quickly cover the cuts made by pruning now. Wait to prune spring blooming shrubs such as spirea, forsythia and azaleas until blooms drop.

Roses should be pruned by first removing any dead canes, and then any weak ones that may rub against others. Cuts should be clean, and not parallel to the ground, so that moisture cannot collect on the cut surface. Cuts should be made just above a growth bud. Choose a bud that is facing to the outside of the plant to encourage pleasing shape when new growth emerges. New roses can be planted near the end of the month.

Camellias may be pruned after blooming. Light thinning will allow air and light into the plant, and some tip pruning will encourage more branching and more buds for next season.

Pruning tools should be kept sharp and clean. If you suspect any disease, dip tools in rubbing alcohol or a Lysol solution often to prevent the spread of pathogens. At the end of the day, clean and dry them well, and apply a light coat of machine oil or Vaseline before storing to prevent rust.

Vegetable gardens should be tilled as soon as the soil is dry enough, incorporating compost. Resist the temptation to work wet soil, as compaction problems are unforgiving.

Several cool season crops such as cabbage, broccoli, onions, green peas, salad greens and potatoes can be planted this month. These can tolerate light frost, and can be covered with a light layer of cloth if the temperature threatens to dip below 32° F. The cover should be supported so that it does not touch the plants. Plastic is not the cover of choice and may cause more damage than protection.

Many perennials can be planted now, and local garden centers should have a good selection of vigorous plants. Plants set during cooler weather develop a better root system than those planted later, and therefore, will be more tolerant of extreme summer temperatures. Discuss your selections with local horticulturists, and make wise choices of plants that will perform well through the summer.

Petunias, calibrachoa and snapdragons are available around mid-March, and develop best if planted early. Any fertilizer applied now should be a slow acting organic type. Existing shrubs and perennial plants should not be fertilized until the danger of frost has past. In our area, this is around April 15th.

To avoid the muscle soreness that comes from that first work day in the garden, take a calcium supplement, and drink plenty of water. Take care of yourself, there's much to do in the coming months.

Happy Gardening!