March in the Garden


March is a busy month in the garden. What you planted in the fall is budding and blooming. Along with a sense of satisfaction, it brings to mind the things you need to do so that the whole yard thrives through the coming months. 

Plant: Now is a great time to plant trees, shrubs and strawberries. Begin to replace winter annuals as they fade and any blooms that were damaged during the winter months. Marigolds, petunias, Nicotiana and snapdragons are available now to plant for summer color. Now also is a good time to freshen up your herb garden. Early tomatoes, squash, peas, onions and beans can be planted now. There’s still time to get in another round of cool-weather crops. Consider planting a grouping of different varieties of lettuce. The variation in colors and textures creates interest and function. Don’t forget to look for new introductions to add a little something different to your garden. You may want to wait another month or so before planting subtropicals like bougainvillea, canna and hibiscus.

Prune: Cut back and clean foliage on perennial color such as impatiens and begonias. Prune spring-flowering shrubs and vines after they’ve bloomed to maintain their shape. Prune back fuchsia by about two-thirds to reshape and encourage growth. Most evergreens should be pruned now before new growth starts. Deadhead roses regularly to encourage bloom production. Camellias, azaleas and rhododendrons should be pruned once the last flower has faded.

Fertilize Feed fruit trees and make sure they get adequate water to help with fruit production. Use a low-nitrogen fertilizer so growth is directed toward the fruit and roots. Feed your lawn with a high-nitrogen fertilizer and do so regularly through the growing season. Also feed roses and other flowering plants. In fact, fertilize everything. As we start the growing season, it’s important that nutrients depleted in the soil are replaced. The act of fertilizing is to treat the soil, which in turn benefits the plant. When applying fertilizer, imagine the root system of the plant you’re working with. If it’s a tree, the roots may have spread out quite a distance from the trunk. The soil in that area needs to be treated also. A bedding plant will have a relatively small root system, so the application doesn’t need to be disbursed that far from the base of the plant. Never fertilize a dry plant, as this can cause the root system to burn. It is best to irrigate, fertilize, irrigate.

Lawn: Continue to mow your lawn on a regular basis. The blade should be set at about 2 inches, raising it to 3 inches when the temperatures rise in the summer. Do maintenance on your lawnmower, making sure the blade is sharp and ready for the increased workout ahead.

Perennials: Divide overgrown perennials such as agapanthus, iris, lilies and grasses. Be sure to use a sharp shovel or knife and replant the divisions right away. Repot plants in hanging baskets or in pots with fresh potting mix.

Irrigation: Watch the weather closely and turn your sprinklers off and on accordingly. After a deep rain, wait until the soil dries out a bit before turning the system back on. Irrigating saturated soil is just a waste of precious water. Test your entire irrigation system. Make sure the timer is working properly. Run through the cycles and ensure that all heads and emitters are working efficiently. Give deciduous trees a deep watering to encourage bloom and leaf development.

Weeds: Applying a pre-emergent weed killer will save you time later in the season. Do not apply in areas where you plan to sow seeds for vegetables or flowers. Pull weeds while they’re small before they have a chance to spread seeds around your garden. Mulch new areas and remulch existing planting areas to keep weeds under control, conserve water and eliminate erosion. The mulch layer should be about 2 to 3 inches deep.

Pests: Watch for aphids on new growth. Use the garden hose to remove these and other pests until the beneficial bugs appear, which are usually quick to follow. Snails and slugs are busy munching right now. Trap or bait them to keep them from damaging the plants in your garden.

Alissa Adams-Simmons
Briggs Tree Company, Inc.


Categories: Gardening