Whether it comes in like a lion or a lamb, March is anything but meek. It teases us with sweet smelling air that carries snowflakes the next day. For gardeners, March is a month of preparations – planting plans, seed orders, tool tune-ups and coldframes. The fickle weather of March makes it impossible to set absolute dates and schedules for planting, so proceed with caution!
Shrubs and Trees
- To control insect pests that overwinter on tree bark (i.e., scale, aphids, and mites), apply dormant oils to trees when outdoor temperatures rise above 40°F. Read and follow label directions carefully, and allow time for the spray to dry before freezing temperatures occur.
- Prune winter-damaged hedges, trimming more at top than bottom to allow light to reach the lower branches.
- If conditions warm quickly and the soil thaws, trees and shrubs could be fertilized now, but early April would be a better choice.
- Check guy wires on trees planted in the fall. Stakes may need to be re-secured if they have been heaved out of the soil by frost. Remember to remove guy wires in spring after root growth has started. Trees allowed to move with the wind grow stronger than those supported for too long.
- As snow melts away, many lawn areas are likely to look quite ragged. In most cases, the appearance will improve dramatically as conditions warm and lawn growth resumes later in spring.
- As conditions allow, start spring lawn care with the removal of debris that has accumulated over the winter. Raking lawns will remove matted accumulations of dead grass.
- March is not the time for fertilizing! Wait until the lawn has been mowed a few times before fertilizing, typically in late April or early May.
Perennials, Annuals, and Bulbs
- If the weather warms quickly, spring flowering bulbs may begin to push up green shoots. Not to worry — the plants can withstand the winter weather that will most likely follow.
- Turn and prune houseplants regularly to keep them shapely. Pinch back new growth to promote bushy plants.
- When planning your annual flowerbeds, plan to plant rows in an east to west fashion to take advantage of full sun conditions. Also, plan to plant taller plants at the north side of the garden to avoid shading smaller plants.
Fruits and Vegetables
- Unless the soil has thoroughly dried out, working it in March is a big mistake. Soils worked when they are too wet may be damaged for the entire season.
- Don't start your vegetable plants indoors too early. Seed packets provide information on when the seeds should be started indoors. Generally, you need to count backwards from the average last frost date to determine when to start your seeds indoors. For zone 5, May 15th is the recommended date for planting most annual plants and vegetables outdoors.
- Check your seedlings daily to keep them from drying out. Putting an oscillating fan on your seedlings will help control damping off and reduce fungus growth.
- Remember to save empty seed packets for reference and row markers.