March Gardening Tips

March Gardening Tips

Monthly task lists help to grow and maintain your gardens, indoors and out.

Scan these tips from gardening expert, Melinda Myers, and follow those that apply to your particular landscape to help increase your success while making gardening easier, less stressful and fun.

• Take advantage of the few sunny, snow-free days and locate areas in your landscape to add new planting beds. Mark beds and begin preparation as soon as the soil can be worked.

• Oriental, Asiatic, and of course Easter Lilies are a spring tradition indoors. Keep your lilies looking healthy by placing them in a cool, bright location in your home. Avoid heat ducts and warm rooms. Keep the soil moist, but not wet. Perforate or remove the decorative foil and place the pot on a saucer. Make sure that the water does not collect in the saucer, decorative pot or basket. This can lead to root rot.

• Hardy bulbs need little fertilization. Fertilize once the ground thaws through April if you want to increase vigor and if you did not fertilize in the fall. For best results, apply a low-nitrogen, slow-release fertilizer to bulbs as they begin to sprout outdoors.

• Continue winter pruning and thinning raspberries if this has not been done.

• Continue cleaning houseplants once a month. Wipe off smooth leaves with a damp sponge or cloth. Use a cosmetic brush to dust African Violets, Gloxinias and other hairy leafed plants.

• Prune back Russian sage and butterfly bush to several inches above the soil. Both plants (often classified as subshrubs) usually die back in winter. Use a lopper or hand pruners to cut stems above an outward facing bud.

• Wait until the weather has warmed and winter protection is removed before pruning roses. Remove any damaged branches as they are found.

• Prune summer and fall blooming shrubs now until growth begins. Late winter/early spring pruning will not interfere with summer flowering and allows the plants to recover quickly.

• Time to start pruning vines and groundcovers. Remove dead and damaged stems and branches.

• Late winter through early spring is the best time to transplant trees and shrubs. Start planting when the ground thaws and soil is moist.

• Check stored pesticides and fertilizers. Take an inventory of the type and amount of each product you have in storage.

• It’s time to get busy cleaning up the garden. Remove any stems and seedpods left for winter interest.

• Get busy sowing parsley, broccoli, eggplant and lettuce seeds indoors. Always start with a sterile seed starting mix. Plant seedlings in rows in flats or place one or two seeds in each container. Check the seed package for planting recommendations.

• Monitor seedlings for damping off disease. Watch for collapsing seedlings and stem rot at the soil line.

• Get out the rake and start work as soon as the snow and ice melt. Use a leaf rake to fluff and dry the grass to reduce the risk of snow mold. Never work on frozen or waterlogged soils. This can lead to damage or death to the grass.

• Check unmulched gardens for signs of frost heaving. Replant any perennials that were pushed out of the soil.

• Start repotting houseplants that have outgrown their containers.

• Repair, locate or purchase cold frames, row covers and other season-extending materials if you plan an early start to the growing season.

• Check plums, cherries and other stone fruits for black knot. This fungal disease causes stems to swell and develop black lumpy growths. Prune out the old black knots and the new (swollen stems), less visible, knots. Cuts should be made 6-8 inches below the knots. Disinfect pruners between every cut to avoid spreading the disease. Complete removal of knots by April 1st to prevent the release of spores and reduce future infections.

• Monitor indoor plants for whiteflies, fungus gnats, aphids and mites. Use yellow sticky traps to capture the whiteflies. High populations causing plant damage can be controlled with insecticides. Use a product labeled for controlling whiteflies on indoor plants. Make 3 applications, every 5 days, in a well-ventilated location. Start the process over if you miss one application.

• Get the most out of whatever space you have by using some of these space saving techniques when growing vegetables. Grow plants in blocks or wide rows instead of single rows. Train pole beans, cucumbers, or other vine crops on fences, trellises, and other vertical structures. Growing vertical not only saves space, it can help reduce disease and make harvesting easier.

• Consider planting short season crops, such as radishes and beets, between long season crops like tomatoes, peppers, and broccoli. Interplant lettuce with long season crops for added shade from the sun and relief from the heat that can give lettuce a bitter flavor. Grow several crops throughout the season in the same row. Start with cool weather crops, such as radishes or leaf lettuce. Harvest those and replace them with a second planting of an unrelated crop like beans or cucumbers to reduce the risk of disease. Plant a third crop if time allows.

• Tamp down runways formed by vole activity over winter. A light tamping is often enough to get the roots back to the soil, allowing the grass to recover. Severely damaged areas may need to be reseeded. Fill in any holes dug by animals or created by winter activities.

• You can start fertilizing indoor plants this month. Fertilize if the plants show signs of nutrient deficiencies, or if you want to promote growth. Use a diluted solution of any houseplant fertilizer. Do not fertilize newly repotted plants. Many potting mixes contain fertilizer and the plants need to recover from transplanting and put down new roots before adding fertilizer.

• It’s time to take a soil test. The results will help you determine how much and what type of fertilizer you need for the plants you are growing. Contact your local Extension service for soil testing information. Take the soil test anytime the ground is not frozen. Now is a great time because its just before you amend your gardens and fertilize your lawn.

• Use the proper tools to make spring cleanup easier on you. Hand pruners will take care of most of the cleanup jobs. Use these to cut back perennials and sub-shrubs such as Russian sage and butterfly bush. Break out the loppers on some of the harder to reach stems. Use an electric hedge shear or weed whip with a rigid plastic blade for mass plantings of perennials and grasses. Compost all pest and herbicide free materials.

• Get the longest colorful display from your tender bulbs such as cannas, dahlias, caladiums, callas, and tuberous begonias by starting them indoors. The extra growing time indoors means early blooms in the garden. Remove stored bulbs from storage or purchase new bulbs from the garden center.

• March can be a mix of spring and winter weather that can be as hard on our plants as it is on us. Winter protection applied last fall helps plants through the harsh periods as well as the changeable spring weather. Start removing winter protection when temperatures begin hovering above freezing for about a week or new growth appears. Don’t leave winter coverings on too long or the covered plants will develop spindly growth and will be at greater risk for disease.

Written by gardening expert, Melinda Myers. Melinda Myers is a nationally recognized gardening expert with more than 30 years of horticulture experience. She is a wealth of knowledge and we are pleased to share Melinda’s monthly gardening tips with you!