Planting season has begun!
Assuming your ground is workable, March is first planting time for most of us. If you have water-logged clay soil, you might want to cover it with plastic or wait for a dry spell before digging. Otherwise, start getting those hardy plants in the ground! The danger of frost has not yet passed, so you'll still need to protect your tender plants that will not survive a hard frost—including newly planted vegetables and annuals. Somewhat sadly, it's still a little too early for truly warm season crops.
If you mulched your garden heavily before winter, you might consider removing some of it now, but not all of it. A thick layer of mulch can slow soil warming and delay plant growth. If you used compost as your mulch, it can be dug in unless it will significantly disturb the root systems of neighboring plants. If you used bark or similar organic matter, it's best to compost it before digging it in. If you did not mulch before winter, this is a good time to add a light layer of compost to your soil. Remember that mulch should not be piled up against the trunk of a tree or shrub.
Slugs and cutworms can cause considerable damage during this time of year, so keep an eye out if you have susceptible crops such as lettuce and other greens. Aphids can appear out of nowhere in March and could start doing damage to many of your crops and ornamentals. These pests can be controlled with appropriate baits or sprays, just be aware that they breed and spread fast.
You too can become a bee keeper with mason bees! It’s easy to get started with this native pollinator. The orchard mason bee (Osmia lignaria) is a small, solitary bee which lives in thin reeds or holes left behind by other insects.
They are typically non-stinging and since they don’t live in swarms, these bees are easy to keep as “pets,” while providing excellent pollinating services in early spring. Anybody with apple or pear trees would especially benefit from a population of orchard mason bees close by.
Because of their gentle nature, mason bees are easy and fun to watch as they go about their business and are an excellent activity for kids too! Here's a rundown on the orchard mason bee...
If you don’t know what vegetables to grow, we recommend heirloom varieties. Most of them originated before the 1950s and have been preserved and passed through multiple generations by seed saving. These were chosen because they “grow-true” and carry a remarkable trait, such as high yield, unique flavor, color or shape, exceptional disease resistance, heat tolerance, adaptability to soil types, etc. If you want to learn more about heirloom vegetables, check out our brochure. We recommend starting with seeding vegetables and herbs that do well indoors in early February such as:
There are plenty of vibrant, spring options ready for you now that spring is arriving, though the full selection of summer bloomers are not quite here. Pansies have been with us all winter and are still looking great, but now you can start adding to the list with blooming bulbs, anemones, ranunculus, snapdragons, alyssum, and more. By the end of March we almost always have geraniums, fuchsias, and other hanging basket plants. As for new perennial availability, look for candytuft, rock cress, and creeping phlox—all are in bloom and ready for your garden. The evergreen perennials have been in full swing with good availability on hellebores, coral bells, rosemary, lavender, and more. Hellebores especially steal the show in February and March.
See all that new growth starting to form in your perennial beds? Now is the time to get out the old plant food. If you use granular foods, it is a great time to start regular applications.
If you prefer water-soluble fertilizers, you might consider waiting awhile or at least until periods of somewhat warm and dry weather. March is often an acceptable time for dividing and moving perennials. If you have not done so, remove dead matter on your perennials if you prefer a tidy look. Cut back any ornamental grasses that are dead looking and brown. Do not cut these to the soil line; leave a tuft to ensure better regrowth.
We'll soon be stocked with bulbs—including begonias, lilies, dahlias, and many others. Get all those summer bloomers now and grow them yourself. This is significantly less expensive than buying grown plants later in the season.
March marks the beginning of tree and shrub planting season, and our selection of both will grow throughout the month. Roses and fruits are fully stocked at both of our locations. As the plants flush out their new growth, fertilizing can be started on both recent and older plantings. Roses can be pruned in March if they were not done in February (the sooner the better at this point). If you do not want your pines to get bigger, prune the candles, or new growth off. Hedges can be sheared now if they are overgrown after last year.
Early flowering shrubs can be pruned after the flowers have faded. Any pruning of trees should probably have already be done, or delayed until summer in some cases. For disease-susceptible plants, start watching for the first signs of infection on new growth. Once the leaves have formed, it is too late to dormant spray, but there are in-season pesticides that can help an emerging problem. It's easier to control a problem as it develops, rather than when its affecting your entire plant.
Feel free to plant most greens and cold crops—like broccoli, cauliflower, etc.—but be ready with frost blanket for any extra cold nights. Many root crops can be planted now, including onions, potatoes, radishes, garlic, and shallots. When planting root crops, be sure the soil has a fair amount of organic matter, and few to no rocks. If you haven't already, peas can be started in March as well. Peas like it cool, so waiting too long can reduce your chances that you will get a good crop. Unfortunately, it is not yet time to be planting most "fruiting" vegetables, such as tomatoes, peppers, or squash. You'll also need to hold off planting your basil outside as well. It's still too early for it, but plants like basil can be started in heated greenhouses, or possibly in the house.
If you do choose to start seeds in the house to get a jump on summer, March to April is often good timing. Most seed packets will note the number of weeks that the seeds need to be started indoors prior to the final frost of the season, so it's important to plan accordingly. Our final frost of the season can vary quite a bit from year to year, but April 15th is a good, average estimate and frost is pretty unlikely after May 15th. When starting seeds inside, please remember that most crops prefer full sun and won't be getting it, and while grow lights can help immensely, a bright south or possibly west window will often work just as well. Also, if the time you were planning on placing the starts outside turns out to be unseasonably cold, you might have to delay the planting (remember any rainy Junes?) and the plants might get a little leggy.
Now is a good time for a first lawn feeding, especially if you're using an organic, granular fertilizer. If you prefer a synthetic food, make sure there is a spell of mostly dry weather ahead to avoid runoff, though you do want to irrigate once after application. If you have not done so in the last year, you can apply some horticultural lime.
April is often one of the best times to add more seed to your lawn, but March can work if the weather is fair. This is recommended for thin or patchy lawns. If you have a thick layer of thatch, you can rake it out now. Moss control products can be applied now if you have not done so already. Watch for the first appearance of weeds—every one that you remove before it flowers is a generation of them that won't be growing later. Note that most herbicides do not work in cool weather, so you be looking at doing some hand weeding.
Spring is the best time for repotting of houseplants, so it's time to start thinking about potting up any of your houseplants that really need it. Symptoms of needing a bigger pot include drying out more rapidly than usual or just seeming way too big for the pot. Always use fresh potting soil and loosen the root ball if it's wound up. When going up in pot size, only go one to two inches in depth and/or width. Always water your plants after repotting. Keep in mind that overwatering can still be a problem, as the days are often still quite cloudy. This is especially true of any recently up-potted plants. If you have plants that are particularly sensitive to overwatering, then waiting to repot later in spring would be an excellent idea.
Visit individual month pages for gardening ideas. Pages are regularly updated with projects for that month.