March is a tricky month for gardening. In some places, the weather might be quite pleasant, while in others, you’re still shoveling your way out from the latest storm. Regardless, you know that you’ll soon be enjoying the burst of color that only spring can bring. If the weather is not yet cooperating with your aspirations of planting your garden, there are plenty of gardening tasks to keep you busy.
Some general seasonal reminders:
You’ve probably already thought about the plants you want to grow in your summer garden. If you live where temperatures are still too cold for direct sowing, you can start those early vegetable plants inside. You can start tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers, as long as the last frost date is 6-9 weeks in the future. You can find the last frost date for your area by going to www.almanac.com.
In most climates you can also begin applications of horticultural oil sprays to pear and apple trees. Apply dormant oil spray to pears just as the buds begin to swell, and then again ten days later, to control pear psylla and pear leaf blister mites. Apple pests controlled with oil spray include European red mite, aphids, and San Jose scale. Make a single application of oil on apple trees with ½” of green tissue is visible in the developing buds. Horticultural oils can take cool temperatures, but they shouldn’t be used if the temperature is going to drop below 45°F for 24 hours.
Don’t neglect your houseplants! New growth will be appearing as your houseplants react to longer days and brighter light. This is a good time to repot and fertilize.
If your ground is workable:
In some warmer climates, the soil may be ready to receive seeds, Once the ground is workable, turn the soil and work in organic matter. This is especially important if water has been slow to drain following rain showers, since poor drainage often leads to root diseases and poor plant growth. Soil is workable if it crumbles easily when you pick up a handful; if it holds its shape, however, it is too moist and is not ready for planting. If your soil is ready, you can plant cold weather crops like lettuce, onions, peas, spinach, and root crops at this time.
Northeast and Central:
- Rake, fertilize, and seed bare spots in your lawn and begin to plant shrubs.
- Remove winter debris from beds.
- Inventory and perform maintenance on garden tools.
- Snow removal over the winter may have left salt in your yard. Dilute the salt by watering your lawn and beds.
- Take care of plants injured by winter storms. Cut away any broken or dead growth.
- Look for pests as temperatures begin to rise, so you know what you’ll need to combat during the growing season.
Southeast and Texas:
- Fertilize your lawn, and finish planting shrubs, trees, and perennials.
- Rake and remove dead leaves, grass, and other debris.
- Mowing should begin as soon as grass reaches a height of 3-4”, when it should be mowed back by about a third.
- Prune spring-flowering shrubs after they bloom.
- Plant asters, celosia, and marigolds.
- Begin your weed control program.
- Set out tender annuals as soon as the soil warms up.
- Start on major spring planting this month.
- Divide hardy asters and other perennials at the end of the month.
Pacific Northwest and California:
- Prune, train, and tie climbing roses, and cut back large-flowered clematis.
- Sow cold weather vegetable seeds outdoors if the ground is not too wet.
- Fertilize bulbs as they finish flowering. Remove dead blooms, but leave the foliage to feed next year’s growth.
As another round of polar weather sweeps across the country, there’s nothing for gardeners to do but hibernate in your living room, pining away for spring. Right? Wrong! Just because it’s snowing outside doesn’t mean you can’t start working inside on your spring garden. How so? By creating a garden dream file.
Now’s a good time to sort through those garden magazine photos, Spring Hill catalogs, and clippings stuffed into shelves all over the house. Or you could print out pictures from Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, or any gardening Web site. Whether you are contemplating a garden makeover, expect to start from scratch in a new place soon, or just feel the urge to add something a little different to your current garden, the first step is to get organized.
You’ll need scissors, file folders (or better yet, a totable file box), pens and highlighters, and a large flat surface where you can spread everything out. In addition, if your resource pile includes books, you’ll need self-stick notes to mark pages, since you won’t want to cut them up. As you go through the material, cut out pictures that catch your eye. What catches your eye may be a particular plant, color, combination, or bit of garden art; or it might be a large-scale vista or view.
Filing will be easier if you put the clippings into rough piles: flowers, vegetables, shrubs and trees, seating areas, fences and structures, and so on. Keep the categories fairly general, though you’ll probably need one just for “pretty garden” overviews. If any one pile towers over the others, you can break it down into two or more subcategories.
Make up a file folder for each category, and continue adding pictures and articles as things catch your eye. In the future, consult the files when you’re considering changes in the garden. You’ll undoubtedly have more ideas than you have room for (a good problem to have!), but reviewing a file’s contents will help you generalize about colors, shapes, textures, and designs that you like, as well as identify particular plants you’d like to try.
To take your garden dreaming to the next level, try creating “inspiration boards”. All you’ll need is white posterboard for each section of your garden you’re looking to give a facelift. Then start attaching pictures and drawing to your heart’s desire! Include plants, shrubs and trees, seating areas, and pots for inspiration. This will help you to create an overall garden that reflects your tastes and personal style. Place your inspiration board in an accessible location so that you can tweak your garden plan throughout the winter. It will also keep you focused and excited about spring…which is right around the corner!
Some people shy away from planting roses because they may be under the misconception that roses are only for rose gardens. And if you don’t have room in your space for a rose garden, then roses most likely won’t make it onto your must-have list. And aren’t roses finicky and difficult to care for? This beloved flower sure has gotten a bad rep through the years. Fortunately, today’s roses are very different from our grandma’s roses—healthy, robust bushes that love to play with other plants.
Let’s start by mentally recategorizing roses. Roses are typically put into their own mysterious category, which can be intimidating and make them appear unfriendly and aloof. Instead, let’s just put roses in the category of long-season, sun-loving perennial shrubs (which, by the way, they are). And there are plenty of other sun-loving perennials that enjoy sharing a garden space with roses.
As America’s favorite flower, let’s face it—roses shine as the star of the show. You can check out our rose collection at http://www.springhillnursery.com/category/rose_plants. But let’s look at how a supporting cast of plants can make your roses even more beautiful. To keep it simple, let’s consider rose companion plants in three categories: tall spiky plants, medium complementary plants, and shorter filler plants.
Tall, spiky plants are great for providing a backdrop of color behind your rose plants. Some excellent specimens are foxgloves, hollyhocks, and tall phlox. By planting background plants with varied bloom times, you will ensure that you always have complementary colors for your roses.
Medium-sized plants with rounded habits can intermingle beautifully with roses by mimicking the size and shape of rose bushes. Daylilies, peonies, coneflowers, weigelas, and irises are wonderful plants to use for this purpose.
Blue Fragrant Lavender
And lastly, shorter filler plants are ideal for planting in front of roses. Let’s face it, the base of a rose is not exactly the prettiest part of the plant. So don’t be afraid to dress it up by planting lavender, coreopsis, or even mums in front of it. You can even think about using any type of groundcover, such as sweet alyssum, candytuft, or creeping thyme.
As you’re selecting your rose companion plants, it’s a good idea to also take into consideration off-season and prebloom interest, bloom season contrast, complementary or contrasting foliage, and flower color. In addition to perennials, pansies and bulbs are naturals for spring bloom that will overlap with the grand entrance of your roses. In the fall, you can use a few chrysanthemums and asters to ease the transition into winter.
It’s that time of year again; the time when you look longingly out your window and envision your spring garden, though it might be currently frozen under inches (or possibly feet!) of snow. From several months of disuse, your green thumb has slowly faded back to a flesh tone and your fingernails are disappointingly tidy! Now is not a time to despair; instead, it’s a time to prepare your yard for spring.
Want to get your hands dirty? Here are some activities that can help you get your gardening fix when you’re not poring through catalogs, ordering seeds, and planning out your spring beds.
- Make sure your seed-starting supplies are ready: check grow lights, and inventory pots, labels, and potting mixes.
- Wash and disinfect pots, seed flats, and other equipment.
- At the end of January, sow seeds that require a long growing season, such as peppers, under lights.
- Complete winter digging in the vegetable garden when soil is dry enough and not frozen.
- Check over and oil your lawn mower and other mechanical gardening equipment.
- Clear away leaves and other debris from outdoor beds.
- Carefully shake snow from conifers, boxwood, and other evergreens to lessen the likelihood of branches breaking.
- Spray dormant spray on fruit trees.
- Turn your soil if your ground is workable.
- Force hyacinth, narcissus, lily-of-the-nile for indoor blooms.
One of my favorite winter activities is to make a garden dream board. Take inspiration from all the spring catalogs and magazine that will be coming your way and use their pictures to start building your perfect garden on a big piece of posterboard. This will help keep you motivated until spring arrives and will give you some ideas on getting a head start on your garden this year.
Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way! Depending on where you live, you may already be enjoying a winter wonderland (Yes, I admit – I love snow!). And just because your garden may be hiding underneath a blanket of snow doesn’t mean you can’t accomplish some very useful gardening tasks.
In fact, this might be a great time to do some of things you don’t have time to do during warmer months when you’re busy working outside. For instance, have you ever wanted to take a class on growing your own garden? How about basic rose care? Or ideas for mixed containers? This is a great time to educate yourself so that you’re all ready to go in the spring. Ask your local gardening club for recommendations on classes or workshops.
General Gardening Tasks
- Check stored produce (like winter squash) and remove any damaged or rotten fruit.
- Start thinking about plans for next year’s garden.
- Clean gardening equipment (and sharpen any with blades) before storing.
- Build garden structures you’ll need for the upcoming growing season.
- Enroll in a gardening workshop or course.
- Plan a vacation visit to a botanical garden. To find a botanical garden near you, visit http://www.publicgardens.org/gardens.
- Avoid overwatering houseplants.
- Open cold frames on warm days and close on cool nights.
- On mild days, repair garden fences or lay a stone walkway.
- Use branches or other pruning remnants to hold down mulch.
- Clean up houseplants.
- Sow seeds of hardy vegetables in frost-free areas.
- Mulch your strawberry patch.
- Prune trees.
- Prune and shape conifers.
- In warmer sections of the state, plant gladioli.
- Water evergreens before the ground freezes.
- Stakes newly planted trees and shrubs.
See? All sorts of fun tasks to accomplish in the garden this month. So get out your winter coats and get to work!