by Gary Crispell, EMGV
March, noun – the third month of the Julian calendar, verb from middle French meaning to trample, (Not in my garden, please.) To move in a direct and purposeful manner (as toward the garden). Be sure to wear your boots!
By the time y’all read this winter may be gone—or not. We might be able to get into the garden—or not. It may still be raining three out of every five days whether it needs to—or not. And so goes the Piedmont Carolina winter lament. The magnolia in the front yard never had a chance this year. On a brighter note, it appears that the vast majority of the 350,000 wildflower and pollinator seeds I sowed have germinated. The grand experiment continues. I’ll keep you posted.
The following are the things you should be able to do in March. However, if the current climate pattern continues you may want to consider turning your yard into a large scale rain garden. Hey, they don’t have to be mowed.
Cool season grasses (Fescue and Kentucky bluegrass) can be fertilized with a non-slow release fertilizer such as 10-10-10. DO NOT fertilize cool season grasses after March 15 and do not use a slow release fertilizer now. Save it for Fall. Fertilizing later than mid-March will increase the likelihood of turf diseases in the heat and humidity of summer.
Apply crabgrass control to all lawns when the forsythia is in bloom and before the dogwoods reach full bloom.
Commence mowing activities when you can do so without losing your mower in the mud. Cool season grasses should be mowed at a height between three and four inches. Warm season grasses are still dormant; Your turn will come later. Mowing frequency should be such that you do not remove more than one-third of the growth. Leave the clippings on the lawn to help reduce fertilizer needs by up to 25 percent. If circumstances are such that more than one-third has to be cut, collect the clippings and use them as mulch. They DO NOT belong in the landfill.
Feed your shrubbery remembering “moderation in all things.”
Shade trees can be fertilized now, however unless you have poor soil (as indicated by your SOIL TEST) these plants can usually fend for themselves.
Fertilize asparagus beds early in March before the spears emerge.
Emerging flowering bulbs can be fertilized now.
This entire section is based on the rain stopping and the ground not refreezing and actually drying out (whatever that means. I’ve forgotten.)
Trees and shrubs can be transplanted now as well as fruit trees and grapevines up to bud break. Plants planted now will require more diligent water management through the summer than ones planted last Fall.
Perennials can be planted now.
Start annuals and warm season vegetables inside if you haven’t already. (I know about you first tomato freaks.)
Rose bushes can be planted now.
Cruciferous vegetables (E.g. cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower) can be set out in the garden in the middle of the month.
Root veggies (E.g. potatoes, beets, turnips, carrots) can be planted in March as well as salad greens (E.g. lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, kohirabi and bok choy) can also be planted in mid-March.
Prune fruit trees.
Dead head spring flowering annuals like pansies (Viola x hybrids) as the blossoms fade to prolong flowering.
Roses can be pruned in the latter half of the month.
Overgrown broadleaf shrubs can still be severely whacked.
Check for the following insect pests: euonymus scale, juniper-spruce spider mites, hybrid rhododendron borers. Spray as necessary following label directions.
Apply dormant oil to fruit trees to eliminate several insects. This is especially important if you have just pruned the trees.
Spray apple and pear trees in bloom with streptomycin to prevent fire blight.
Stuff to Do to Get Ready for Prime Time:
Check all your gardening equipment to ensure proper working order. You don’t want to spend the first really great gardening day running around looking for parts for your broken garden gizmo.
Think about experimenting with new varieties of annuals, perennials and veggies. Experimenting is fun and has few lasting side effects.
Photo: Daffodils, credit: A. Laine.