March: To Do in the Garden

By Gary Crispell, EMGV

Officially we had the second wettest meter logical winter in history.  Really?!  You wouldn’t know it here at Lake Ankledeep.  Not only was it the wettest it was the dreariest.  My circadian rhythm couldn’t even find the back beat.  Give me some sunshine, PLEASE.  I went out to check on the Accidental Cottage Garden and lost a boot in the mud.  All I can do is change the oil in the tractor and lubricate the attachments.  Sigh.

Well, when the ground dries out there are a lot of things to do.  Start with this list and get creative (not wild) after that.


Cool season grasses (fescues and bluegrass) can be fertilized now with 10-10-10 or similar fertilizer.  Avoid high nitrogen (the first number) and slow-release fertilizers as they can increase disease problems during the hot and humid NC summers.

Preemergent crabgrass control can be applied as soon as the forsythia bloom and before the dogwoods are in full bloom.

Mowing can begin when appropriate (like when the mower won’t sink up to its axels).  Cool season grasses should be mowed to between 3 and 4 inches.  Mow frequently enough to only remove 1/3 of the blade length.  Let the clippings stay on the lawn unless they are so wet and heavy as to cause damage.  Clippings don’t belong in the landfill.  Use them as mulch or compost them.


Things (ok, plants) that can be fertilized this month include shade trees, shrubs and spring blooming bulbs.

Asparagus beds can be fertilized in early March before the new spears appear.

Work some fertilizer into your vegetable beds (according to the results of your SOIL TEST) before planting. 

Add lime if the SOIL TEST recommends it and it didn’t get added in the fall.  It takes 3 to 6 months for it to be available to the plants.


 Plant trees and shrubs now that didn’t get planted in the fall or winter.  Just know that their water requirements may be greater than that of plants planted in the fall.

Plant perennials such as columbine (Aquilegia sps.), hollyhocks (Alcea rosea), coreopsis (Coreopsis sps.), daisies (Leucanthemum sps. Or Bellis perennis), phlox (Phlox sps.) and roses (Rosa sps.) can be planted also.

You can plant root crops (beets, turnips, carrots, potatoes) and salad greens (Bok Choi, cabbage, leaf lettuces, chard, kale) now.

There is still time to start annuals and warm season veggies inside.


Finish pruning fruit trees asap.

Prune roses in late March.  Remove winter kill and prune for aesthetics by cutting back long canes.  Cut to a 5-leaflet branch to improve flowering.

Prune spring flowering shrubs shortly after the blooms fade.

Dead head (pick off faded blooms) pansies to prolong bloom time.


You can spray broadleaf plants for euonymus/tea scale and coniferous (needle-like leaves) evergreens for spider mites now.  Check the plant for pests before spraying.  Always identify the pest before spraying— “Know your enemy.”  ALWAYS read the label and follow the instructions of any pesticide.

Applying a dormant horticultural oil to fruit trees, especially those that have been recently pruned, will help prevent several insect problems.


Prepare all of your equipment.  Sharpen things that are supposed to be sharp.  Change the oil and lubricate motorized equipment.  Calibrate sprayers.  ETC.  Consider trying a new plant or vegetable this year.  Maybe a different annual or a shrub that catches your eye.  Who knows, you may just find a new BFF for the garden.

Plant a tree for Arbor Day.  That is the first Friday after the 15th which is the 19th this year.

Have fun.  That’s what gardening is all about.

*Resources & Further Reading

Looking for the perfect tree to add to your yard? Check out

Organic Lawn Care Guide

Central North Carolina Planting Calendar for Annual Fruits, Vegetables, and Herbs

General Pruning Tips,died%20due%20to%20water%20stress.

North Carolina Pruning Calendar

NC Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox (find your perfect plant or figure out what that unknown weed is!)