March Garden Checklist

Photo: davidd/Flickr

I don't know about you, but my bulbs are in bloom as the days are lengthening and it starts to seem like winter might actually end for real at some point in the near future. What will I be up to in the garden in March? Well, probably the same things you should be up to!

Here's our March garden checklist, chock-full of reminders on those little things you might have missed...

If you haven't already, you should finish pruning this month. Wait too much longer and you'll be cutting away valuable sapwood, which your trees and shrubs will not appreciate. Since we know you want the best for your garden, take care when pruning to avoid being too dramatic, and keep an eye out for signs of disease. If you see plants that appear infected or injured, address the situation now, before it spreads.

At the same time, cut back the remainders of dead perennials and other plants that haven't survived the frost, rake and sweep, and start preparing the soil for planting. Think about what's going where so you can make the best soil conditioning decisions; some plants don't like freshly manured or "hot" soil, for example, while others thrive in it. And if you haven’t soil tested lately, now is the time, so you can make sure you have the right nutrient balance for your plants.

Clearing debris away provides less shelter for pests, but if you spot them, take action. Use a non-toxic slug repellent if necessary, and consider companion plantings to manage insect pests. You can also call an exterminator about environmentally-friendly garden pest control options.

Once temperatures are averaging around 42 degrees, you can sow seeds directly outside -- this is a good time to get started with crops like beets that don't appreciate being transplanted. Meanwhile, the seedings you started last month can go out. Use cloches or plastic to warm the soil and protect your plants if the weather gets hostile. Don't have cloches? Put your DIY Cleveland handyman skills to work and build yourself a set! They'll come in handy.

'tis the season for cool season veggies, including some of my favorites, like chard and kale. You can also get lettuce seeds going, and think about tomatoes and eggplants (yum!).

In your flower garden, divide your perennials -- the weather is warm enough to uproot them and work the soil without shocking them, but it's still early enough that they haven't gone into major production mode. You can plant your divisions elsewhere or trade them with other gardeners. Trades can be a great way to get neat plants that are expensive or hard to obtain, so if you aren't hooked up with local gardeners, consider joining a local club or plant exchange.

Meanwhile, your nursery should be bursting at the seams with all kinds of great trees, shrubs, and flowering plants. It's a great time to start planting out your ornamentals -- along with berry bushes and trees, which aren't picked over yet. If you want some bright spots of color without the wait, consider primroses. They smell amazing and they’ll provide an instant makeover for a gloomy garden.

Since weather has been unpredictable in many areas of the US lately, consider plants that are unusually durable and tolerant for your garden this year. Improved Meyer lemons, for example, yield great fruit in a range of gardening zones, and they're not as fussy as some other lemon cultivars. Likewise, some very old and established peonies and other flowers are highly durable in addition to beautiful, so definitely check them out.

Katie Marks writes for

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