March is a very busy month in your garden but it also holds a lot of promise. The plantings you did in the fall are budding and blooming and there is a sense of satisfaction for a job well done. It also brings to your attention the things you need to get busy on so that the whole yard thrives through the coming months.
Now is a great time to plant trees and shrubs. You may want to wait another month or so before planting subtropicals like Bougainvillea, Cannas and Hibiscus. Prune spring flowering shrubs and vines after they’ve bloomed to maintain their shape. Most evergreens should be pruned now before new growth starts.
Color: Begin to replace winter annuals as they fade. Marigolds, Petunias, Nicotiana and Snapdragons are available to plant for summer color. Cut back and clean foliage on perennial color such as Impatiens and Begonias. Replace any color that was damaged during the winter months. Look for new introductions to add a little something new to your garden.
Fruits & Vegetables: Early tomatoes, squash, peas, onions and beans can be planted now. There’s still time to get in another round of cool weather crops. Consider planting a grouping of different varieties of lettuce. The variation in colors and textures creates interest and function. Fertilize fruit trees and make sure they get adequate water to help with fruit production. Use a low nitrogen fertilizer so growth is directed toward the fruit and roots. Plant strawberries. Plant or freshen up your herb garden with new varieties or replace plants that didn’t fare well over the winter.
Lawn: Continue to mow your lawn on a regular basis. The blade should be set at about 2”, raising it to 3” when the temperatures pick up this summer. Do maintenance on your lawnmower making sure the blade is sharp and ready for the increased workout that’s coming up. Feed your lawn with a high nitrogen fertilizer and do so regularly through the growing season.
Perennials: Divide overgrown perennials such as Daylilies, Agapanthus, Iris and Lilies including grasses. Be sure to use a sharp shovel or knife and replant the divisions right away. Fuchsia produce blooms on new wood. Prune back by about two-thirds to reshape and encourage growth. Repot plants in hanging baskets or in pots with fresh potting mix.
Roses & Flowers: Roses should be full of fresh growth since they should have been pruned back in January. Fertilize and dead-head regularly to encourage bloom production. Camellias, Azaleas and Rhododendrons should be pruned once the last flower has faded. Using the notes you took over the winter, create a new flower bed. Visit your local independent garden center and try something new.
Irrigation: Rain returns week of March 7- don’t forget to inspect your drainage systems and erosion controls. This is a great time to get down your pre-emergent and fertilizer applications. Watch the weather closely and turn your sprinklers off and on accordingly. After a deep rain, wait until the soil dries out a bit before turning the system back on. Irrigating saturated soil is just a waste of precious water. Take advantage of a warm, sunny day by spending it outside testing your entire irrigation system. Make sure the timer is working property. Run through the cycles and ensure that all heads and emitters are working efficiently. Give deciduous trees a deep watering to encourage bloom and leaf development. Remember – know your water agency’s mandated watering restrictions: http://www.sdcwa.org/find-your-water-district/ .
Also: Applying a pre-emergent weed killer will save you time later in the season. Do not apply in areas where you plan to sow seeds for vegetables or flowers. Pull weeds while they’re small before they have a chance to spread seeds around your garden.
The last few months, pests in the garden have slowed down to a crawl. Warm weather is going to bring them out in force. Watch for aphids on new growth. Use the garden hose to remove these and other pests until the beneficial bugs appear which are usually quick to follow. Snails and slugs are busy munching right now. Trap or bait them to keep them from damaging the plants in your garden.
Mulch new areas and remulch existing planting areas to keep weeds under control, conserve water and eliminate erosion. Mulch layer should be about 2-3” deep. For those of you growing stone fruit and vineyards make sure to apply protectant fungicides to ensure your crop is protected from diseases.
Fertilize everything! As we start the growing season, it’s important that nutrients that have been depleted in the soil are replaced. The act of fertilizing is to treat the soil which in turn benefits the plant. When applying fertilizer, imagine the root system of the plant you’re working with. If it’s a tree, the roots may have spread out quite a distance from the trunk. The soil in that area needs to be treated also. A bedding plant will have a relatively small root system so the application doesn’t need to be disbursed that far from the base of the plant. Remember to NEVER fertilize a dry plant as this can cause the root system to burn. It is best to irrigate, fertilize, irrigate.