March Checklist

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 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 deadleaves, 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.
Mountain states:
  • 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.