March is the start of spring cleanups and gearing up for the garden year, so it is often the busiest time of the gardening year. While it is true, that if you put the garden to bed just right in the fall, spring chores are less, it is also true that a landscaper’s work is often never done, no matter how much work is done in the fall. Just follow these tips and tricks to make your spring work easier.
- Plant freeze and frost tolerant annuals in beds or containers around March 21st, these include pansies, stock, snapdragons, dusty miller, ornamental kale and cabbage. These tough annuals can handle light freezes down to 20°F. I like to add some Fertilome Rose and Flower Food plus Systemic Insecticide when I plant.
- Plant broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, and mustard now into prepared vegetable garden beds. If you have a hoop system, you can plant earlier. Cover the new plants with a floating row cover to keep off cabbage worms and other pests.
- Plant early peas, radishes, and carrots into the ground now. Plant carrots and radishes into narrow rows, no more than 6 inches apart. Seed peas into blocks 16 inches across and long, so the vines can support each other without the need for staking.
- Spray your crabapples, pears, and apples now with a fungicide to prevent apple scab, rust, and fireblight
- Turn your compost. If you have not already worked your compost piles, turn them now to start the season off right
- Now is the time cut back grasses, Japanese spirea, barberry, butterfly bush, blue mist shrub, honeysuckle, dogwoods, Rose-of-Sharon, ninebarks, and weigelas to the ground or down to 12 inches tall. I use hand pruners for dogwoods, Rose-of-Sharon, blue-mist shrub, and butterfly bushes, but I like to use gas powered hedge trimmers or a string trimmer with a blade on to cut back ninebark, barberry, Japanese spirea and grasses.
- Prune panicle and smooth hydrangeas now. Smooth hydrangeas such as ‘Annabelle’, ‘Incrediball’, and Invincibelle Series should be cut down to 12 inches tall, then remove any dead or broken shoots. Panicle hydrangeas such as ‘Limelight’, ‘Vanilla Strawberry’, ‘White Diamonds’, and others should have 6 to 24 inches of last year’s growth removed back to a set of live bud. Clean out the interior of the plant by pruning out any small or inward growing branches. Dwarf panicle hydrangeas such as ‘White Diamonds’ or ‘Little Quickfire’ will be on the less pruning end of the group
- Prune shrub and tea roses down to 8 to 16 inches tall. Shrub roses get the biggest workout since they are overplanted. I remove all dead or diseased canes, and cut live canes back to outward facing buds around 12 inches in height if possible.
- Now is also the time to cut back perennials and grasses. If you have the ability to do so, run over the beds with a mulching mower a few times and leave as is. If you are like me, with a TON of work to do, cut down everything with a string trimmer with a blade, then rake up and either put in a compost pile or lay in a brush pile. At home, I always put hollow stemmed plants like echinacea and goldenrod in the brush pile.
- Leaves in rock beds should be cleaned out and mulched or composted.