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MARCH: What to Do in the Garden


In the Edible Garden

  • Plant onion sets in late March.
  • Till vegetable beds. Never till the soil when wet. Try the soil squeeze test first. Take a handful of soil and squeeze. If the soil forms a ball, let it dry for 2-3 days. If it crumbles easily through your hand, it is ready to till. Clean up last year’s debris in the vegetable garden to reduce the potential for disease.Plant potatoes as soon as soil can be worked. Buy certified disease free seedpotatoes. Cut into sections. Each section should have 1 or 2 “eyes” (buds). Plant sections 1 foot apart and 4 inches deep. Sow lettuce, peas and radishes.Start cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts seeds indoors in early march. They should be ready to transplant outside in 6-8 weeks.
  • Start tomato and pepper plants indoors in mid-March. Transplant outdoors in mid to late May.
  • Prune grape vines for shape and to promote new growth.
  • Plan vegetable/fruit garden with special care to rotating crops, especially tomatoes and other crops that are susceptible to leaf diseases.
  • Start seeds indoors. Warm-season crops can be started toward the end of the month, cool-season crops early in the month.
  • Work the soil as it dries. Structure can be damaged if you dig while the soil is too wet to work. Work in compost or other organic matter to enrich the soil.
  • Direct sow radish and lettuce seeds late in the month.

In the Ornamental Garden

  • Prune to remove any diseased, dead, weak or crossing branches.
  • Trim back Russian sage and butterfly bushes to a height of 6-8 inches.
  • Prune yews (Taxus) in late March. Cut back to green shoots. Taxus can be pruned back as much as half.
  • Cut back ornamental grasses to a height of 4 to 6 inches before new growth begins.
  • Apply a multi-purpose pre-bloom orchard spray to fruit trees.
  • Watch for winter injury (browning needles) on evergreens. Watch for damage on the south and west side of plants. Brown needles will fall off or may be pruned out. New growth will fill in dead areas by late June or July. No need to fertilize.
  • Apply horticultural oil sprays to trees and shrubs to control scales before buds open and temperatures are above freezing for 24 hours.
  • Control iris borer by cleaning up and destroying the old foliage before new growth appears.
  • Prune late flowering and large flowered clematis now. Prune early flowering clematis after bloom.
  • Prune trees before they break dormancy. Prune shrubs that bloom after June 15; spring-flowering shrubs should be pruned after they bloom.
  • Rake leaves and debris from the lawn. Consider re-seeding or over-seeding areas that were damaged during the winter.
  • If you use chemical controls, spray creeping Charlie as early as possible and schedule a follow-up application based on the herbicide’s label directions. Do not let the weed get to the flowering stage, which will help it spread in your lawn.

In the Indoor Garden

  • Repot your houseplants when one of the following happens:
    • Plant needs constant watering. Roots are growing on the surface of the soil. Water sits on the soil surface too long after watering.
    • Plants in a multiple planting are too crowded or need different care. Soil has turned into a brick. There is a white crusty salt build-up in the soil. Many roots are coming out the hole in the pot

  • Begin fertilizing plants and increasing watering as new growth shows.
  • Look for insect damage and destroy affected plants.
  • Repot plants that will need additional room to grow during the upcoming season. Cacti and succulents will flower more readily if slightly pot-bound.

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How can I get rid of voles? I think they are doing a lot of damage to my bulbs.

I have read that purple coneflowers (Echinacea) are a good source of food for birds in the winter. Will they be okay if not trimmed back until spring? If so, how early should they be trimmed?

Now that bedding impatiens (I. walleriana) are not recommended because of impatiens downy mildew, what are three good annuals for shade?

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