March is the month of preparation.
Take the time to prepare your garden for the growing season by checking soil pH and cleaning up winter debris is a perfect way to start. March is the best time for pruning trees and shrubs, especially for fruit and shade trees.
If you have fruiting or flowering trees, bring in a few pruned branches and place in water with flower preservative, and watch spring begin to bloom inside as well.
• Deadhead fall pansies to encourage reblooming as the weather warms up.
Apply a fertilizer such as Espoma’s Flower-tone at the suggested rate to encourage larger blooms.
• Check pH of the garden soil for annuals and perennials, which should be at 6 to 7. Applications of organic matter, such as Leafgro or composted manure, worked into the soil are most helpful.
• Prepare larger houseplants too big to be repotted for the coming season of growth by top-dressing the soil, replace the missing soil with a 50-50 blend of Leafgro and potting soil.
Be sure to also add the recommended dose of slow-release fertilizer around the edge of the pot.
• Cut down perennials and over-wintering ornamental grasses to within 2 inches of the ground and remove plant debris from flower beds.
Now is a great time to divide any perennials or grasses to keep them the perfect shape and size.
These plants can easily be transplanted throughout your yard.
• Consider planting groundcovers as an alternative to grass where grass will not grow. Places in your yard that are heavy shaded, have tree root problems, or are on steep slopes are great for groundcovers.
• Fruit tree pruning should be done now. Be sure to rake up all the pruned branches, fallen leaves, and unused fruit and debris from under and around the trees. Discard or burn all the debris and do not compost. A little extra work now could save you hours of work later on in the season.
• Potatoes, onion sets, onion seedlings, and peas can be planted as soon as the soil can be lightly worked.
Chinese cabbage, leeks, beets, kale, mustard, and turnips can also be planted now. Try growing these vegetables in a raised bed to make it easier to tend to your garden.
• Prune roses starting in mid to late March to maintain their shape and size. Roses typically experience some winter kill.
To determine whether a branch is alive, simply scrape the bark with a sharp knife and look for green tissue. If it is brown prune off the cane.
When pruning roses, place the cuts so the center of the bush remains open for maximum air circulation.
Remove dead canes, growth skinnier than a pencil, and canes crossing the center that are growing in the wrong direction or crowding out other canes.
Carpet roses should be pruned back to about 6 inches tall.
March is for pruning
Prune newly planted trees lightly the first few years to control the development of the scaffold or limb structure.
Do this by only removing branches heading into the center of the tree or crossing others.
Prune out any low angle limbs growing at angles, as if repreesented by 10:30 to 1:30 on a clock face. These low angle branches are structurally weak and will eventually break under the weight of its own leaves, fruit or snow.
(Editor’s Note: Ken Morgan is the owner of Robin’s Nest Floral and Garden Center in Easton, Md.)