“Those March winds will blow\
And we will have snow
And what will the Robin do then, poor thing?
He’ll hide in the barn, to keep himself warm
And hide his head under his wing”.
March is a very unpredictable month and I know you are really itching to get out in the garden, but it pays to be cautious. Do not work the soil around your plants as its too cold and wet and can damage friable root systems. A clean edge with a sharp spade makes the borders look neat and is a first step to you getting back in shape after winter’s hibernation.
In late March APPLY A TOP DRESSING OF MANURE: Manure builds soil structure, aids in drainage and encourages dormant nutrients to come alive for a good planting environment. Poultry manure contains about 2% nitrogen, one of the highest levels of all manures; the drawback to this manure is that the odor is rather objectionable. Horse manure is about .5% nitrogen and cow manure, is .25 % nitrogen. If you get horse and cow manure from the farm ask the farmer to give you manure from the bottom of the pile; the oldest stuff, as fresh manure will burn the plants. Or buy bags of manure from the garden center.
You can use The English Lady Manure Tea and The English Lady Seaweed Tea, the recipe passed down through my family for hundreds of years. These teas are excellent for soaking seeds overnight before planting in March. To be eco conscious start tender annuals in old milk or juice cartons; make sure all containers are clean.
Seaweed from the shore is excellent as mulch or compost it; rinse it first to remove sea salt. Seaweed contains trace elements that plants need and also growth promoting hormones. If you spread it like manure apply 1-2 lb per 100 square feet of garden each spring.
ON A CLOUDY DAY – Remove protective covering gradually from shrubs and perennials. In exposed garden areas where wind is a problem, leave the covering on until mid to late April depending on the weather. Cold wind is more damaging and drying than extreme cold and frost.
FROST HEAVE: If some of the perennials, trees and shrubs planted last fall heaved out of the ground, cover the roots with fresh topsoil until mid May when they can be replanted.
Butterfly bush and the Smoke bush (Cotinus) to two feet from the ground in late March.
Prune Forsythia after it has bloomed, pruning out sparse flowering old wood.
Prune roses when the forsythia blooms. For their first full year in the ground do not prune roses. Do not remove the winter protective mulch from around the base of the roses yet, wait until early May, then apply a dressing of manure and mulch. Do not begin to feed an organic rose food until the end of May and discontinue feeding roses in mid August.
Hedges can be sheared for shape, so that any stubby ends will be concealed by the new spring growth.
Prune Spirea down to six inches from the ground.
Prune Lavender in April
Sweet Pepper Bush (Clethra) prune out oldest branches in late March
Lilac – before leaf growth begins, cut back all old branches to various lengths from two to five feet, keeping in mind a good shape of the shrub. Sprinkle lime around the base and add manure.
BACKSCRATCH: When the lawn is dry, rake it lightly and remove excess debris such as leaves and dead twigs. Raking gently will also raise the mat up so the lawn can breathe again. Aerating machines are useful to develop a healthy lawn. Puncture holes with the aerator and pull out plugs of soil every four to six inches; after this treatment, root development takes off and thatch is reduced. Stay clear of those large thatching machines, they damage the grass.
GRASS Fertilizer: Apply an organic fertilizer before the grass begins to grow. Reseed bare or sparse spots reseed in April after loosening the soil, liming and fertilizing, cover the seed with salt hay to keep the seed warm and to prevent wind from blowing the seed away. Water the seed for the first three weeks. Do not blast the area with water, which will also scatter the seeds.
MOLES: to keep down the mole population in your garden; apply organic grub control once a month for four months; less grubs, less food for the moles. Apply organic pre-emergent crabgrass formulas in March and April.
DEADHEAD: the crocuses when they start to look a mess; do not cut off the leaves; the leaves make food for in the bulbs for next season’s bloom.
DAFFODILS: When the green shoots emerge, spread an organic bulb food around the plants and water in well. Do not let the fertilizer come in contact with the unfurling foliage.
DAFFODILS FOR INDOORS: the stems release a sap like “goop” that harms other flowers. Before adding Daffodils to an arrangement, cut the stems at an angle, and leave them in a vase half filled with lukewarm water for a couple of hours. Discard that water and add the Daffodils to the other flowers. If you recut the stems you will need to repeat the process.
ORGANIC FERTILIZER FOR PERENNIALS: When perennials are about four inches above soil level, about the second or third week of April, depending on the weather, apply an organic fertilizer, but if you put down manure you will not need the fertilizer. Be careful working around any plants in the garden when the soil is still wet and cold as roots can be disturbed.
At the end of April DIVIDE late blooming perennials that have become too large or have not been flowering as profusely. Discard the older, inner parts of the clumps and plant the new outside portions. Do not plant the new divisions any deeper than they were before and certainly not with Irises; just barely cover the root system so they do not fall over.
PLANT Pansies: pick the flowers regularly to encourage more bloom.
Before planting soak seeds in manure or seaweed tea and now sow SEEDS indoors of gaillardia, salvia, marigold and zinnia indoors, also seeds of petunia, snapdragon, stock and verbena in sphagnum moss to prevent damping off if these did not get sown in February. Cover pots and seed trays with plastic wrap creating a mini-greenhouse, which provides the moisture the seeds need to germinate.
NOTE: Remove the plastic once the seeds have germinated, the soil needs to drain and air circulation is needed around the stems.
If you are going away on business, vacation etc. put the plastic covers back on the pots and trays and prop some sticks or skewers in the corners; they will stay moist, but be sure the plants do not come in contact with the plastic.
START tuberous begonias, and caladiums indoors.
DORMANT SPRAYING of fruit trees, flowering cherry, crabapple, hawthorn, mountain ash and lilac can be done before the leaf buds open. Spray with The English Lady Seaweed Tea to encourage fruiting and call in a professional company if you notice any disease on the trees. Ask the company is they use organic products; you do not want chemical pollutants in the garden.
HOUSEPLANTS: As a general rule I suggest repotting of house plants when they are growing vigorously in spring and summer. Water the plant, turn it sideways on a newspaper and gently slide it from the pot. Repot in fresh potting soil in a pot only two inches larger than the original. With the plant firmly in place, with the soil about one inch from the rim, water it and give a dilute application of organic fertilizer to lessen the shock of repotting.
Some trouble free foliage plants are: Rubber plant, Spider plant, Aloe, Succulents and Cacti (if you have a sunny window), Ivy, Philodendron, Monstera and Spaphyllum.
Some blooming plants for amongst the foliage ones – I keep my plants in groups touching one another; they enjoy and flourish in the closeness. Cyclamen, African Violets, Kalanchoe and Primula.
To keeps pets from damaging the houseplants, add some cayenne pepper to the water when watering.
GERANIUMS: When the new side shoots appear on those that you brought in at the end of last season and cut back in February, repot them in pots about and inch and a half larger.
Well I think that’s given you plenty to think about at the moment and to get started. Enjoy your garden indoors and out.