With the arrival of spring just a few days away, I’m starting to get ready for the rhythms of a gardener’s life. The long, slender leaves of my heirloom tulips wave their little arms at me as to say “Hello! Remember me?!” and remind me that the rabbits that frequent my garden are just as anxious to see the tulips emerge as I am.
For those of us who love the smell of dirt and get a thrill every time a new plant starts to emerge from hibernation, this is the time of year that we start to think seriously about our gardens. In my own gardening calendar, every week in March has more garden to-dos as I get ready for spring planting. Here is a list of the things I’ll be doing in my own garden in March. I live in Zone 5b, so your own gardening to-dos will look different depending on your garden zone. And, if you’re wondering, “What garden zone am I in?” the USDA has a great tool that gives you the gardening zone that you live in just by entering your zip code. Doesn’t get much easier than that.
What to do in the Garden in March:
** Note: If you’d like your own March gardening to-do list but live in a different zone, check out this comprehensive list broken out by gardening zone (it covers Zones 3-10, which covers 99% of the gardeners in the US).
• Start applying Liquid Fence to perimeter of the garden to keep rabbits and deer away. I love Liquid Fence because it’s environmentally safe, safe to spray on edible plants, rain resistant, and repels rather than kills the animals. It’s basically made from rotten eggs (not gonna lie – doesn’t smell great) and trains animals to avoid your garden entirely. If you’ve never used it before I recommend starting with the pre-mixed, ready-to-use version in the spray bottle. However, if you’re committed to using it on a regular basis as I do, you’ll want to go the more economical route of buying the concentrate and applying with a garden sprayer. As bulbs emerge, spray the new leaves and flower heads lightly with Liquid Fence to keep the rabbits from eating the new growth. Yes, I have found this out the hard way!
• Prune back and feed rose bushes. A few weeks ago I heard a fabulous podcast on Cultivating Place, one of my new favorite go-to gardening podcasts. The podcast was an interview with Jolene Adams, a past president of the American Rose Society, about early spring rose care. My two takeaways were 1) don’t be afraid to prune roses aggressively and 2) apply alfalfa meal to roses in late winter to encourage growth in the spring.
Following this advice, I applied Alfalfa Meal to my established roses and pruned them back by about half (gasp!). But, like Jolene Adams said in the podcast, rose branches are just like hair – they grow back, even after a bad haircut.
• Trim dead branches and prune back trees and shrubs. For some reason, it is so tempting to do this in the fall, but NEVER EVER prune anything until the dead of winter or early spring. Why? In the fall when plants are starting to go dormant, pruning stimulates new growth and weakens the plant. This is the perfect time of year to prune our trees and shrubs because they are already starting to “wake up” with the warmth of spring, and pruning will stimulate even more new growth. If you don’t have a landscaper to prune trees for you, Amazon Home Services just launched, which is their own version of Angie’s List that connects you with an incredible variety of service providers, from landscapers and tree trimmers to lawn aeration to hiring a goat grazer (no joke!).
• Start seeds for annuals, perennials, and vegetables for spring planting – here in Zone 5b we start planting outdoors between Mother’s Day and Memorial Day, so start those seeds indoors now if you don’t want to be limited to the local garden center’s stock of plants in a few weeks.
• Cut back ornamental grasses. The easiest way to do this is to tie them up and cut them to a few inches above the ground.
Happy March…get out there and enjoy your garden!