On Your Mark, Get Set, Go: March Garden Chores

March calendar

March is a big month! We spring forward an hour (March 13th), giving garden-starved-gardeners extra daylight hours after a winter of driving home in the dark. The calendar announces Spring on March 20th, though 60° days are still separated by 45° days, and happy changes occur in the landscape (daffodils, crocus, tuilps). But, the truest telltale sign that spring is arriving in Western North Carolina is the mud trek through our mountain homes. 

We're so ready for some garden chores. It's been a long, cold winter.

Where to begin? Anywhere really. There's plenty to do, but remember the phrase, 'when the soil can be worked,' and be cautious about mucking around on frozen soil.

Mulch piled up around the crown of the tree creates a situation where the tree roots are buried too deep, leaving the possibility that roots can grow up into the mulch and girdle the tree.

Mulch piled up around the crown of the tree creates a situation where the tree roots are buried too deep, leaving the possibility that roots can grow up into the mulch and girdle the tree.

1. Pruning: Prune now before dormant trees and shrubs start leafing out. Prune out diseased, damaged, dead, dying and deformed wood--that will get the process started. For a quick how-to and what to prune, check here.  

2. Mulch: Order your mulch and get a jump on the weeds. Questions about mulch?  Check here.  But please, skip the whole candle-in-a-cupcake look for your trees and shrubs, nothing could be worse for them. Two to four inches of mulch is fine in your garden beds, but avoid applying mulch around the crown of your trees. 

3. Fertilize: Fertilize all shrubs and shade trees, using Holly Tone for acid-loving plants, and Plant Tone for the rest. Follow the instructions on bags for best results.

Lettuce is one of the easiest, fastest and most rewarding (not to mention budget-saving) vegetables to grow. Start them now from seed, and try some different mixes.

Lettuce is one of the easiest, fastest and most rewarding (not to mention budget-saving) vegetables to grow. Start them now from seed, and try some different mixes.

4. Planting: For vegetable gardens, plant beets, carrots, Chinese cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, Swiss chard, turnips, potatoes, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. Fruit trees, grape vines, and fruiting bushes can be planted now, as well as some shrubs, conifers, and spring blooming perennials (candy tuft, phlox and hellebores--read about hellebores here).

5. Planning: Sick of the onesies dominating the landscape? Need more organization and flow in the yard? Maybe this season is the time for a redo. Some thoughts on landscaping can be found here.

6. Lawn: If you did not lime the lawn last year, then do so this season. And, while crabgrass may be the last thing on your mind, now is the time to take care of it. Bonide (Phase 1) Crabgrass Preventer with a slow release fertilizer is applied in March. Or, if the lawn needs reseeding, use Bonide Seed Starter with fertilizer. It has enough nitrogen and phosphate for your current lawn, too. If you do need to reseed some areas, concentrate on that, and skip the weed and feed, but go ahead with the lime, with a gap of two weeks between lime and seed.

Hoary bittercress, an annual weed but already in my garden. 

Hoary bittercress, an annual weed but already in my garden. 

7. Weeding: Clean out spring blooming perennial beds, and cut back old leaves on hellebores. Start weeding now, and transplant any trees and shrubs that need it. Make this the year to know your enemy. A great place to get weed identification is Preen Weed ID.

8. Pests: Start scouting for euonymus-scale and juniper-spruce spider mites. Begin treating hybrid rhododendron for borer insects. Check out hemlock shrubs for woolly adelgid early in March, and discuss treatment options with BB Barns staff. Here's a good description of scale.

Finally, remember to pace yourself. The winter felt long, but the garden season continues into October, eight months away. There'll be no shortage of chores, and plenty of time to enjoy the garden. 

Written by Cinthia Milner, OSA, Garden Coach, and blog writer.

BB Barns serves Asheville, all of Western North Carolina, upstate South Carolina and Tennessee.