March: Garden Chores

Despite February's spring fever inducing weather this year, March is staying true to nature and roaring in like a lion. Crazy weather not withstanding, spring will show up on March 20th, a mere 16 days away, and there is much to do in the garden. Where to begin? Anywhere really, but remember the phrase, 'when the soil can be worked,' and be cautious about mucking around on frozen soil.

But! Before we start to tackle March, let's stop for a minute and consider August. Side note and fun note: Speaking of Gardening early bird tickets are on sale now. Go to to register. Scroll down page and see our 20th anniversary announcement and follow the links. 

Held August 10-11, this 2 day event is packed with world renowned speakers and authors. Enjoyed by everyone from the hobbyists to the professional. Sign up today!

Okay, that's the "something to look forward too," now back to the garden chores. Blustery winds and chilly days may be in the forecast, but garden chores are on the to-do list. This is a busy month. Let's get cracking.

1. Pruning 

Prune now before dormant trees and shrubs start leafing out (though many already have). Prune out diseased, damaged, dead, dying and deformed wood--that will get the process started. DO NOT prune your spring flowering shrubs (weigela, azaleas, rhododendrons, etc. ) ALSO, skip the hydrangeas. Both spring flowering shrubs and some types of hydrangeas bloom on old wood. If you prune them now, you prune off this season's blooms. If you're unsure of what plants bloom on old wood here's a great list from Proven Winners. Bookmark it. For a how-to on pruning check here.  

This is a NO. You should always see the root flair of a tree. 1-2" of mulch is good, starting at the dripline of the tree and moving toward the trunk, but not touching the trunk. 

2. Mulch

Spread 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. That creates a great hangout for voles and moles, diseases and pests, and a greater possibility of root girdling. For an explanation on root girdling, read here.

And this year, why not think about green mulch or groundcovers? By early April, we'll have in most of our perennials and groundcovers for you to choose from. 

3. Fertilize

Fertilize all shrubs and trees, using Holly Tone for acid-loving plants, and Plant Tone for the rest. Follow the instructions on the bag for best results. Remember though, while fertilizer is a good thing, it doesn't solve every problem. If your plants are performing poorly, your soil may have problems with aeration, moisture, disease, voles, ph level, and more. Fertilization is only helpful after you're corrected the problem. Examine those "something's not right" plants and determine what's wrong. The staff at the store will gladly help you figure it out, and don't forget your local Extension Service.

In case we've all forgotten what a root flair looks like.  This is it.

4. Planting

For vegetable gardens: plant beets, carrots, Chinese cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, Swiss chard, turnips, potatoes, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower.

If you don't have the space for a vegetable garden, try container vegetables and keep them close to your house for easy picking.

Fruit trees, grape vines, and fruiting bushes can be planted now (and we just got a huge variety of everything in), 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.

Side note for your planning purposes: Nurseries tend keep in stock what's currently blooming or soon to be blooming. Hellebores are blooming now, so we have a great selection now. We won't have the same selection (or possibly any) in June. Just an FYI for you as you plan. Our newsletter is a good way to keep up with what's in stock and what's on sale. Sign up for it here (scroll to bottom of page.) On our website, here's where you'll find our plant availability, and here's where you'll find our seasonal specials.  

6. Lawn

If you didn't 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. Confused? Have loads of lawn questions? Ian Farthing, our lawn expert, would love to help you. 

Swiss chard adds a great color pop to your containers and is an easy way to add edibles without taking up space.

7. Weeding and Transplanting

Clean out spring blooming perennial beds, first, cutting back the old leaves on hellebores. Then move on to your summer blooming beds. Start weeding now, and transplant any trees and shrubs that need it.

Rule of thumb for your perennials: Transplant late summer and fall blooming perennials in spring. Transplant spring and early summer blooming perennials in fall. 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.

 Okay, that should totally keep you busy until April.  

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

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