The longer days and warmer temperatures of March entice the gardener to venture out into yard and get his or her hands dirty. Long bouts of Kansas City cabin fever are slowly forgotten as the realization that “spring is coming” and we can actually see our landscapes. Now is the time to begin cleaning the planting beds of debris and trash, and to remove weeds that were missed last season along with new winter annual weeds that have cropped up. Large, unwieldy perennials that were left untrimmed to provide structure in the garden can be reduced or even pruned back to their new season height. Check any heavily mulched plants to ensure winter snows and ice haven’t compacted to the point of suffocation; in such cases, loosen mulch to add air but don’t remove yet. Some garden publications recommend pulling mulch away from perennial plants, and then replacing at night as temperatures warrant. We prefer to leave mulch in place until damaging temperatures abate; one exception to this would be if unusually high temperatures prevail (70’s-80’s) and mulched plants begin to grow and bleach out from a lack of sun. In those cases, mulch should be pulled back and then replaced as nighttime temperatures reach freezing.
Garden soils this time of year are somewhat susceptible to damage if care is not taken. If the winter months brought high levels of moisture through snow, rain, and ice, garden soils are likely saturated in March. Gardeners must resist the temptation to work in the soils until sun and wind can dry the areas out to a suitable extent. (Take a handful of soil, compress it lightly, and let it fall through your fingers. If it appears reasonably crumbly, it is fine to work; if it sticks together in a muddy mess, go back to reading garden journals for a while.) There are ways to help Mother Nature jump-start spring—call Greenleaf for help in getting your landscape ready!
March is a great month to plant cold hardy flowers and ornamentals; pansies, kale, and ornamental cabbage can go in now. Begin to identify perennials that should be divided just as new growth begins. Cool season turfgrasses can be mown short the latter half of this month in preparation for aeration and initial chemical applications. Make sure your tools are sharp and ready to go—the excitement of a new gardening season is upon us!