Depending on the zone you live in March is the month when the long awaited Spring finally arrives and you can start to venture out into the garden again. At this time of the year in particular you are ruled by the weather and have to pop outside when the elements are favorable. This list of eight garden chores come from an article by Margaret Roach which I found on her A Way to Garden blog.
I’M LIKE THE KID in the backseat on the way to the amusement park, with my one incessant question: “Are we there yet?” Intensifying light and the sounds of early March—yes, those are the first bird songs of the new season I’m hearing—will do that to a person. There is much to do, but not so fast:
Except in frost-free zones, there are really two March chores lists: one labeled, “If frozen…” and the other, “If thawed…” Many tasks are only to be started if and when the snow melts, the ground defrosts, and mud starts to drain off and dry. If and when. Don’t walk or work in soggy soil, or trod on sodden or frozen lawns unnecessarily. Love your soil, and protect it.
THERE HAS been nothing wintry here about 2015-16’s “winter.” Already woodpeckers have started drumming emphatically, and even a few tentative songbirds clearing their throats seem to forecast that it will be spring any minute.
No matter the weather outside, certain seeds need starting indoors (more on that below).
Days are noticeably longer (calculate how long for your location) and will seem more so when we awaken to changed clocks on Sunday, March 13, 2016 in Daylight Savings Time (in effect until November 6).
My best advice this month is to make like a daffodil. Poke your head up and have a look around—but be prepared to abort the mission, perhaps several times, and even get snowed on. Be nimble, ready to act when the forces are willing, but be patient, too, especially up North.
short course: the 8 earliest early spring chores
I START MY CLEANUP near the house, generally, working out from there, so I don’t get overwhelmed and can see encouraging progress up-close, where I spend most of my time. But some tasks cannot wait, wherever they are located:
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Rake debris carefully off beds that hold earliest bloomers first, like where bulbs are trying to push up through sodden leaves and such, or where triilliums and other ephemerals are growing.
Target earliest bloomers like Euphorbia for immediate cutbacks. Nudge them to push anew from the base with a severe end-of-winter haircut. Even later bloomers that grow from dense, cushion-like crowns (as Sedum spectabile ‘Autumn Joy’ does) will be easier to clean up now than once they start to push.
Cut back evergreen or otherwise-persistent perennial foliage. Leaves of European ginger (Asarum europaeum), Helleborus, and Epimedium, for instance, will soon be replaced with a fresh flush. Yes, the plant will do just fine even if you leave it on, but many with early blooms are better viewed minus all the nasty old foliage.
Cut down ornamental grasses. Mice and other garden undesirables are thinking it’s the Maternity Ward in there, I fear, so off with their heads (the grasses’, that is), right by the base, ASAP.
Empty bird boxes. Bluebirds won’t accept a dirty box, and I always hope for at least one family a year. Wear a glove when you do this task; more than one nesting mouse has run up my arm in the process. Ugh. Be a great bluebird landlord, like this.
Muck fallen leaves from water gardens. This annual ritual, accomplished gently and mindfully with endless swoops of a fish net, may dig up more than debris (like salamanders, wood frog eggs, tadpoles). I’ll get the filters and pumps running, too, once sub-freezing nights cease. My regimen of spring water-garden tips.
Order bulk mulch from a local source for delivery—skipping all those plastic bags, and all that fuel used trucking bark chips across the nation. What makes good mulch, and how to use it.
This is an indoor chore, but mission-critical: Prevent stretched, leggy seedlings by reading this. (My “when to start what” seed calculator will tell you the proper dates.