Monday, March 23, 2015

Gardening Tasks for March

It's coming...Spring is almost here and things will start a-poppin' before we know it. But did you see the forecast?  There are these awful little snowflake emogies showing up for the next three days, God help me please!!  I am SO sick of snow and winter and bulky clothes and extra laundry and bare trees and dead grass...

My theme seems to be my on-going struggle with the doldrums of winter. Chomping at the bit to get outside but the soil is still squishy and mostly frozen. A warm day for every four days at this point. Definitely not enough to break out the shovels and go to work in the garden unless you're far more hardy and cold-tolerant than the average Joe.

With all that said, what can we logically do right now to benefit the landscape?

Prune the ornamental grasses.  Chop grass down to about 6-8 inches from the soil level.  It's truly difficult to prune any type of perennial ornamental grass if you wait until after new shoots appear. Tie a length of twine tightly around the stalks (at various levels if the grass is very tall) and chop away with pruning loppers or hedge clippers. I'm partial to the hedge clippers because pruning goes so much faster. The twine binding the stalks also helps with cleanup.

It's also a great time to cut back the liriope and lower growth ornamental grasses.  Clear out the leaves and dead fall all around the plant base to allow air flow, moisture and sunshine to penetrate the interior areas of the plant.

One more thing. Ornamental grasses that tip over at full growth and bloom are begging for a transplant.  After pruning, you can examine the area around the base of each plant.  Is it lifted up? Are other plants encroaching on it's territory?  Late winter/very early spring is often the best time to divide and transplant.  Visit this extension site for more information on the care and keeping of ornamental grasses: Clemson University Cooperative Extension

Weed Control.  You betcha you can do that in March. I read something the other day about Europe labeling glyphosate as a cancer causing agent. It's in every weed killer that we dump onto our lawns and gardens. So lets be proactive this year and try to steer clear from a potentially harmful product while the EPA, Monsanto and IARC duke it out.

Remember that boiling water will fry a weed to a crisp. However, by far the most optimal way to control weeds is to pull the little suckers while they are small. Dig around the weed with a trowel and remove as much of the root as you can. Over the course of the spring months, police the weeds weekly.  Don't let anything come to flower or seed - pull them fast!

I'm thinking of getting a flamethrower...details in a future post, I promise!

Lawn Care Weed Control.  Many folks are now using corn gluten meal to treat pre-emergent weeds in the lawn.  Well, the verdict isn't in on corn gluten meal yet and the high demand for "organic" herbicides is causing the price to skyrocket.

You will get more bang for your buck if you find a reputable organic/natural lawn care company and have them treat your lawn. Remember you don't have to accept every service that they offer. You can aerate your own lawn by renting an aerator from Home Depot (share the cost with your neighbors and rent it for a whole day). 

And you should not be fertilizing in the spring. Save that for the fall--don't waste your money right now.

Examine gardens for heaving.  Heaving involves the base of a plant being pushed upward as the soil freezes in winter.  Check for this throughout your landscape.  Gently press around the base of the plant with your foot.  

Bulbs Begin Flowering.  My daffodils are about 3 inches high now and some are starting to bud. As spring progresses, clip the flowers to enjoy indoors if you prefer but leave the foliage intact until it turns entirely brown and dry. Bulbs gather nutrients from foliage so it's imperative to let the foliage die on its own so future blooms aren't jeopardized.

Need more ideas for things to do? Click on this link for more ideas for March Gardening in Maryland!

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