GARDENING THROUGH THE YEAR – MARCH in USDA Zone 5

The warring hosts of Winter and Spring

Are hurtling o’er the plains.

~Christopher Pearse Cranch

When March has April weather, April will have March weather.

Spring is definitely trying to break through winter’s icy grip on us and the urge to garden is surely growing as the days lengthen!

But, the frost has not left the night air so what can we do?

March gardening tasks can include:

  • Start some flower seeds indoors such as asters, calibrachoa, coleus, cleome, dahlias, gazania, hollyhocks, impatiens, nicotiana, petunia, salvia, snapdragons, verbena, and zinnias, and/or vegetable seeds such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, cilantro, collards, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, onions, parsley, shallots, turnips, and thyme.

  • Peas can usually be sown by late March – even if there’s still snow on the ground and many lettuce varieties can actually be sown directly on top of a late snow. Yum!

  • Take care of any dormant tree & shrub pruning that’s needed such as fruit trees and others that are susceptible to disease when pruned in warm weather. Fruit trees bear more and larger fruit when they are well pruned so the light and air can reach all parts of the tree.

  • Apply dormant oil spray to your fruit trees now to help control insects. Spraying should be done when the temperature is above 40 and the wind is calm. Please be considerate of your neighbors!

  • Give your potted plants room to stretch their “toes” if you haven’t already. This can be either a new pot that is about 5% larger than the last one, or a trimming of the roots if you want to keep it small.

  • Be sure to turn your potted plants about ¼ turn each week to keep growth equal on all sides.

  • Most of your potted plants can also benefit from a dose of dilute house plant food about now. They are generally beginning to put out new foliage which increases their need for nitrogen especially.

  • As things warm up and more sun comes in the windows, your houseplants will probably appreciate regular misting to help keep the humidity levels up around them.

  • Watch for early signs of insects around your houseplants. It’s much easier to deal with the little pests when they are few in number!

  • Depending on which USDA hardiness zone you are in, you may want to start eggplant and peppers inside near the end of the month. Personally, I’ll probably wait to start those until the beginning of April, along with my tomato plants, so they don’t get too leggy before I can plant them out.

  • Dormant trees and shrubs can be planted out as soon as they available from the nurseries and mail order trees and shrubs will need to be protected so the roots don’t dry out until you able to put them into the ground.

  • Birds will still benefit greatly from fresh water daily, and continuing to feed them.

  • Late March can be a good time to sow some grass seed, if that’s in your plans for this year, although, if you’re over by Escalante, you might do that a bit earlier in the month.

  • Roses in Panguitch probably still need some winter protection (even though we’d all rather be done with it!) but maybe the warmer areas can get away with removing it this month.

  • If you’re ready to work the soil, make sure it’s dry enough. The best texture for working it is when it feels like crumbly cake.

  • This is a good time to side dress asparagus and rhubarb with a high nitrogen fertilizer, and remove any dead leaves while you’re at it.

  • Now is the time to apply any fertilizers and/or amendments your garden needs. Please don’t just grab a bag of fertilizer from the store and spread it willy-nilly! If you haven’t yet tested your soil, please, please, please do it now. Your soil’s health is basic to the health of the vegetables, trees, and flowers you want to grow. A soil test should at least give you results for Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K) along with the pH or acid/base balance of your soil. Your soil’s pH can effect what plants will grow well – or not at all, and even the color of some flowers.

  • If you put mulch over your garden last fall, you may begin removing it as your plants begin to show growth. But be careful! It’s still winter so the mulch should be removed gradually to give plants time to adjust to the changing temperatures.

  • If you want to get a bit earlier start in the outdoor vegetable garden, setting up your tunnels now and putting clear plastic over both them and the ground after it’s free of snow will help warm the ground and get it ready for planting a wee bit sooner because the tunnel will keep new snow off and both layers of plastic will let UV light through to warm the soil. If you still have snow, and have low pH, a thin layer of ashes can help melt the snow more rapidly and will raise the soil pH slightly. If you already have strongly alkaline soil, best to let the sun melt the snow.

  • March is also an excellent month to take of repairs to fencing, arbors, and trellises that have been damaged, or, for putting in new fence if you need it.

  • If you haven’t yet taken advantage of the 2020 Conservation Tree Program offered through the UDAF Conservation District in Panguitch, they accept orders until March 27, but varieties may be becoming limited. Call 435-676-8189 for more information.

If you’re interested in helping to accurately track precipitation, more volunteers are needed at https://www.cocorahs.org. There is a small investment needed for a NWS approved rain gauge (about $40), and a ruler for measuring snow depth, as a well as a few minutes a day. Our area has very few observers so help is needed!

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