Are you feeling a sense of panic, like you just lost the last 30 days of gardening and are now so far behind that you will never catch up? Not to worry.
Mother Nature also is behind schedule, so we have the entire month of March to get back on track. The days are getting longer, daylight saving time is here, and everything will be fine. Here are some things to work on:
Pruning: I could write this whole column on just pruning, but I won’t. Focus on removing tattered foliage on evergreen perennials such as ferns, Epimedium, hellebores and Euphorbia. Broadleaf evergreen shrubs may show signs of winter damage, but I would wait until later in the month or even into April after new growth starts to see how far back you may need to cut. Any broken limbs caused by the snow can certainly be removed now. Make a clean cut and let it heal over naturally. There is no need for pruning sealers.
Deciduous shrubs that bloom in the summer, like butterfly bush, spiraea, potentilla and hypericum, can be hacked back hard now. This also goes for red twig dogwoods that are grown for their winter interest. Hard pruning stimulates lots of new growth, which is good for these summer bloomers.
Early spring bloomers, like forsythia and quince, should be pruned after they finish blooming, so hold off for now on them.
Roses will require some serious attention this month, if you want spectacular blooms this summer. Prune them down to knee high (except climbers, of course), clean around them, apply a generous application of organic fertilizer (2 cups per bush isn’t too much), and cover the soil with a fresh layer of compost.
Be careful with hydrangeas. PG-type hydrangeas can be cut back hard since they bloom on new wood. Mop head and lace leaf varieties should be cut just below last year’s blooms; same for oakleaf and climbing varieties. It gets complicated, so don’t hesitate to ask a horticultural professional for advice.
Fruit trees should be pruned now, even if they are starting to push flower buds. If you act fast, there is still time to apply a dormant spray of copper and oil — but always avoid any insecticides (natural or synthetic) when trees are in full bloom.
Weeding: In addition to pruning, weeding is just as important. Remember the old adage, “A stitch in time saves nine.” Pull out every last clump of shot weed you can find before it goes to seed, and the same goes for chickweed and henbit. These weeds germinated last fall. If you had applied a mulch, you wouldn’t be dealing with them now — remember that this coming September. Once you you’ve got the beds cleaned up, get some mulch on the surface before more seeds germinate.
Planting: While pruning and weeding are clearly the primary tasks to be completed this month, I like to throw in planting simply because we should always be planting new treasures in our gardens. We are blessed with a mild climate (well, except maybe for the last month) where we can literally plant year-round. Don’t worry about a few mild frosts; they won’t hurt shrubs and trees or hardy perennials. Garden centers are loading up with early-blooming plants like Arabis, candy tuft and Aubrietia. They will be gone by April, so for a garden that will delight you 12 months per year, shop early, late and often — you will be richly rewarded for your efforts.
Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Get the lawn of your dreams
Attend a free class on growing the lawn of your dreams at 10 a.m. March 16th or 11 a.m. March 17 at Sunnyside Nursery, 3915 Sunnyside Blvd., Marysville. For more information or to sign up, visit www.sunnysidenursery.net.