“Springtime is the land awakening. The March winds are the morning yawn.”
– Lewis Grizzard, Kathy Sue Loudermilk, I Love You
March is the usual time for bud break across the Big Country! For gardeners, the bug has bitten and we want to be outside playing in the dirt. Don’t be in too much of a rush to plant those summer-flowering annuals and perennials because it is still winter, and we tend to have late-season freezes.
For those summer bloomers, planting should be done when the nighttime temperature is consistently at or above 60 degrees and the soil temperature is at about 65 degrees Fahrenheit. There is much that can be done this month, and here are some helpful tips to get you in the garden.
- Start seeds for vegetables and summer annuals indoors for transplanting later. Check for watering needs regularly as flats and small pots dry rapidly.
- The best time to plant trees and shrubs is almost at an end. However, you still have time if the plant is still dormant. Container-grown shrubs and trees can be planted anytime during the year but they perform better when planted while dormant. The key is that the plant needs time to establish a healthy root system before the hot temperatures of summer arrive. Make sure trees are well-staked so they can withstand the gusty winds of March. Remove stakes once the roots are established.
- Prune spring-flowering shrubs and trees when they are finished blooming.
- Continue to maintain your mulch layer. Mulch should be replenished and at least three to four inches in depth to be effective. Mulching helps to regulate soil temperatures and reduces water loss due to evaporation.
- Monitor your landscape for early arrival of insects such as aphids. If needed, use least toxic methods such as insecticidal soaps and ornamental horticultural oils.
- Work soil in bedding areas to aerate and reduce compaction. This will encourage healthier root systems and improve water efficiency. Add organic matter now prior to planting.
- When landscape plants begin to leaf out, most plants will benefit with some fertilization. Use natural organic matter such as finished compost or a high nitrogen fertilizer, especially if your soil has not been tested recently.
- Get your soil tested! It is difficult to manage your landscape if you do not know what you are working with. Heavy and repeated use of a broad spectrum fertilizer such as 13-13-13 may cause more harm than good, especially in heavy clay soils. Soil tests should be repeated every three years.