MIDDLETOWN, NJ - The other day, as I ate my lunch, I happened to be watching one of the shopping channels, when they began their Spring Gardening Sale. “Wow,” I thought, “Isn’t it a bit early for this?”
You know, March is a guessing game in the garden. Will it warm up soon? Will it stay warm? Will the rains start or stop any time soon? About the only thing we can count on is that March too shall pass. But we still must be ready because if Mother Nature does smile upon us, we will put our “sloggers” on and venture into the garden to begin the various chores that should be done in March. By the way, I purchased a pair of “sloggers” that day. They are waterproof shoes that can be hosed off after a day’s work in the garden—perfect!
If you can get out there, there is plenty to do!
- Get your tools ready: Clean and sharpen hand tools and shovels. Tune up your mowers and tillers. Make room in the garage or shed for your winter equipment.
- Prune your fruit trees: Before the buds swell, prune for shape and direction of growth, good air circulation and removal of old, dead or diseased wood. Use sharp clippers that are disinfected and dispose of diseased wood.
- Do a general clean-up: Remove dead flower stalks and annual plants. Cut back perennials. Divide them if they are getting too big or aren’t that productive any more. Rake and weed. Get a soil pH test from Rutgers to see if you must amend your soil.
- Start cool weather veggies—outside: Plant broccoli, peas, kale, lettuces, radishes, carrots, chard and spinach seed directly into the garden. Perennial herbs such as chives, tarragon, sage and oregano can also go in the ground now.
- If you need to relocate shrubs, do it now, while they are still dormant.
- For the best blooms this year, apply a 5-10-5 fertilizer to spring-flowering bulbs as soon as they poke out of the ground.
- Start seeds of annuals indoors.
- Gardeners like things tidy but don’t apply mulch until the soil warms in May.
- Dig up perennial weeds before they get established.
They say that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. Dodge the elements with planning and preparing, along with a little planting. By the end of the month, it will feel more like the gardening season is here.