Smart gardening in March can set the tone for a successful spring garden. Use this helpful list of March gardening chores to stay on track this season.
Caring for annuals and perennials
1. Cut back perennials
Cut back to the ground any of your perennials and ornamental grasses that you left up for winter interest. Using your foot, gently press down on any perennials that have been pushed up by the ground freezing and thawing.
2. Check on your spring flowering bulbs.
Remove any plant debris that may be covering them. If any of your bulbs are above ground because they were pulled up by squirrels or soil heaving, use your garden trowel to slip them back into the soil.
3. Clean all of your seed starting pots, trays and cells.
Prepare them for starting warm season annuals and vegetables. Remember to start them 6-8 weeks before your last frost date.
4. Plant pansies and violas.
It may seem early, but this will give your early spring garden some much needed color interest.
Tree and shrub care
5. Prepare your tools
Clean and sharpen all of your pruning tools before you begin tree and shrub care.
6. Plant fall trees, if possible.
If you missed planting any of your fall trees and shrubs, now is the time to plant them before the buds swell if the soil isn't frozen.
7. Prune fruit trees on a dry day before the buds break.
Cut away any sucker growth, water sprouts and any branches that may be dead or diseased. Any branches that rub together, or grow toward the center of the tree should be pruned.
8. Prune roses
Prune roses of dead or diseased canes, and sprayed for black spot.
Fruit, vegetable and herb care
9. Prune raspberry bushes.
Everbearing fruit bushes should not be pruned, but raspberry bushes can be pruned now.
10. Sow root vegetables.
When the soil temperatures are consistently in the 50s, it's time to direct sow cool-season vegetables. Root crops like beets, radishes, carrots, parsnips and turnips can be sown now. Leaf crops like Swiss chard, spinach, mesclun mix, kale, mustard and collard greens can be sown now, too.
Indoor plant care
11. Repot indoor plants.
March is a good time to re-pot houseplants . Start your houseplant fertilizer schedule with low-dose fertilizer.
Take cuttings and propagate any annuals you successfully overwintered indoors.
13. Give summer flowers a head start.
You can also plant summer-blooming bulbs indoors in pots to give them a head start before they get planted in the garden. If necessary, place your cuttings and summer bulbs under lights to ensure they grow strong and healthy.
These March gardening chores may seem like a lot of work to get accomplished in just one month, but setting aside time for the cleaning, pruning, planting and seed starting will ensure you don't start the beginning of the garden season behind schedule.
In particular, make sure you focus on starting your cool-season garden crops so you can enjoy some fresh food from the garden. And treat yourself and your garden to some early spring color by planting pansies and violas. These annuals are very tough and can withstand the cold and rains of the early spring and keep blooming.
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Editor's Note: This post was originally published in March 2015 and was updated in March 2018.