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March Gardening: What You Need to Do This Month

Cheryl Spencer from Simply Smart Gardening
Inside: March gardening tips.


March can be a hard time to garden because the longer days fool me into thinking that spring has arrived.

Even though my soil is starting to warm up, March is our snowiest month, and gale-force winds can make being outside disappointing at best and irritating at worst.

Even so, March in the garden is a busy time. The time for planning is over. It’s time to work in the garden.

Seedlings need to be looked after indoors, and the second half of the month is usually calmer with less cold weather, which means we can finally start doing fun gardening things outside!

Not sure what you need to do this month?

Here’s a complete list of what to do in the garden in March.

Bonus: As a bonus for joining my weekly newsletter, download a free checklist of march gardening to-dos. You’ll be sure to get the right things done this month!
This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll get a small commission if you make a purchase. I only link to products I use and recommend.

march garden with tulips and flowering tree

March landscaping tips

  • Prepare your garden soil if it’s dry enough to work. Dig in compost and other amendments when your soil can be worked.
    • How do you know when it’s safe to work the soil? When a ball of soil crumbles easily after being squeezed together in your hand, it’s dry enough.
    • To avoid compacting your garden soil, wait until it’s dried out before tilling, planting, or even walking in the garden beds.
  • Follow last fall’s soil test recommendations for fertilizer and pH adjustment. It’s not too late to test your soil if you didn’t do it last year. Test your soilevery 2-3 years; otherwise, you’re just shooting in the dark with fertilizing and amending.

Soil testing tools and kits:

Prices last updated on 2021-05-13 at 08:29

  • Water evergreens growing near your house’s foundation if the soil is dry.
  • Prevent the spread of fire blight and black knot disease.
    • On apple and mountain ash trees, take off branches killed by fire blight to prevent further spread of the disease.
    • Remove black knots from cherries. Make cuts 1 foot below the diseased area. Disinfect your pruners with rubbing alcohol between cuts.
  • Prune dead or damaged branches from trees, shrubs, and roses.
    • Don’t trim types that bleed, such as birch and maple, until after their leaves are fully developed.
  • If you’ve had a mild winter, look for hosta shoots poking up through the soil. Dig up clumps that need to be divided, split them apart, and replant them. Water generously.

Learn how to apply dormant sprays:

  • Remove burlap screens erected to protect plants from wind or road salt spray.
  • Tidy your garden shed. And your seed-starting corner.
  • Remove protective trunk wrap and burlap from trees in the spring after the snow has melted.
  • Check outdoor furniture for signs of rust. Remove any surface rust with steel wool and paint with rust inhibitive paint.
  • Turn the compost pile and water it if you haven’t had snow cover, and it’s drying out.
  • Begin a new compost pile –if you don’t already have a pile going.
  • Patrol for scale insects. Ash, Aspen, Lilac, and dogwood are susceptible.
    • Dormant oil will smother scale insects and their eggs.
    • Apply when temps are above 40 degrees.
    • Coat the branches entirely, but stop before the liquid starts to run off.
  • Fertilize evergreens, only if needed. If they’re established and healthy, their nutrient needs should be minimal.
  • Spray trees and shrubs for webworms and leaf rollers, if present.
  • Clean, sharpen, and oil your pruning tools, hoes, and shovels if you didn’t do this task over the winter.
Bonus: As a bonus for joining my weekly newsletter, download a free printable version of this checklist. You’ll be sure to get the right things done this month!
 

March gardening tips for your flower garden

  • Loosen winter mulches from perennials cautiously. Re-cover plants at night if there’s a danger of frost. Clean up flower beds by removing all weeds and dead foliage.
  • Gradually start to pull back mulch from rose bushes.
  • If your soil is alkaline, apply sulfur to the soil around acid-loving plants such as azaleas, rhododendrons, hollies, and dogwoods. Use a granular formulation at the rate of 1/2 pound per 100 square feet.
  • Track the sunlight and seasons with Journey North.
  • Cut back all ornamental grasses to the ground just as the new growth begins. Tie up ornamental grasses, and use a serrated knife to cut them back to a few inches above ground level.
a garden of ornamental grasses that were trimmed in March
Trim your ornamental grasses before they start greening up.
  • Apply controls for wild garlic. It will take several years of annual applications for complete control.
  • If you’ve had a mild winter, look for hosta shoots poking up through the soil. Dig up clumps that need to be divided, split them apart, and replant them. Water generously.
  • After pussy willow catkins have passed their prime, cut the plants back drastically to encourage long branches and large catkins for next year.
  • Finish pruning non-spring flowering shrubs and ornamental trees before growth starts. (Prune spring bloomers as soon as they finish flowering.)

Related: What flowers and vegetables to plant in March.

My favorite pruning books and tools

Prices last updated on 2021-05-13 at 03:30

  • Protect new plant growth from slugs. The least toxic management options include barriers and traps. Baits are also available for slug control; use with caution around pets. Read and follow all label directions prior to using baits or any other chemical control.
  • WEED! Get a jump on the weeds by patrolling your gardens when the weather is nice. Small, newly emerging weeds are easier to remove, and if you keep on top of them through June, the rest of the season will be much more manageable.
  • On dry days remove winter debris from lawn and garden beds. Check for broken branches (remove immediately) or plants damaged by snow loads or rodents.
  • Shrubs: Thin out old, overgrown, leggy bushes. Remove the oldest, thickest stems at the base.
a man pruning shrubs in March
Now is the time to prune your shrubs. Sharpen your pruners before you start.
  • Consider replacing unwanted bushes.
  • Re-set any plants that have heaved out of the ground.
  • Give your flower bed a spring cleaning. Remove last year’s dead plant material and any debris that’s collected over the winter.
  • Take pictures, noting where the snow melts first in your garden. That’s where you need to plant bulbs this fall!
Bonus: As a bonus for joining my weekly newsletter, download a free checklist of march gardening to-dos. You’ll be sure to get the right things done this month!
 
  • Fertilize woody plants four to six weeks before they begin new growth only if they have shown signs that they could use it. These would include poor leaf color, failure to completely fruit or flower, or stunted growth.
  • Add mulch to your garden beds if it’s getting thin.
  • Divide and transplant summer-blooming perennials and fertilize established ones as soon as new growth appears.
  • Order summer-flowering bulbs such as gladiolus, begonias, and lilies. (These all do well in containers.)
  • Celebrate the spring equinox this month by taking photos of your garden and putting them in your garden journal.

March garden jobs in your vegetable garden

  • Start a garden journal. “It’s the best tool for improving your garden systematically over the years.” (The Spruce)
    • List what you plant in your garden. Include the name of seed companies, plant name, variety, planting date, and harvest date.
a woman writing in her garden journal in March
Keeping a garden journal is one of the best ways to become a successful gardener.
    • During the growing season, keep notes on how well the plant does. If the variety is susceptible to disease, record what you used to treat any problems.
    • All this information will be helpful when you plan your garden in the future.
  • Plan your vegetable garden on a sheet of paper to utilize the space most efficiently.
  • If your garden is large enough, you can rotate the crops in your garden to reduce insect and disease problems. Unfortunately, most home vegetable gardens are too small to truly prevent these problems through crop rotation.
  • Pick a permanent spot for perennial vegetables and herbs in your garden.

Related: February Gardening Tips | What to Plant This February

Lawn care in March

a woman fertilizing her lawn in March
Go light on the lawn fertilizer in March.
  • Now is a good time to apply appropriate sprays for the control of lawn weeds such as chickweed, crabgrass, spurge, and dandelion.
  • If the organic matter in your soil is low and there’s no snow, top-dress your lawn with a thin layer of compost. Fill in low spots and reseed.
  • Near the end of the month, mow lawns low to remove old growth before new growth begins. Set your lawnmower height to the height appropriate for the type of grass you have.
  • Sharpen your lawnmower blade if you didn’t do it at the end of the season.
  • Have your lawn aerated. Annual aeration is one of the best things you can do for your lawn.
  • If you fertilized your lawn last fall, it may be too early to fertilize.
    • Lawns do better when they receive more fertilizer in the fall and less in the spring.
    • Check with your local cooperative extension office for a lawn fertilization schedule in your area.
  • Stock up on lawn fertilizer for the season. Even though the bulk of the fertilizer you feed your lawn should be applied in the fall, this is the time of year to purchase fertilizer.

Related: My favorite lawn care books

Wildlife in your March garden

  • Birds eat many insect pests. Attract them to your garden by providing good nesting habitats.
  • Raise purple martin houses early this month.
  • Place birdhouses (built or purchased this winter) outdoors this month. Birds are looking for nesting sites this month!
  • If you attract birds to your birdhouses, consider joining Project Nestwatch. Your data helps scientists studying backyard birds.
  • Put out nesting material.
  • Keep providing your backyard birds with food and water.
  • Report robin sightings to Journey North.
  • Provide fruit for berry-eating birds. Fruit-loving birds such as robins, waxwings, bluebirds, and mockingbirds rarely eat birdseed.
    • To attract them, soak raisins and currants in water overnight, then place them on a table feeder, or purchase blends with a dried fruit mixture.
    • To attract orioles and tanagers, skewer halved oranges onto a spike near other feeders, or supply nectar feeders.
    • An even better way to attract these birds is to plant a few fruit trees.
Bonus: As a bonus for joining my weekly newsletter, download a free gardening in March checklist. You’ll be sure to get the right things done this month!

Caring for your houseplants in March

  • Spray off small plants with lukewarm shower water, covering the soil with plastic wrap.
    • Remove yellowing and dead leaves, check for insect infestations and treat if necessary.
  • Continue to care for indoor flowering gift plants.
    • Azaleas require even moisture and bright light.
    • Deadhead to keep plants blooming for four to six weeks.
    • Azaleas can go outside to a partly shaded location after your last frost, but must come back in before fall frost.
  • Primrose plants can be discarded after flowering or planted directly in a shaded well-drained garden area.
    • They’ll go dormant during the summer months and require a coarse organic mulch to protect them from the summer heat and winter cold.
  • Propagate houseplants. Softwood cuttings, leaf cuttings, air-layering, cane cuttings, or division may all be done this spring.
houseplant sitting on a table waiting to be repotted
March is the perfect time to spruce up your houseplants
  • Discard indoor-blooming bulbs: tulip, daffodil, hyacinth, or crocus. They won’t bloom again.
  • Fertilize houseplants as they begin new growth.
    • Try low dosages of organic fertilizers or a very dilute, balanced granular fertilizer rather than stronger formulas.
    • Telltale white salt markings on terra cotta containers indicate overuse of fertilizer.
    • Flush the soil of over-fertilized plants with plain water.

My favorite houseplant books

Prices last updated on 2021-05-13 at 03:30

 

Download your free March gardening checklist

You’ll always know what to do in March!

Join my weekly-ish newsletter, and as a bonus, you’ll get the printable checklist! Click here to download and subscribe.

Here’s a sneak peek of your checklist:

 

Your turn: what to do in the garden in March

Did I miss any important March garden chores? Let me know in a comment below!

Hi! I’m Cheryl.

Cheryl Spencer, certified gardener

I believe you can grow your dream garden and still have time to enjoy it.

I’ll show you how easy it can be to have a garden that fits into your lifestyle, wows your neighbors, and makes your family say “more veggies, please!”

Cheryl Spencer, Certified Gardener Hi, I’m Cheryl. I’m a certified gardener, bird lover, and spreadsheet enthusiast. I believe you can grow your dream garden and still have time to enjoy it. I teach online gardening courses and write articles that help you save time and money in your garden. Join my mailing list, and as a bonus, you’ll get a helpful checklist that’ll tell you what to do in your garden right now.

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