Archive | March 2015


Tree planting – Continues to head the list of important gardening jobs for January.
A wide planting hole insures successful planting with trees. No amendment is necessary, just stake trees for four months. Small trees work well in foundation plantings. (Ground bark mulch is used to amend clay soils when planting container grown trees.)

Winter Watering – Keep in mind that plants, especially newly set plants, need water during winter months. A cold, dry wind is very damaging to plants as it removes moisture from the soil and the plant tissues. The only way to know when a plant needs water is by the actual condition of the soil in which it is growing. When in doubt, scrape off a few inches of the topsoil and water it if it is dry. Mulches, drip irrigation, and soaker hoses help ease the task of watering.

Check bulbs in storage – Often dahlia tubers and gladiolus corns are attacked by rot in storage; throw out any with rot.

Mulch strawberry beds – For winter protection, use wheat straw or pine needles. Pull the mulch back and blooms appear and fertilize.

Tree wound paints are virtually useless in sealing pruning cuts. The effects are mostly cosmetic. If you feel better painting a cut, by all means do it. When pruning large limbs at the trunk make the cut outside of the bark collar (a ring at the point of branch attachment). All trees can be pruned in the dormant season.

Spray roses with lime-sulfur this month to control insects and disease.

Fertilize spring flower bulbs when 1″ of growth is seen above ground.

Set garden plans down on paper. As you stroll the yard, note what needs to be trimmed or moved.

Give old gardening catalogs to church daycare or kindergarten classes. They are of great use for Easter and Spring artworks.

Population of overwintering insects can be reduced by turning soil and exposing the slumbering plant eaters to he freezing nights.

Test old seed by placing 10 seeds on a moist paper towel. Roll up the towel, put in a ziplock bag, and keep warm. Check in a week and see what percent has germinated.

Wood ash left over from cozy fires can be used as a soil amendment on the lawn and garden. This ash can be sprinkled on bulb beds, garden plots, and lawn. *Use only on non-acid loving plants.

Send soil sample to NCDA to avoid spring rush.

Keep compost pile turned and watered.

Contact your extension agent to see what winter gardening programs are scheduled.

Please feed and water the birds during cold weather. Birds are the gardener’s friend.

Use up that old Christmas tree and mantle greenery. Prop tree in a corner and decorate with popcorn and cranberry garlands, leftover fruits, holiday fruitcake, or bread. The animals will love the sheltered dining atmosphere. Cut boughs and needles can insulate perennial and bulb beds against severe cold. Put the tree stump in the firewood pile.

On a warm day, prepare a spot in the vegetable garden for early vegetables. Soil may be too wet to work come planting time.

Houseplants – the four major causes of houseplant deaths during the winter months are over-fertilizing, over-watering, under-watering, and improper light. DO NOT fertilize houseplants in the wintertime; let your plants go into a dormant period, a period of reduced growth, so that they will be ready for vigorous growth in the spring months. For supplemental lighting – use a “shop light” fitted with one cool white and one warm white bulb.

The following houseplants adapt well to warm indoor conditions: Jade Plant, Australian Umbrella Tree, Pothos, Wax Plant, Crown of Thorns, and Kalanchoe.


Overgrown plantings that tend to become bare at the base cannot be helped by “tip” or “top” pruning. These must be cut back near the ground to produce new growth down low. Old established plants of Burford Holly, Cleyera, Japanese holly, Ligustrum, and similar broad-leaved evergreens can be cut back 15-24 inches from the ground in the dormant season. February and early March are good times for severe pruning. Conifers (as Arborvitae, Pfitzer Juniper, etc.) cannot be as heavily pruned as can broad-leaved evergreens. Shear conifers. Winter pruning jobs include trimming of tree branches where necessary, pruning out diseased and dead wood from shrubs and climbing roses, and the annual pruning of old flowered wood from deciduous flowering shrubs – those that bloom after midsummer. Don’t prune early-flowering shrubs until after they have bloomed.

Order flowers for your sweetheart for Valentine’s Day!

Gather branches for forcing in the house from pussy willow, forsythia, flowering quince, and Sweet-Breath-of-Spring.

Biennials such as pansy, and hollyhock, canterbury bell, forget-me-not, wallflower, English daisy, and foxglove, may be planted for spring bloom provided yu buy well-established plants.

Cut a few tall stalks of nandina and mahonia to the ground to induce compactness.

Prune boxwood in early February before new growth begins.

Start a record on sowing and planting dates. This will help you avoid mistakes and to remember what you did when a crop does well.

Save plastic milk jugs to use as covers for baby plants; cut off the bottoms and use the bottom cut in strips as garden labels. Label with a permanent marker.

Coat your snow shovel with a non-stock cooking spray; the snow slides right off.

Check your corms, tubers, and roots stored last fall and discard those that are decaying. If decay is severe, move plant parts to a drier place. If roots and tubers show signs of shriveling, they are too dry, so slightly moisten the material in which they are stored. Bulbs of lilies and caladiums can be potted for an early start in the garden.

Study seed catalogs early this year and place orders before the spring rush. Check local catalogs for regional plants.

Mow Lirope (Monkeygrass) to remove windburned foliage.

Control wild garlic with 2,4-D amine spray (add surfacant).

Prune fruit trees. Strive to keep the height own and the tree open for good light peneration. Peach diseases are lessened when trees are pruned in late February.

Apply a dormant oil spray to fruit trees and ornamentals for control of overwintering insects and eggs. Do not apply to broad-leaf evergreens when freezing temperatures are expected.

Grape vines are subject to winter injury if pruned too early. Prune after most of the severe cold has passed, but before they leaf out. (Make a grape vine wreath with the trimmings!)

Prune bush roses. Thin to 3-5 good strong canes and shorten canes to 15 inches. (Prune climbers after they flower in early summer.)

Early in the month start plants from seeds by sowing indoors, under light. (14-16 hours of artificial light).

Service power equipment: change oil, replace filters, belts, spark plugs, and sharpen or replace mower blades.

Calcium chloride or fertilizer can serve as deicing salt on walks or patios.

Use the cold weather to replenish mulch in foundation plantings and rose beds.

Prune back Pampas Grass to within 10 inches of the ground now that the leaves are dormant. Late pruning could injure new emerging leaves. Ornamental grasses can be divided now.


LILACS grow best in full sun, in well-drained soil, with one cup of 8-8-8 and 3 cups of agricultural lime placed underneath the foliage mass every 3 years. The Persian and Korean lilacs are often preferred over the common lilac.

PRUNE SPRING FLOWING SHRUBS. Just as flowers begin to fade is the best time to prune spring-flowing shrubs, such as the spireas, flowering quince, azaleas, viburnums, and forsythia.

MARTIN BIRD & BLUEBIRD HOUSES can go up by mid-March.

CARE OF SHADE TREES – (1) Never disturb the root system, any digging or hoeing which damages roots can slow tree growth; (2) keep grass away from the tree trunk for the first few years to reduce the competition for nutrients and water. The mulched area should extend to the tree’s drip line. Avoid deep mulches around the base of the tree.

DIVIDE ESTABLISHED PERENNIALS that are overgrown. This is an easy way to enlarge your garden without having to purchase more plants. Two spading forks can be used to separate clumps of overgrown perennials.

APPLY PRE-EMERGENT HERBICIDES to shrub beds by mid-March. Popular materials for weed control are Surflan, Dacthal, Devrinol, and Ronstar. Use these chemicals before mulching the beds.

REPOT HOUSEPLANTS – To keep potted plants healthy they should be repotted each spring, scrub and old pot with soap and water or a 10% Clorox solution before reusing and repot in good garden soil and peat moss or better yet, use commercial potting soil. Do not fertilize the first month.

FOR A LOW MAINTENANCE LANDSCAPE, plant areas of dense shade with ground covers (examples are Pachysandra, periwinkle, ajuga, or ivy, and sweet wooddrift) instead of grass. Ground covers are also especially useful in an area susceptible to erosion.

PRE-EMERGENT WEED CONTROL FOR TURF. Crabgrass preventers should be applied while the forsythia is in bloom.

VOLES OR (PINE MICE) can ruin prize ornamentals by chewing away the bark on trunks and roots. Populations build up during the winter months. To control voles use snap traps baited with a piece of apple. Hardware cloth wire mesh can be wrapped around the lower trunks of specimen plants. Rozol bait is approved for chemical control.

PLANT COOL SEASON VEGETABLES (beets, carrots, Swiss chard, lettuce, onion sets, radishes, and spinach.)

MULCH STRAWBERRY BEDS at bloom time to keep berries clean.

CUT back old strands of ivy to 3 inch heights.

FERTILIZE AND LIME VEGETABLE garden before planting.

PLANT A TREE for Arbor Day.

TUNE UP garden equipment.

TUNE UP YOURSELF. A regimen of exercise before the garden season will prevent back injuries.

TURN A 5-GALLON BUCKET into a tool holder/garden basket by tying a carpenter’s tool pouch to the outside.

USE FROZEN JUICE CONCENTRATE containers, paper towel inner rolls cut into 3 inch rings to protect seedlings from cutworms.

PRUNE OFF faded flowers of daffodil but leave the foliage undisturbed.

FERTILIZE BOXWOODS once each year with a mix of cottonseed meal and 10-10-10 fertilizer – use 1/4 cup per plant.

USE POLYESTER plant covers or bed sheets for frost protection in the garden.

FERTILIZING TREES AND SHRUBS – Now’s an excellent time to apply fertilizer before the new growth begins. Use a special nursery fertilizer, 10-10-10, or a law fertilizer with the nitrogen less than 18%.

TREES: Deep-feeding gives best results in compacted soils. Surface feeding often is consumed by grass and tends to bring tree roots to the surface to be damaged by heat. So, fertilize trees by making a series of 1 1/2 inch diameter holes, 6-8 inches deep. Begin holes about 4-6 feet from the trunk, and extend them just beyond the spread of the branches. Holes should be slanted at a 45 degree angle, not straight down. Use 1 to 1 1/2 pounds complete fertilizer (10-10-10) per year of age of tree.

SHRUBS: Most shrubs respond well to a feeding of high nitrogen (slow release) fertilizer such as 16-4-8 or a special nursery blend. Do not permit fertilizer to touch stems of plan. Apply 2 teaspoons per foot of plant height or spread. Evergreen shrubs need fertilizing only once a year.


PERENNIAL PLANTS should be set out this month so they may become established before hot weather sets in. Prepare beds using leaf compost or pine bark. Incorporate superphosphate before planting. Get surplus plants that your friends and neighbors have divided and taken out of their garden and set out now.

SUMMER BULBS can be planted in late April. This covers dahlias, gladiolus, tuberoses, fancy-leafed caladiums, elephant ears, amaryllis and cannas. Start digging and storing early flowering bulbs such as ranunculus and anemones as their foliage begins to yellow.

BROWN ROT OF PEACHES AND FIREBLIGHT OF APPLES AND PEARS are common diseases this time of year. Sprays should be applied during bloom.

SPOT ANTHRACNOSE OF DOGWOODS begins to show up now. A pro and post-bloom fungicide spraying is recommended. Keep the tree watered and fertilized well.

SPRAY ROSES every 7-10 days until frost, beginning with the onset of new growth.

AZALEAS & CAMELLIAS do best with 2 light fertilizer applications using organics or a special azalea product following spring bloom. Regular pruning, mulching and irrigation are a must to keep these plants flowering well.

SLUG HOTEL – Control slugs and snails using carbaryl and metaldehyde baits placed in empty plastic food containers. Keep the lid on and cut out 3/4 inch holes in the sides.

TRANSPLANT AZALEAS so you can match and group by color. They like some shade.

SPRAY – Red-tip photinia with Daconil or Bayleton fungicide for leaf spot problem; wooden homes and wooden lawn furniture for carpenter bees; iris beds for iris borers; azaleas for lacebugs.

KEEP WRITING in your garden diary.

AS YOU SET OUT YOUNG VEGETABLE PLANTS – cover them with the top half of milk jugs. This protects them from sun and wind burn.

MAKE A TEPEE TRELLIS from a sing stout wooden pole set firmly in the ground. Attach support strings three-quarters of the way around to form tepee framework. Plant edible-podded peas near string ends. Children love it.

MOW FESCUE LAWNS at 2 1/2 to 3” Summer grass lawns (Zoysia/bermuda) at 1/2 – 1 1/2″. Fertilize Zoysiagrass at this time.

STAKE growing peonies. Don’t worry about the ants.

WATCH OUT for late frost.

COMPOST BINS can be constructed. Equal parts by weight of grass clippings and leaves make a fine compost.