Early Spring Gardening Chores
March is a wonderful time to be in the garden!
The days are beginning to get warmer and after a long winter, it just feels good to be outside working in the soil again. Here are some tips for getting your beds in tip-top shape for the coming growing season.
Clean your perennial beds:
- Get out and rake leaves and debris from your garden beds. It is much easier to do this now before your spring bulbs come up and flower or the new growth begins on your perennials.
- Remove last year's dead foliage from your hosta, daylilies, iris, and peonies. Clear this from the garden - do not compost it as it probably harbors insects and disease. Many compost piles do not get hot enough to kill these pests and diseases. Watch Mark's video tip.
- Cut back certain evergreen perennials like Liriope and Epimedium early this month before new growth begins. Once these begin to grow in the spring, it's difficult and time consuming to trim the old foliage. Watch Mark's video tip.
- Cut back ornamental grasses and other perennials you left standing in the garden through the winter. Watch Mark's video tip.
- Don't forget to clean out your birdhouses early before the birds begin nesting again.
Early spring rejuvenation pruning:
- Instead of tearing out and replacing overgrown hollies and boxwood, you can try cutting them back hard now while they are still dormant. Prune them heavily until just bare branches remain. You can even cut them back to one to two feet above the ground. This type of severe pruning is not always 100% successful but a very high percentage do regrow beautifully! Check Mark's boxwood pruning videos.
- After severe pruning, fertilize your shrubs with Holly-tone, triple phosphate, and green sand according to the Viette's recommendations.
Early spring thinning of trees and shrubs
- If they need thinning, it's OK to thin out some branches of summer flowering trees now, but do not remove more than 20% of the branches. Remove crossing branches and all dead and damaged wood.
- If needed, early this month while they are still dormant you can also thin out some branches of forsythia, quince, and other spring flowering shrubs but not more than 10% - 20%. DO NOT shear them (give them a haircut) or you will loose the spring bloom. Any major pruning or shearing should be done right after they bloom. Watch Mark's video tip.
- Wait until April to cut back Buddleia (butterfly shrubs) and Caryopteris.
Get a jump on pests and disease
- When nighttime temperatures are forecast to remain above 40 degrees F. for 2-3 days, spray your fruit trees, roses, and other ornamental trees and shrubs with Bonide All Seasons Oil to smother overwintering insects, eggs, and immature insect stages. Watch Mark's video tip.
- If your peonies were affected by botrytis last year, spray the emerging shoots with a fungicide like Mancozeb, liquid copper or Daconil. Always read and follow the label directions!