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 disease.
- Trim back the the winter ravaged foliage of your evergreen perennials such as Helleborus, Epimedium, and Liriope. The fresh foliage of the new season will soon be poking up and it is much easier to give them a haircut before the new growth begins. This is especially true for Liriope. Once these begin to grow in the spring, it's difficult and time consuming to trim the old foliage.
- In mid-March, trim the winter damaged foliage of boxwood branches(browned or whitened foliage) back to live growth. Remember, if you want to do any major pruning of your boxwood, now is the time to do it while they are still dormant. See below.
- Cut back ornamental grasses and other perennials you left standing in the garden through the winter.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- If your peonies were affected by botrytis last year, spray the emerging shoots with a fungicide like Bonide Mancozeb with Zinc, Bonide Copper Fungicide or Daconil. Always read and follow the label directions!
Spray For Tent Caterpillars:
Tent caterpillars will be hatching and spinning their ugly webs soon. If you haven't done so already, spray your trees now with Bonide All Seasons Oil to smother the caterpillar eggs before they hatch. After they hatch, the young caterpillars can be controlled safely (without harming beneficial insects) by spraying Bonide BT Thuricide. If you miss the younger ones, larger caterpillars can be controlled with Sevin or Bonide Eight according to label directions.
NEVER spray any insecticide when trees are in bloom!
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