March weather usually gives us a little taste of spring and gardens begin to come alive as we near April. Below are gardening tips for March:
Avoid that urge to fertilize your warm-season lawns. They should be fertilized in the summer when they are actively growing to avoid cold damage from late frosts. Also avoid ‘Weed & Feed’ in the spring as they contain fertilizers. Bermuda, centipede, and zoysia lawns can be seeded from mid-March through June. When dogwoods are in full bloom, apply pre-emergence herbicides to your lawn to control crabgrass. Crabgrass preventer is a pre-emergence herbicide to help stop crabgrass as it emerges. Remember to read and follow all label directions when handling pesticides. Herbicides are not very effective on large weeds that have already started blooming and seeding. Mow these weeds and bag the clippings to reduce next year’s weed population.
Care for trees, shrubs and flowers
Enjoy the many spring flowering plants in the landscape such as Saucer Magnolia, Flowering Cherry, Star Magnolia, Flowering Quince, Spirea, and Forsythia. March is a good time to start fertilizing your trees, shrubs and perennials in the landscape. Apply slow release fertilizer around the drip line of trees and shrubs and broadcast in area with perennials. Divide hostas, daylilies, phlox, peonies, and other perennials that are too large and become too crowded can be dug and split now so flowering this summer is not disturbed. Snip off the spent blooms of spring-flowering bulbs to prevent seedpods from forming. To have bulbs be showy next year, control the urge to cut off yellow leaves but instead allow leaves to mature and die down naturally before removing. This allows the leaves to store up nutrients into the bulb for next year’s flowering. March is the time to cut back overgrown shrubs that need severe pruning. Cut plants back to 1-2’ about ground level. Most deciduous shrubs and broadleaf evergreens respond well to this type of pruning but never cut back conifers this far. An alternative for large, overgrown shrubs is to remove their lower branches and shape them into small multi-stemmed trees. Camellias, privet, and tea olive are particularly lovely pruned this way.
Care for fruits, vegetables and herbs
Set out young broccoli, cabbage, swiss chard, kale and bok choy plants in early March. You can try Chinese cabbage and cauliflower, but these vegetables do better in the fall. Continue sowing radish and greens like lettuce and arugula every few weeks for a steady supply of salad ingredients. Start cucumbers, squash, zucchini, and melons indoors to set out in mid-April. Perennial herbs like oregano, chives, rosemary, thyme and marjoram can be planted anytime of the year. Asparagus beds can be fertilized in early March before spear growth begins. Sow parsley, cilantro, and dill outdoors. Before purchasing and planting fruit plants, find out which varieties are recommended for our area. Fertilize fruit trees, blackberries, blueberries, and muscadines with slow release fertilizer. Fertilize blueberries carefully because they can easily be damaged by too much fertilizer. Apples and peaches require regular spraying for reliable production. Start a spray program as soon as the petals fall from the flowers. Spray every 10 to 14 days with a home fruit tree spray.
Jessica Strickland is an agriculture extension agent specializing in horticulture for the North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Wayne County.
Upcoming Wayne County Extension Gardening Programs
Growing Flowers: Perennials & Annuals Workshop: Wednesday, March 4, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Wayne County Cooperative Extension, 3114B Wayne Memorial Drive, Goldsboro. The Growing Flowers workshop will cover the different types of perennials and annual flowers you can grow in your own garden along with how to care for them. Registration fee is $5. Pre-registration is not required. Arrive a few minutes early to register. Save the date for the 2020 Garden Festival & Plant Sale held by Wayne County Extension Master Gardener Volunteers on Saturday, April 25 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Farm Credit Farmers Market. The Farm Credit Farmers Market reopens for the 2020 season on Thursday, April 23.