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Garden Clippings 2016 Vol. 36:1

Mar 4, 2016
In This Issue: 

Home lawn and garden tips for the month of March, 2016 include practical and timely advice. Read this monthly resource to know when to prune specific shrubs and trees. Learn when you can force branches, fertilize lawns, and tune up your equipment for the season.

March is the Month to...

  • March 20th is the first day of spring! Mark the day by working outdoors, taking a walk, visiting a garden center, arboretum, botanical garden, retail greenhouse, etc. Buy a garden ornament, bird feeder, seeds, pansies or a plant for yourself or a friend and say “so long, good riddance” to winter!
  • Cut branches, and place them in vases of water, for forcing flowers indoors: Forsythia, flowering cherry, Japanese flowering quince, and pussy willow
  • Get ready for Spring! Plan to visit the Boston Flower & Garden Show at the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston on Wednesday, March 16 through Sunday, March 20, 2016. The theme is “Nurtured by Nature”.
  • Indoors this month, start seeds of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, parsley, onions and leeks to plant in the garden in April.
  • Outdoors, when soil is workable towards the end of the month, sow seeds of peas, spinach, radishes, and Swiss chard.
  • March is too early to fertilize lawns and too early to apply grub control products.
  • Growing vegetables can be a great experience and one that is rewarding. Make sure that the vegetable garden receives at least 8 hours of direct sunlight. Vegetables usually need the addition of a complete garden fertilizer: nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) for optimal growth. Providing one inch of water to the garden soil once a week, more, if needed in dry weather, will help vegetables grow and help to avoid problems like bitter cucumbers and blossom-end rot on tomatoes. Soil pH should be between 6.0 and 6.8 and soils with a lower soil pH than that will need to be limed. UMass provides soil testing for a minimal fee and now is a good time to have soil tested: Soil and Plant Nutrient Testing Laboratory
  • If winter moth caterpillars were a problem in your locale last year, then be on the lookout for them again this spring; they usually begin to hatch in early – mid April. Winter moth caterpillars can cause significant damage to many species but especially: oak, maple, ash, birch, crabapple, apple and blueberry. If you grow apples and/or blueberries, you may want to consider protecting the flower buds just as they are swelling and about to open, by applying a well-timed dormant oil spray that contains an added insecticide, such as a spinosad product, which can be useful if applied within a day or so of egg-hatch. Always check to be certain that any two pesticides are compatible for mixing by reading the label. When applying oil sprays, avoid windy weather and it is prudent to have temperatures above 45º F. and to avoid applying oil when temperatures may dip below freezing for 24-48 hours after application.
  • Plan now to plant a tree for Arbor Day: Friday, April 29, 2016. Arbor Day in Massachusetts is always the last Friday in April. Select a sustainable tree that will thrive in the site to be planted. Choosing the “right plant, for the right location” is a good adage when it comes to planting. Also consider donating a tree to a family member, a friend, a school, and library or community organization. Check out the fact sheet Right Plant, Right Place, A Plant Selection Guide for Managed Landscapes.
  • Fruit trees (apple, peach, plum, pear, etc) and other fruit-bearing plants (grapes, raspberries, blueberries, etc.) need to be pruned on an annual basis and March is a good month to finish that pruning.
  • Do not prune spring flowering shrubs like Forsythia, Lilac, Rhododendron, and Azaleas, etc. until immediately after they bloom, or the buds for this year will be cut off and there will be few, if any flowers.
  • March is a good time, however, to prune overgrown deciduous or evergreen shrubs grown for their foliage, not their flowers, such as yew, privet, Microbiota, Japanese holly, Ilex glabra, etc.
  • Deer ticks may be active any time the temperature is above freezing, which includes days in March. Remember to take precautions during spring cleanups, hikes, etc. Consider applying a repellent, like DEET, and, after working outdoors, check for ticks, shower and wash and dry clothes. For more information about deer ticks, the diseases they carry and how you can submit a tick for testing
  • Tune-up lawnmowers, rototillers etc. and get ready for the gardening season. Doing maintenance now such as replacing the spark plug, cleaning the air filter, changing the oil, sharpening the blades, etc., will pay off and you will be all set to go.

Author: Deborah C. Swanson, Horticulturist