Garden Detective: March chores

March is the time to plant cool-season crops March is the time to plant cool-season crops like cabbage, spinach and lettuce outdoors. Photo Credit: AP

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Jessica Damiano

Jessica Damiano is a master gardener and journalist with more than 20 years experience in radio, television, print ...

After a cold and blizzardy February, what could the usually unpredictable March bring?

I can't speak for the weather, but I do know two things: Whether it comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, vice versa, or any combination thereof, the end of the month surely will bring spring, and between now and then you have at least 31 chores to take care of. Godspeed, fellow gardeners, this is the homestretch!

1. It's time for my seventh annual Spring Garden Watch: Upload photos of your crocuses, pansies and other signs of spring at newsday.com/springblooms

2. Order potatoes for planting next month.

3. Apply a 5-10-5 fertilizer to spring-flowering bulbs as soon as they poke out of the ground to nourish them in advance of the big show.

4. Replant houseplants into pots 1 to 2 inches larger, and fertilize them.

5. Cut back ornamental grasses before new growth begins.

6. If you didn't get around to it in autumn, cut down last year's perennials and remove other leftover plant debris.

7. Test the pH levels in planting beds. Buy a kit or bring a soil sample to a Cornell Cooperative Extension office (516-565-5265cq in Nassau, 631-727-4126 in Suffolk).

8. Plant new trees and shrubs, but don't fertilize yet.

9. Prune fruit trees now.

10. Daylight Saving Time begins; set clocks ahead one hour.

11. If you need to relocate shrubs, do it now, while they're still dormant.

12. Cut your butterfly bush to 6 inches from the ground. Don't worry -- it will grow back quickly and be better for it.

13. Start seeds of annuals indoors.

14. Plant cool-season crops like spinach and lettuce outdoors now.

15. Start broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower indoors.

16. Start caladium tubers (knobs up) and tuberous begonias (hollow side up) 2 inches deep in a 50/50 peat-perlite mix indoors.

17. Happy St. Patrick's Day! Sow pea, lettuce and radish seeds directly into the garden.

18. Even if the grass is growing, remember: no fertilizer until at least April 1. It's illegal.

19. Thin brambles (raspberries, blackberries) and prune blueberry bushes to just 6-9 branches per plant.

20. Spring begins today at 7:02 a.m. local time. Plant some pansies!

21. Cut smooth hydrangeas to the ground, thin last year's growth on peegees and remove dead wood at the base of oak-leaf hydrangeas. Don't touch macrophyllas.

22. As long as the soil isn't too moist, incorporate lime and compost into the vegetable bed, then cover with plastic sheeting to warm the soil.

23. Prune away only broken branches from lilacs, rhododendrons and azaleas; leave the others to keep buds.

24. Resist temptation to pretty-up the place: Hold off on applying mulch until the soil is completely warm.

25. Passover begins. Before the sun goes down, start parsley seeds indoors and plant horseradish root cuttings directly in the garden.

26. Cover bare spots in the lawn with seed. Repeat once a week and keep them continually moist but not soggy.

27. Start seeds of peppers, tomatoes and eggplants indoors.

28. Divide and plant perennials.

29. Plant mail-order bare-root plants immediately upon receiving them.

30. Fertilize garlic as soon as sprouts appear.

31. Happy Easter! Remove yellow anthers from bouquet lilies and they'll bloom longer. If you got some in a pot, plant outdoors when they stop blooming.

You also may be interested in: