Jessica Damiano is a master gardener and journalist with more than 25 years experience in radio, television, print
Spring rolls in later this month, and with it, crocuses and pansies — and the great cleanup. While you wait for signs of life, here’s a chore to keep you busy every day of the month.
1. Test your soil’s pH levels, or have Cornell Cooperative Extension master gardeners do the job for you. (Call 516-228-0426 in Nassau, 631-727-7850 in Suffolk for details).
2. Prune deciduous shrubs and trees while they’re still dormant, but delay the job on spring bloomers until after their show.
3. If you’re planning to plant potatoes next month, order them now.
4. Time to relocate shrubs, while they’re still dormant.
5. Don’t cultivate beds until the soil is crumbly.
6. If you didn’t get around to it in the fall, cut down last year’s perennials and rake beds clean.
7. Prune fruit trees before new growth begins, or you may remove precious buds that would become fruit.
8. Take inventory of your seed-starting supplies.
9. Feed spring-flowering bulbs as soon as they poke out of the ground.
10. Cut healthy butterfly bushes to 6-12 inches from the ground. Don’t worry — they’ll grow back quickly and be better for it.
11. Fertilize deciduous and evergreen trees.
12. Start seeds of annuals indoors under grow lights or by a sunny window.
13. Daylight Saving Time begins at 2 a.m. Set clocks ahead, and increase water and resume fertilizing houseplants.
14. Avoid walking on wet soil. Doing so may damage its structure and will cause compaction.
15. Beware the Ides of March and don’t get any ideas about fertilizing the lawn; it’s illegal in Nassau and Suffolk to do so before April 1.
16. Replant houseplants into pots that are 1 to 2 inches larger, and give them a dose of organic seaweed fertilizer.
17. It’s St. Patrick’s Day — time to sow peas directly into the garden. Spinach, radish and lettuce, too.
18. Prune roses, cutting just above outward-facing buds, and fertilize. If black spot or powdery mildew surfaced last year, remove and replace mulch around them now.
19. Start seeds of peppers, tomatoes and eggplants indoors.
20. Happy Spring! Sow seeds of broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower indoors.
21. Prepare beds for asparagus, onions and bare-root roses, which will be among the first planted in spring.
22. Apply horticultural oil to deciduous trees to protect from mites, aphids and scale.
23. Remove dead stems from oak-leaf hydrangeas, thin last year’s grown on peegees, and cut smooth hydrangeas to the ground (identify yours at newsday.com/gardening101).
24. Got bare spots in the lawn? Seed once a week and water twice a day until new growth is as tall as the rest of the grass.
25. If you missed planting garlic last fall, you can do so now, although bulbs may be smaller.
26. Start caladium tubers (knobs up) and tuberous begonias (hollow side up) 2 inches deep in a 50/50 peat-perlite mix indoors. Bury cannas only halfway, eyes up.
27. Happy Easter! Enjoy gift lilies, then plant them in the garden after their flowers fade.
28. I know you like things tidy, but don’t apply mulch until the soil warms in May. I don’t care what your neighbors are doing. Don’t do it.
29. Plant mail-order bare-root plants immediately upon receiving them.
30. Fertilize garlic as soon as sprouts appear.
31. Divide and plant perennials.