March gardening chores

Toward the end of March, it's time to

Toward the end of March, it's time to start planting perennials such as tulips. (Credit: AP / Alvaro Barrientos)

March is always an unpredictable month. But whether it comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, or vice-versa, there's no denying spring is almost here.

That means it's time for my seventh annual Spring Garden Watch: Upload photos of your crocuses, pansies and other harbingers of spring at newsday.com/springblooms, and see what's popping up all around Long Island. And while you wait for those signs of life, here's a chore to keep you busy every day of the month.

1. Order potatoes now for planting next month when the grass greens up.

2. Don't cultivate beds until the soil is crumbly.

3. If you didn't get around to it in the fall, cut down last year's perennials and clean up beds.

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

5. Clear out beds for crops like asparagus, onions and bare-root roses, which will be among the first planted in spring.

6. Avoid walking on wet soil. Doing so may damage its structure and will cause compaction.

7. Prune fruit trees now.

8. When pussy willows fade, prune plants hard to encourage longer branching and larger catkins next year.

9. Daylight Saving Time begins. Spring ahead one hour.

10. Plant Swiss chard outdoors now and you'll be eating it in May.

11. Start broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower indoors.

12. For the best blooms, apply a 5-10-5 fertilizer to spring-flowering bulbs as soon as they poke out of the ground.

13. Replant houseplants into pots one to two inches larger, and fertilize them.

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

15. Start seeds of annuals indoors.

16. Cut back ornamental grasses before new growth begins.

17. Happy St. Patrick's Day! Plant cool-season crops like peas, radish, lettuce and spinach in prepared beds.

18. I know you like things tidy, but don't apply mulch until the soil warms in May.

19. Resist the urge to fertilize the lawn. It's illegal to do so before April 1.

20. Happy spring! Test soil pH levels. Buy a kit or bring a sample to a Cornell Cooperative Extension office (516-565-5265 in Nassau; 631-727-4126 in Suffolk).

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

22. Although you might want to pretty up the yard, don't apply mulch until the soil is warm.

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

24. Fertilize garlic as soon as sprouts appear.

25. Cut back old, wilted foliage from ground covers like hellebore, European ginger and Epimedium.

26. Cut butterfly bushes to 6-12 inches from the ground. Don't worry -- they'll grow back quickly and be better for it.

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

28. Cover bare spots in the lawn with seed. Repeat once a week and keep soil moist but not soggy.

29. Divide and plant perennials.

30. Dig up perennial weeds before they get established.

31. Use a net to clear leaves and debris from ponds.