In like a lion and out like a lamb. That expectation is typically accurate as far as the weather goes, but as far as gardening chores are concerned, the opposite is true: We start out slow and end the month in full swing.
1. Cut back ornamental grasses and whatever remains of last year's perennials.
2. Prune fruit trees before new growth begins, or you may remove precious buds that would become fruit.
3. Apply a 5-10-5 fertilizer to spring-flowering bulbs as soon as sprouts poke out of the ground.
4. Test the pH levels in planting beds. Buy a kit or bring a soil sample to a Cornell Cooperative Extension office (516-565-5265 in Nassau, 631-727-7850 in Suffolk).
5. Take inventory of your seed-starting supplies. It's almost time to put them to work.
6. Replant houseplants into pots that are 1 to 2 inches larger, and give them a dose of organic seaweed fertilizer.
7. Increase water and resume fertilizing indoor plants.
8. Daylight Saving Time begins. Remember, it's illegal in Nassau and Suffolk to fertilize the lawn before April 1.
9. Plant new trees and shrubs now, while they're still dormant. But don't fertilize until the roots become established.
10. Start seeds of annuals indoors.
11. Need to rearrange? This is a good time to relocate shrubs without stressing them.
12. Plant cool-season crops like lettuce and spinach outdoors.
13. If you missed planting garlic last fall, you can do so now, although bulbs may be smaller.
14. Prune butterfly bush nearly to the ground. Don't worry, it'll grow back.
15. Beware the Ides of March, and beware walking on frozen soil and grass.
16. Sow pea, lettuce and radish seeds directly into the garden.
17. It's St. Patrick's Day. Buy a potted Oxalis regnellii Shamrock plant.
18. Sow broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower indoors.
19. 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.
20. Spring begins at 6:45 p.m. Plant peas to celebrate.
21. As long as the soil isn't too moist, incorporate lime and compost into the vegetable garden, then cover with plastic mulch to warm the soil.
22. Thin brambles (raspberries, blackberries, etc.) to improve this year's harvest and fruit quality.
23. Remove broken stems from lilacs and rhododendrons, but don't prune intact ones with buds on them.
24. Start dividing and planting perennials.
25. Remove protective coverings from evergreens and clear winter mulch from planting beds.
26. Start seeds of peppers, tomatoes and eggplants indoors.
27. Overseed bare spots in the lawn. Seed once a week and water lightly twice a day until filled in.
28. Cut smooth hydrangeas to the ground, thin last year's growth on peegees, remove dead wood at the base of oak-leaf hydrangeas and leave macrophyllas alone.
29. Pull weeds early and often.
30. Rake beds and clear out debris. No matter how well you did this in autumn, there's likely more to do now.
31. Sow seeds of annual poppies directly in the garden.