I won’t bore you with the “in like a lion, out like a lamb” adage because not only is it cliché, but it’s actually not even always the case. Spring may begin in March, but that’s no guarantee of springlike weather. So, sure, start your seeds indoors, polish off your tools and prune to your heart’s content, but don’t jump the gun and set summer plants outdoors just yet — even if temperatures rise — just in case that lion overstays his welcome. Here are 31 tips and chores to keep you on track until the end of this very unpredictable month.
1. Prune deciduous shrubs and trees, including fruit trees before they break dormancy, but hold off on spring bloomers until after their show.
2. Order seed potatoes now for planting next month.
3. Repot houseplants into the next-size containers, then resume fertilization.
4. Cut back ornamental grasses and any remaining perennial plant debris, and rake beds and borders clean.
5. Plant new trees and shrubs, but don’t fertilize.
6. Go ahead and fertilize established deciduous and evergreen trees.
7. Test the soil pH in beds, borders and turn areas, or take a sample to your county’s Cornell Cooperative Extension lab (Details: 516-228-0426 in Nassau, 631-727-7850 in Suffolk).
8. As soon as spring-flowering bulbs sprout, apply a quick-release fertilizer.
9. If necessary, prune rose canes just above outward-facing buds, and fertilize.
10. Remove and replace mulch around roses if they showed signs of black spot disease or powdery mildew last year.
11. Daylight Saving Time begins today, so spring forward! Clocks should have been set ahead one hour to begin the day.
12. If you need to relocate shrubs, do so now, while they’re dormant.
13. Wait until the soil is crumbly before cultivating, or you may damage its structure.
14. Cut healthy butterfly bushes to 12 inches tall. They’ll come back stronger and neater.
15. Start seeds of annuals indoors by a sunny window or under fluorescent grow lights.
16. Plant Swiss chard in the garden for a May harvest, and continued growth all summer long.
17. It’s St. Patrick’s Day — and that means it’s time to plant peas outdoors. Lettuce and radish seeds, too.
18. Start caladium tubers (knobs pointing up) and tuberous begonias (hollow sides up) 2 inches deep in a 50-50 peat-perlite mix indoors.
19. Even if the grass is growing, remember: no fertilizer until at least April 1. It’s illegal. (Memorial Day would be even better.)
20. Spring begins today at 12:15 p.m. Plant some smiling pansies sets outside to usher in the season.
21. Start seeds of peppers, tomatoes and eggplants indoors in sterile potting mix. Water from the bottom to avoid “damping off,” a fungal disease that can be fatal.
22. Remove all raspberry canes that bore fruit last year and cut the rest back by 25 percent.
23. Apply horticultural oil to deciduous trees to ward off aphids, mites and scale.
24. Hydrangea care: Completely remove dead stems from oak leafs, thin last year’s growth on PeeGees, and cut smooth varieties all the way to the ground. (Get ID help at newsday.com/hydrangeas)
25. Incorporate compost and fertilizer into the veggie patch, then cover with plastic sheet mulch to warm the soil.
26. It’s time to divide fall-blooming perennials.
27. Pull weeds as soon as you see them.
28. Avoid mulching until the soil has completely warmed. Otherwise, you’ll trap in the cold and delay plants.
29. Plant mail-order bare-root plants as soon as they arrive.
30. Passover begins tonight: Plant horseradish root cuttings directly into the garden.
31. Fertilize garlic as soon as plants sprout.