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LifestyleColumnistsJessica Damiano

31 tips and chores for gardeners to do in March

Snowdrops flowering with autumn leaves on the soil.

Snowdrops flowering with autumn leaves on the soil. Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto/gehringj

If this winter has taught us anything, it’s that until the first of the month arrives, we can’t really be certain whether March will come in like a lion. Come to think of it, who knows whether it will go out like a lamb, either? A girl can dream, but regardless, March is a pivotal month in the garden. During the month that ushers in spring, crocuses will emerge, pansies will show their smiling faces, and we'll tackle the pruning, cleanup and planting. Here is a tip or chore for every day.

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

2. Order seed potatoes. Get them in the ground next month when the grass greens up.

3. Prune deciduous shrubs and trees, including fruit trees, but don’t prune spring bloomers until flowers fade.

4. Test your soil’s pH level, or bring a sample to the Cornell Cooperative Extension office nearest you. Call 516-565-5265  in Nassau, 631-727-7850 in Suffolk for details.

5. Take inventory of your seed-starting supplies, and replenish what you need.

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

7. Relocate trees and shrubs now, while they’re dormant.

8. Clear out beds for such crops as asparagus, onions and bare-root roses in advance of spring planting.

9. Feed spring-flowering bulbs with a 5-10-5 quick-release fertilizer as soon as shoots appear.

10. Spring ahead! Set clocks ahead one hour for Daylight Saving Time.

11. Cut back last year’s ornamental grasses and feed with a slow-release lawn fertilizer.

12. Start broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower indoors.

13. Learn from local experts at the Suffolk CCE's daylong Spring Gardening School in Riverhead, where I'll be teaching a session on tomatoes. Call 631-727-7850 for details.

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

15. Plant Swiss chard outdoors now for a May harvest.

16. Fertilize deciduous and evergreen trees.

17. It’s St. Patrick’s Day, time to plant peas directly into the garden.

18. Plant radish, lettuce and spinach outdoors.

19. Plant new trees and shrubs, but don’t fertilize them this year.

20. Celebrate the first day of spring by planting pansies. 

21. Start seeds of annuals indoors.

22. Give compost piles a dose of fish or bone meal to boost decomposition.

23. We’ll never solve the mystery of spring leaves that appear after we raked in fall, but we need to do it again.

24. Repot houseplants into the next-size pot — no more than 2 inches wider than their current containers  – and fertilize.

25. I don’t care what your neighbors are doing — or what the landscaper recommends — don't apply mulch until May.

26. Avoid walking on wet soil; doing so will cause compaction and risk structural damage.

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

28. Apply horticultural oil to deciduous trees to protect from mites, aphids and scale.

29. Completely remove dead stems from oak-leaf hydrangeas, thin last year’s growth on peegees and cut smooth hydrangeas to the ground. (See identifying photos at newsday.com/gardening101.)

30. Divide fall-blooming perennials.

31. Got bare spots in the lawn? Seed once a week and water twice a day until new growth is as tall as the other grass.

An earlier version of this calendar incorrectly stated that March 22 is Earth Day.

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