In like a lion and out like a lamb, March is our bridge between winter and spring. While crocuses emerge and pansies reveal their smiling faces, we’ll begin the great cleanup to make way for new perennials and the summer harvest. Gardening chores, too, trickle in and gain momentum as the month progresses — one might say chores roll in like a lamb and out like a lion. Here’s a tip or chore for each day of the month.
1. Prune deciduous shrubs and trees, including fruit trees, while they’re still dormant, but delay the job on spring bloomers until after their show.
2. 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).
3. Feed spring-flowering bulbs with a high-nitrogen, quick-release fertilizer as soon as they poke out of the ground.
4. Take inventory of your seed-starting supplies, and replenish what you need.
5. Fertilize deciduous and evergreen trees.
6. Cut back last year’s ornamental grasses and feed with a slow-release lawn fertilizer.
7. Cut overgrown Buddleia (butterfly bush) nearly to the ground. It’ll grow back quickly, and in better form.
8. I know you raked and cleaned up in fall. Where did all this garden debris come from? Clear it away, and rake beds clean.
9. Give compost piles a shot of fish or bone meal to boost decomposition.
10. If you’re planning to plant potatoes next month, order them now.
11. Time to relocate shrubs, while they’re still dormant.
12. Spring ahead! Set clocks ahead one hour for Daylight Saving Time.
13. Don’t cultivate beds until the soil is crumbly.
14. Start seeds of annuals indoors under grow lights or by a sunny window.
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, increase water and give them a dose of organic seaweed fertilizer.
17. Grow flowering shamrocks in honor of St. Patrick. Look for potted houseplants or bulbs labeled “Oxalis.”
18. Apply horticultural oil to deciduous trees to protect from mites, aphids and scale.
19. Completely remove dead stems from oak-leaf hydrangeas, thin last year’s grown on peegees, and cut smooth hydrangeas all the way to the ground. (See identifying photos at newsday.com/gardening101)
20. Spring has sprung! Plant some pansies.
21. Divide fall-blooming perennials now.
22. As long as there’s no snow on the ground and the soil is dry enough to crumble in your hand, plant peas, lettuce and radishes outdoors.
23. Avoid walking on wet soil. Doing so may damage its structure and will cause compaction.
24. Prune roses, cutting just above outward-facing buds, and fertilize. If plants were affected by black spot or powdery mildew last year, remove and replace the mulch around them now.
25. Remove all raspberry canes that bore fruit last year and cut the rest back by a quarter.
26. If you missed planting garlic last fall, you can do so now, although bulbs may be smaller. Regardless, fertilize once sprouts appear.
27. 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.
28. 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.
29. If your blueberry bush is more than 5 years old, cut away all but 10 of the youngest, strongest canes. Remove one-quarter of flower buds for larger fruit this year.
30. I know you like things tidy, but don’t apply mulch until the soil warms in May. I don’t care what your landscaper says. Don’t do it.
31. Plant mail-order bare-root plants immediately upon receiving them.