SOUND FAMILIAR? In March, the winter aconites (above) emerge in Monday’s warmth…and disappear in Tuesday’s snow. Consequently it pays to proceed with caution these final weeks of winter. Here are the month’s chores, based on my zone Hudson Valley, New York (zone 5-b) location:
Raised Beds. You won’t have to buy new soil for these if you top them off with shredded leaves, as above. Give the leaves a light sprinkling of alfalfa meal, cottonseed-meal, or another organic source of nitrogen to help hasten their decay. More details.
Lawns. When the ground is dry enough not to damage grass, rake up the accumulation of twigs and branches.
Arborvitae. If heavy, wet snow has flattened branches, lash them back into place with twine. Stems should regain their upright habit over the course of spring and summer. More details.
Roses. Wait until the end of the month to uncover shrubs; prune them at your convenience but before the leaf buds break. (I prune my David Austin roses back by half; I do not prune my climbing roses, except to relieve them of dead wood.) Don’t try to prepare new beds until the ground is well thawed and the soil is workable.
Pruning. Definitely relieve trees and shrubs of dead wood. Also, prune for shapeliness Peegee hydrangeas, Rose of Sharon, and other shrubs that bloom in late summer. Cut Buddlejah back to ground-level now, unless you want a monster-size shrub (like mine, pictured above).
Spring-Flowering Trees & Shrubs. Any time now you can cut stems of forsythia, pussy willow, crab apple (above), witch hazel and quince. Give the stems water, light, and warmth, and they will bloom for you in only two weeks’ time. More details.
Houseplants. Due to lengthening hours of daylight, these are growing rapidly now. Reward them with extra food and water. My collection of indoor plants, and how I care for them.
Forced Tulips & Other Dutch Bulbs . If forced in soil, continue to water and fertilize these hardy bulbs after their flowers fade. Once the foliage withers, withhold all moisture. Then remove the bulbs, and store them someplace cool and dry. In autumn, give them permanent positions in the outdoor garden. Pictured above is Tulipa ‘Quebec,’ now in bloom in my music room window garden. Bulbs I’ve successfully forced for winter-bloom.
Go to a Show! Want to find good-sized plants at bargain prices? Visit your local garden-show. This year, New York’s Capital District Flower & Garden Show is March 22-24. On the final show-day, exhibiting landscapers usually offer beautiful, in-bloom rhododendrons, lilacs, and other flowering shrubs as well as evergreens for a fraction of the retail price. Why? Because they obtained these plants purely for design purposes. They have little interest in keeping them once showtime is over. The rhododendrons in my Woodland Garden were all acquired this way.
Now, if my monthly gardening chores are helpful to you in some small way, by all means speak up. Hearing from you always brightens my day.
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