MARCH IS THE PROCEED-WITH-CAUTION MONTH, with warm days to tempt you to uncover everything, and winter days to wish you hadn’t. The best plan is to make haste slowly these final weeks of winter. Around here, there will be plenty to do outdoors — when the snow finally melts! Seed-sowing, of course, continues regardless of weather. Here is my list of chores:
Raised Vegetable Beds. If soil has settled, top off beds with shredded leaves. Give the leaves a light sprinkling of cottonseed meal or another source of organic nitrogen to help hasten their decay.
Lawns. When the ground is dry enough not to damage grass, rake up the accumulation of twigs and branches. On a windless day, scratch soil and seed bare spots; apply fertilizer only after grass has begun to grow.
Arborvitae. If heavy, wet snow (such as we experienced here last weekend) has flattened branches, lash them back into place with twine. Stems should regain their upright habit over the course of spring and summer. Here is my guide for repairing snow-damaged, multi-leadered shrubs.
Roses. Wait until the end of the month to uncover bushes; prune them at your convenience but before the leaf buds break. 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 any other shrubs that bloom in late summer. Cut Buddlejah back to ground-level, unless you want a monster-size shrub.
Iris. Examine these and other perennials for signs of heaving. Especially if your garden has not been mulched, you will need to go over plantings and firm back roots dislodged by frost.
Spring-Flowering Trees & Shrubs. Any time now you can cut stems of forsythia, pussy willow, and crab apple. Give the stems water, light, and warmth, and they will bloom for you in only two weeks’ time. Here is a more detailed list of what to force, and when.
Annuals. Early this month sow pansies under fluorescent lights. Mid-month sow snapdragons, lobelia, impatiens, ageratum. Follow this schedule.
Tulips, etc. Continue to water and fertilize your forced hardy bulbs after flowers fade. Once the foliage withers, withhold all moisture. Then store the bulbs someplace cool and dry. In autumn, give them permanent positions in the outdoor garden.
Lily of the Valley. Ask your florist now for cold-storage forcing pips. In twenty-one days they will bring a lovely fragrance to your rooms.
Go to a Show! Want to find good-size plants at bargain prices? Visit your local garden-show. Mine, in the Hudson Valley, is March 25-27. On the final show-day, exhibiting landscapers usually offer 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.
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