From the ground up: Prep for planting season now

What can be planted in March, other gardening tips

Published: March 9 2014 | 7:00 am - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 9:21 am in

Can I start gardening in March? What can I plant?

Weíve had a tough winter and everyone is eager to get out in the garden and start planting. Itís a little too early to plant, but there are some ways you can prepare for spring planting. March is a good time to:

  • Start seeds for cold season vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, peats, potatoes and spinach. Then in April, when the ground is workable, you can plant these vegetables.
  • Start seeds for annuals and herbs you will plant in mid-May, after the first frost date. Work backward from your expected planting date. See publication PM 534 at www.extension.iastate.edu/yardgarden for details on planting times for garden vegetables, and read the package information on other plants.
  • Start non-hardy summer bulbs such as dahlias, elephant ears and gladiolus inside under lights.
  • Clear drainage ditches and gutters of leaves and other debris.
  • In late March, clear perennial beds of leaves and cut back ornamental grasses before they begin growing.
  • Prune summer-blooming shrubs and trees. But donít prune spring-blooming shrubs such as lilacs, azaleas, rhododendrons and forsythia; wait until they are done blooming.
  • Rake your lawn and consider de-thatching/aerating. Wait until the soil temperature is about 60 degrees before putting down herbicides or grass seed.
  • Clean up pots using a bleach solution, check your gardening tools and oil them if necessary, and check the tires on your wheelbarrow or garden cart.
  • Get watering aids such as sprinklers and soaker hoses ready, but donít put them out until the weather is consistently warm.
  • Evaluate garden structures such as trellises and stakes to see what might need to be replaced or repaired.
  • Prune fruits and berries while the plants are still dormant. Wait until mid-April to prune roses.
  • Itís too late to prune your oak tree, as it is emerging from dormancy. Pruning in March can expose it to oak wilt.
  • February through March usually is the best time to prune most deciduous trees. The absence of foliage at this time of year gives the individual a clear view of the tree and allows the selection and removal of appropriate branches.
  • If your compost has been sitting all winter, itís time to turn it over. If you havenít composted before, spring is a good time to begin.
  • March also is a good time to test your soil. Take samples in several locations around your yard. Soil sample kits are available from the Linn County Extension Office.
  • Itís not too late to check seed catalogs and plant catalogs for ideas.

Jean Murray is a Linn County Master Gardener. Spring is just around the corner. For garden questions, call the Linn County Extension Hortline at (319) 447-0647.

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