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 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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