Posted by Gardening Felix | Posted in Basic Gardening Tips, Vegetable Gardening | Posted on 11-03-2012
Tags: climates, fertilizer, mulch, sunny day, year 2012
March is the in-between of gardening months: While spring is just one step away, it can still be cold and frosty – in general, the weather is changing a lot. Depending on where you live, soils can still be hard so it’s no fun to turn vegetable beds over and to dig holes for new plants.
But there are still some important tasks than can and should be done right now. Today, I’ve compiled 13 tasks that will help you to start a successful gardening year 2012 right now!
- Wait until the time is ready
While a sunny day may tempt you to pull-through all the tasks you set for yourself in 2012: Keep patient! Especially the planting of blooming bulbs depends on the climate – you could start now if you live in northern California or even warmer climates, but gardeners from colder regions should wait for at least another month.
- Test and amend your soil
Tests of pHand nutrient levels can be underdone, as you should have applied fertilizer in late autumn and want to test the results (so you can see if further amendments are necessary). Check for your pH – which should be between 6 and 7.5 unless you need acidic or alkaloid soil for special plants – and the level of nutrients; if nitrogen, phosphorous or potassium are lacking, your only choice is to use artificial fertilizer (as it takes some time for organic matter to dissolve in the soil).
- Tidy up your garden
Performing the “boring” tasks such as tidying up your garden now will help you to save time you’ll need in the coming months. Remove remaining dead leaves and debris and fertilize your soil with about one standard-bucketful of compost per square meter and apply a new (thin) layer of mulch. You should generally only remove mulch step by step to get your plants used to the warmer temperature (otherwise the cold temperatures still possible in march may harm them).
- Mind your indoor plants
March is the right time to seed, repot and feed your indoor plants; the increasing temperature and longer sun cycles causes them to sprout, so you should try to optimize the preconditions for a good growth. You should also worry about the plants you eventually kept in a greenhouse such as chrysanthemums or geraniums. Prune them carefully and repot them in time.
- Outdoor plants can be started inside
You can start the seeds for warmth-loving vegetables such as potatoes, peppers or cucumbers on your windowsill or in a greenhouse. For ornamental flowers, consider the fact that some annuals take up to 3 months to bloom (such as snapdragons or petunias). You can start them indoors and later transplant them to your garden.
- Start growing vegetables
If you want to have an early harvest of your self-grown vegetables or plan to have two harvests this year, you can start the following perennials and annuals at the end of this month: Cauliflower, Leek, Radish, Asparagus, Rhubarb and Artichokes. If you live in a warmer climate, cabbage and potatoes are an option around the end of march.
- Start your compost
Due to the low temperatures in winter, the activity in your compost (if you have one) will be on hold. Try turning your compost pile over to get it to heat up – this allows you to earlier add compost as organic matter to your soil (i.e. a raised vegetable bed). You can also start a compost pile now – there will be plenty of dead material such as twigs you’ll be able to find in your garden.
- Planting new shrubs
Depending on your climate (and therefore the hardness of your soil) you can already plant still-dormant shrubs like roses or peonies. The time is also perfect for dividing clumps of perennials that have grown too thick during the last year (only if the buds haven’t swelled). While you’re at it, remove plants that no longer fit your garden plan.
- Control for pests
You may control for pests by spraying lime sulphur while your plants are still dormant. Be careful to choose warm and rather windless days; cold temperatures will freeze the sulphur, thus harming your plants, and windy days will make it harder to apply it at the right spots. Lime sulphur os organic and will be a good protection for your plants (especially roses).
- Worry about slugs
Slugs usually start to appear in march – if you have bulbs or other perennial plants in your soil, protect them by taking the slugs away by hand and/or applying repellent.
- Look after your bulbs
You can feed bulbs with special bulb fertilizer or bone meal once their leaves first push out of the ground – this will help them to bloom better next year. By the way, cutting of the blooms of bulbs will make them save their energy for next year; you could do so for some of your perennials to make sure you’ll get fine plants next year.
- Kill weeds early
When the first weeds start to appear, pull them out or spot-kill them with a flame gun. It’s much better to perform this task now than later in the year, when most weeds will already have rooted (or seeded) and taken precious nutrients from your plants.
- Repair your lawn
If there are damaged areas in your lawn, you should rake the soil and add a spring feeding of either well-composted manure or all-appliance fertilizer (depending on whether you prefer organic gardening). You should over-seed the damaged areas after the fertilizer has had time to soak in.
Performing these tasks will give your plants a good head-start into the garden season. Of course, one other thing (and perhaps the most interesting) you can do this early in the year is to make a plan of the changes you’d like to make during this year.
For me it’s always inspiring to have a look at photos of gardens posted by others online. Stay tuned until next time!
Are there more important or interesting things to do this month? Or do you want to read more about one point? – Please leave a comment.