March teases us in the southeast. Some years we receive ice and bitter cold, well cold for the southeast. Other years we have sixty and seventy degree highs throughout. Southerners should be patient as even during a warm winter we can have late season deep freezes. While we might be tempted by offerings at the store, stick to cold hardy annuals that you enjoy.
We have a final chance to catch up on the outdoor chores that have been put off. Clean up all debris left from fall and winter, and get mulch down in the areas where you do not expect to dig. A good layer of mulch reduces watering requirements, keeps roots cool in summer, and as it decays, improves soil structure.
Make sure to get all tools and equipment ready for spring. Nothing is more frustrating for the gardener ready to jump into the fun of spring only to find tools unsharpened, and lawnmowers that fail to start.
Yet again in March we have limited tasks which need performing, but next month will get busy, so make sure to take advantage of nice days to get those things done which you have been putting off.
While some may try to seed fescue lawns, that really should have been done last fall. It is way too early to think about installing summer lawns. Fescue lawns can be fertilized this month, but wait on warm season grasses like Bermuda and Zoysia. Fertilizing warm season grasses should wait until after the threat of freezes, and the grass begins to green.
At this point it may be too late to apply a pre-emergent. Pre-emergents need time to dissolve and form a barrier. Once weeds begin to emerge it may be too late to do any good. Also, do not use a pre-emergent anywhere you intend to plant seed. I usually wait for April to begin applying weed control.
Lime needs to be applied annually in areas with acidic soils. Usually this is applied in fall as it takes time to become effective. If you have not done so, you can apply now. Just remember in the fall that you do not need to apply lime.
Trees and Shrubs
One can still plant container trees and shrubs this month. One should be advised though that risk of loss is higher this month than the previous months. I would avoid B&B specimens if leaves have emerged.
Prune dead and damaged limbs from bother shade and flowering trees. Once petals from spring flowering trees and shrubs fall, those can be pruned as well. Roses should be pruned by early March, and most hybrids that are continuously blooming need a heavy pruning.
Shade trees should have already been fertilized; however, it can still be done this month. It takes time for nutrients to travel through the tree which is why it should be done earlier in the year. Spring-flowering trees should be fertilized after the petals fall.
Begin implementing your pest control program. Be on the lookout for pest on trees, but do not spray trees in bloom because of the harm done to the bee population. The best control is to have healthy plants and find problems as soon as they emerge. Make sure to have a strategy, and follow directions carefully for any product you use. Just because it says “organic” does not mean that there are not safety and environmental concerns.
Annuals and Perennials
Early in the month you can begin to set out hardy varieties that were started indoors to begin acclimating them. As we get later in the month the risk of hard freezes diminishes, and one can take the risk of planting cold-hardy plants.
Start seeds indoor of warm weather flowering plants that will be transplanted in late April after the frost-free date passes.
Fertilize new and emerging plants for the first time, and then plan to fertilize every eight weeks. Slugs and snails can be a problem this month, so be prepared with bait. Toward the end of the month pests such as spider mites emerge, so plan to have a program in place to counter them.
You can still plant container grown fruit trees. It is a great month to plant strawberries. Fertilize blueberries with a fertilizer for acid loving plants. Such as one for azaleas. Wait for petal fall to fertilize peach and plum trees
Successful home fruits require a consistent spray program. Decide ahead of time what strategy you plan to use, and begin to implement it. Make sure not to spray between bloom emergence and petal fall to protect bees. Follow instructions on pesticide containers.
Replace mulch from around fruits if you have not already done so. This should help reduce insect infestation.
If you did not prune in January, spring flowering fruits like peach and plum can be pruned after petal fall.
This month is busy and fun for the dedicated vegetable gardener. Make sure if your plan includes Irish potatoes that you plant them early in the month. Asparagus, Artichoke and Rhubarb roots can be put out this month. If you started them indoors in January, you can transplant broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and kale once danger of hard freezes pass. Also after hard freezes pass you can begin to plant seeds of the following outdoors beet, carrot, turnip, swiss chard and lettuce.
Tinder vegetables that will be transplanted in late April can be started indoors this month. These include tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and squash.
This is a good month to check all your indoor plants. Repot them if needed before the increased light levels begin to encourage growth. Prune back dead and diseased material. Fertilize every time you water, but let the top dry out before you do.
If you need to spray for insect and disease take them outside, and get good coverage on the underside of the leaves. Harmful insects often reside underneath the leaves.
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March Activities in the Southeast Garden
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