Saturday, March 6, 2010

It's Time To...

Along with sunshine and a bit of warmth, spring brings a lot of responsibility for those of us who love the garden! In zone 7 the first of March means an end to sitting in the chair thinking about how much we hate winter. (If you are in a colder zone [2-6] , you will need to do these things, but later in the year. I think it's 2-4 weeks later per zone. If you live in zone 8, you should have already started in February, and if you live in zones 9-10, you never stopped working in your garden and you grow different plants!)
Zone 7 is the pink zone. I'm in the light pink part - 7a - so I am 5-10 degrees on average cooler than dark pink - 7b. The greens - zone 6 - are 10 -20 degrees cooler than the pinks, an so on. The other things one has to consider are type of soil and PH. Central Virginia is highly acid and has heavy clay soil. If you move to the coast of Virginia, where the soil is sandy and they have more ocean warming, you are in zone 8.

It's time to get moving and start doing! So, here's a short list of things you need to start working on this month:

  • Cut back the liriope. Doesn't matter what variety of Monkey Grass you have, it needs to be cut back. The easiest way is to drag out your lawn mover, set it at three inches and just mow the liriope. The goal is to cut off the old growth to allow the new growth to come up and not be all choked in last year's leaves. It will start growing by the middle of the month, so you need to do this soon. If you wait until later, you may end up with the new grown all being cut straight across the ends. Not a tragedy, but it will look a little hinky.

  • Finish your fall clean-up. You know you didn't finish! We got snow early and then rain, rain, rain, so everyone has more clean-up to do. I still need to cut back the dead growth from last summer on many perennials - some of the Shasta daisies, sedum, and asters for sure. And, some cleaning up in the xeri-garden.

  • Plant cold weather veggies. Technically, around here one should plant the peas by George Washington's birthday - now nearly two weeks ago. I have dug the bed and bought the seeds, so today will plant them. The next step will be to put up something to support them as they grown up, and a fence to keep out the rabbits. Other cold weather veggies you might want to consider are spinach, any of the "kole" family - broccoli, Brussels sprouts - or other leafy greens.
  • Prune your shrubs. Most of your deciduous shrubs will start leafing out by the end of the month, or by mid-April - so now is the time to do whatever light pruning you need to do. Never, never, never take off more than one-third of the plant! Never! But if you need to shape up plants it's easy to do now while you can see the structure. If you have branches that grow into the plant instead of outward, you want to remove them as close the the branch as possible. This will provide air and light into the center of the shrub and promote more growth and a healthier plant. For plants that grow from canes (Nandinas, for example) you want to keep them from looking too leggy, so cut one-third of the canes back to the ground, one-third about a foot shorter than you want the top of the plant to be and one-third in between these two. As the plant fills out this summer you will get growth at all three levels and end up with a fuller plant. Evergreen shrubs - boxwood or arborvitae - only need to be selectively trimmed for "wild hairs" or lightly sheared. Flowering shrubs should not be trimmed until after they have bloomed.
  • Start planning your spring and summer projects. You have probably been doing some of this over the winter as you looked at catalogs. Your plans might change based on what winter damage you have gotten. At the moment, I don't have but one small project. Am really waiting to see how bad the damage is from the standing water. Be sure to make a list. You know it won't get done if you don't write it down.

The important thing about March is not to do too much. It's so easy to get wrapped up in the "need to do's" that we forget to really enjoy the first stirrings of life in the garden. March is the time to enjoy the rebirth that happens every day!

After weeks hidden under snow
and ice the hellebores have gone
crazy with blooms.

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