by CHRIS WINSLOW
With all the fantastic early-spring weather, this is the time for gardeners to launch the big gardening and landscape activities for the year. These first few weeks are also a good time to finish up some of last month’s chores:
1. Cut back roses and shape your shrub roses. Those tall bushes can be trimmed to 1 ½ to 2 feet in height with open centers. Use a sharp pair of pruners and a good pair of leather gloves. Climbing roses should be left un-pruned until after their spring bloom. March is also a good time to add roses to the landscape.
2. Care for fruit trees. There is still plenty of time to spray wintering insects with dormant oil. Pruning to open up the centers will help to reduce disease problems with better air flow. Added sunlight will help to ripen and color the fruit. A few ideas of additions to your orchard: peaches, pears, plums, nectarines, figs, cherries, apples, pomegranates, and persimmons.
3. Tend vegetable garden. The first half of the month is the right time to plant potatoes, asparagus crowns, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, mustard and collard greens, carrots, radishes, Swiss chard, and lettuce.
4. Care for lawn. Before those summer weeds begin to grow, cover the lawn with organic, pre-emergent corn gluten. Early March is a great time to cut the lawn close and aerate if the soil has become compacted. A quarter to half inch top dressing of manure-based compost like Dillo Dirt will go a long way to revitalize turf grass with nutrients, microbes, and beneficial bacteria. If the soil below the turf grass is poor, aeration and Dillo Dirt will work wonders. As a top dressing, Dillo Dirt mixed with a little sand can help to level off the low places.
For the second half of the month, with the last average frost date is behind us, we can shift to warm season gardening. Some gardening activities to concentrate on:
5. Fertilize turf grass. This will begin to grow as the ground warms up. An organic lawn fertilizer with a 3 -1- 2 ratio can be applied to the lawn at the rate of 10 to 15 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Be sure to water the lawn fertilizer in thoroughly after applying.
6. Insect control. With new growth from all our trees, flowers, and shrubs… come the insects. Aphids will show up on just about everything. A safe, organic spray, like All Seasons Oil will keep them at bay without harming the environment or poisoning ourselves. Our oak trees will be shedding their leaves and putting on new growth any week. With this change come the oak leaf rollers and forest tent caterpillars. Sprays with organic B.T. should be an effective and safe way to control these damaging insects. Look for products with names like Thuricide and Dipel to do the trick.
7. Planting vegetables. The vegetable garden for the latter half of the month will see an explosion of activity. It’s finally time to plant tomatoes, peppers, snap beans, limas, corn, cantaloupes, cucumbers, eggplant, and squash.
8. Flower garden. The winter flower garden should be in full force. Those snapdragons you planted back in October should be starting their second (and best) bloom. Flowering cabbage and kale should be at their peak. New annuals to set out are alyssum, dianthus, lobelia, phlox, geranium, gerbera daisy, petunias, marigolds, zinnias, and nasturtiums.
9. Perennial care. Keep an eye out for those returning perennials; don’t mistake them for weeds and pull them up. Better to surround them with fresh compost and a little mulch. This spring will bring a world of new perennials to plant. Many will be natives that will thrive in our climate with minimal care and minimal water. Some to look for are ox-eye daisy, black-foot daisy, skullcap, rudbeckia and gloriosa daisies. There will be tons of salvia and lantana varieties to choose from.
10. Have fun! Above all, get outside and enjoy yourself. Nothing can be more rewarding than eating homegrown vegetables and enjoying your own beautiful landscape.
Happy gardening everyone!
If you have a question for Chris, send it via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or mail a postcard to It’s About Thyme: 11726 Manchaca Road, Austin, TX 78748 www.itsaboutthyme.com