Don't have time for all my wisdom?
Here's a quick checklist:
March is when all the good stuff starts. When I was a child I always looked forward to March. I thought it was because my birthday is at the beginning of the month and my best friend's was smack dab in the middle. As I've grown older birthdays have grown less agreeable the more numerous they've become. I realize that its actually always been something else that draws me to this time of year: March is the awakening of the garden and the gardener's reacquaintance with it. After months of the garden and gardener turning cold shoulders to one another, the air begins to warm, the light to linger, and the birds to chatter. Suddenly the garden is again an appealing place to be and the lusty gardener will find no end of need for his or her attentions.
A single good day in March is far more appreciated than a full week of warm weather come June. Here in high altitude Colorado we lovingly refer to our spring weather as bi-polar Boulder. One day you can find yourself basking barefoot in the simple joy of pulling weeds and listening to birdsong and the next morning wake to fluffy snowflakes blanketing your newly weeded flower beds.
With such unpredictable weather, how can we profit from March in the garden and lay a foundation for later season blooms? Lets break it down by garden areas: Yard, Flowerbeds (or vegetable boxes if you prefer) and Greenhouse (or whatever interior space you have available for storing tools and maybe even seed starting).
We americans love our flat, grassy, green yards and while many gardeners will tell you that the yard is a guilty pleasure that needs to be given up, this gardener won't. I love having a few grassy spots for picnicking or running barefoot through or playing croquet or kicking a soccer ball (as long as all balls are aimed away from my very breakable glass greenhouse.)
The key to a nice yard is healthy grass. Focus on the health of your grass instead of potential problems (like dandelions) and the rest will naturally follow. At Petals we are passionate about organic gardening and you should be too (though I won't beat that dead horse here). As much as I love my green lawn, growing grass is not my passion so I outsource its care to Organo-Lawn, a lovely, local company that can help you maintain the health of your yard without chemicals. They come out about 6 times a year and put various organic products (mainly using chicken meal and iron) on my lawn to keep the problems at bay through boosting the health of the grass. They also aerate, which is key to success in a place like Colorado where dry, compact soil and all those running feet conspire to compress our poor grass into oblivion. If you are a more passionate (organic) grass grower than I, please, let me know exactly what you do to keep your grass happy and maybe one day I can quit outsourcing that part of the garden. If not, drop the Roundup (seriously, drop it!), and call Organo-Lawn (and no: I get zero discounts for recommending them, though I'd really like it if I did). Here's what I personally do for my lawn in March:
Aeration - outsourced
Organic pre-emergent weed control - outsourced
Heavy raking and mow (only take the bare minimum off of the top): end of March and only if the lawn is dry - do not attempt in the snow.
Pull arrant grass patches -after a deep watering from a spring snowstorm is the easiest time to remove clumps of grass that may have sprouted in your flowerbeds.
(or veggie patch, if you're into
that sort of thing
No matter how much snow we get in March (frustratingly our snowiest month of the year), early spring bulbs manage to make their way to the warming surface. In order of appearance you will find: snowdrops, crocuses, grape hyacinth, hyacinth, early irises, hellebores, daffodils, and finally tulips popping up around neighborhood yards. These bulbs, planted in the fall, are a testament to last year's gardeners who managed to pull themselves languidly from late summer and plant a few (or few hundred) bulbs. While you missed the boat this spring for bulbs if you didn't get them in ground last September/October, you can still do a lot of good in your flower gardens.
At Petals we skip all but the most necessary fall cleanup and leave all the garden detritus blanketing the garden as a layer of protection over the winter. Now that spring is upon us, its time to make space for all the beauty popping out of the earth below:
Clear the space - remove fallen leaves and add them to your pile for next year's leaf mold. Cut back seed heads and grasses and any other yard waste that looks like it might choke emerging plants.
Condition your soil - Pull back any mulch covering the soil and add up to 2 inches of non-hot compost (like mushroom) and soil conditioner (well rotted leaf mold) and re-cover with existing mulch.
Mulch - if your topsoil is showing, you need mulch. Have a delivery of fresh mulch. Go organic and avoid added colorants, this will eventually rot and become your soil so its worth putting in quality product. What you spend in mulch now you will gain in water saved come July. I re-mulch the entire growing space every 3 years.
Even if the closest thing you have to a greenhouse is a corner of your garage or sunny windowsill, don't skip this part, there's something here for you! If you are in the market for a greenhouse, I highly recommend it, we built ours about four years ago. Building one will cost between $500 and $10,000 for a reasonable option, you can of course spend a lot more.
Clean and organize- get your work space ready: Clean and sharpen tools, restock materials such as soil amendments, clear potting bench/ work space.
Start indoor seeds - This can be as big or as small an undertaking as you like but start at least a dozen seeds on a windowsill, watching green life spring out of virtually nothing feels like harnessing magic.
Plant out - spring veggies in greenhouse, hoop house, or cold frame..
Fertilize houseplants - show your potted plants some love too, they'll start to grow more now that the days are longer, the house is warmer, and the drying heat of the furnace becomes less persistent. I use Neptune sea weed concentrate and my house smells like an aquarium for about an hour afterwards, I recommend doing it on a day when you can open the windows.
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