March: Plant Care by Plant Type

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Evergreens, Trees, and Shrubs
Spray your yard with dormant oils when temperatures are above 50° F to get rid of any over-wintering eggs that will hatch into future insect problems. If you are following our organic program, fertilize everything with Plant-tone. Severe pruning in order to shape or lower the height of plants is best done now, before new growth takes place. Note that if you do this on flowering plants, you will be sacrificing your flower crop for the year. Scratch the bark on plants that have been winter-burned to see if it is green. If so, it will come back. Branches that are brittle or dead should be cut back to the green area. If you have winter-burned plants, you need to be patient until their new June growth has taken place.

Deer do a tremendous amount of damage in late winter, as food is scarce and they widen their territory looking for food. Deer repellents are particularly important at this time of the year. If a product affects two of their senses—both taste and smell—you will get better control. We prefer Deer Scram, which repels their sense of smell, used with Deer Stopper, which repels their sense of taste. There are many other deer repellents on the market; alternating products is advisable.

Winter protection should be removed and the roses should be pruned. Use good pruning shears, such as the Felco 2, which gives a sharp, clean cut. Our Web site has an excellent two-page diagram showing you in detail how to prune your various groups of roses. If you are following the organic approach, feed with Plant-tone; if not, feed your roses with one cup of Rose-Tone fertilizer per bush. Spray Messenger on your roses as soon as new leaves are developed. Make sure your rosebeds are well mulched.

Fertilize your lawn with Milorganite (6-2-0) as soon as the ground thaws. The forty-pound bags cover 2,500 square feet. This is an organic, high nitrogen lawn fertilizer that is rich in iron and calcium. It also acts as a deer repellent at a time when deer are particularly active.

Don’t forget to plant your pansies early. They will provide you with early spring color. Incorporate some cool season crops along with them. See below.

Fertilize with Plant-tone, clean up any dead debris that may be lingering or lying on top, and make sure all perennials are adequately cut back. As the ground becomes workable, divide clumps that are too large. The preparation of new beds can take place as soon as the ground is workable. For instructions, see Preparation of a New Planting Bed on our site. Once your plants are growing, spray with Messenger on a monthly basis.

Cold-Tolerant Annuals
Mini cyclamens are a great plant used extensively in the San Francisco area during the winter months. These plants are exceptionally attractive and are gaining in popularity in the New York area as a flowering plant for early spring. They are beautiful combined with pansies in a window box. Our pansies are grown in cold frames without heat during the winter. They are well-hardened, and can go into the garden early. As the snow melts, we all long for spring and the thought of planting early is intriguing. Below is a list of cold tolerant annuals. Use this list if you are interested in trying to jumpstart the season with some early planting.

  • African daisy, 25° F
  • Bidens, 25° F
  • Bachelor buttons, 20° F
  • Dianthus, 20° F
  • Diascia “Red Ace,” 0° F
  • Dusty Miller, 25°F
  • Felicia variegated, 25° F
  • Gloriosa daisy, 10° F
  • Euryops, 25° F
  • Helichrysum icicles, 0° F
  • Nemesia sunsatia, 20° F
  • Pansy, 20° F
  • Primrose, 10° F
  • Salvia gargantica and leucantha, 25° F
  • Snapdragon, 25° F
  • Stock, 25° F
  • Verbena, 20° F
  • Vinca vine, 20° F

A great combo for early window boxes might be pansy, trailing snapdragon, Diascia, phlox intensia, verbena, Nemesia for texture and color, icicles for silver tones, Felicia for variegation, and vinca vine for trailing.

Most Asked Question: How do I prune my hydrangeas?
The arborescens types should be pruned all the way down to the ground in early spring. The paniculatas should be pruned back, but not all the way, in early spring. Both of these hydrangeas bloom on the current year’s growth. The macrophylla types cannot be pruned in the spring, as they bloom on second year’s growth. They should be pruned as soon as the flowers fade in the spring.

Photo courtesy of Christine Davis


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