Echter’s Plant Doctors are available during store hours seven days a week to answer your gardening questions. For accurate diagnosis, it
helps to bring in a sample.
Plant begonias, dahlias and cannas in pots inside to give
them a head start. Leave them inside until mid-May. You will have flowers much earlier.
Plant sweet pea seeds now, using an inoculant for better
germination and flowering.
Perennials & Roses & Vines
Many perennials, trees, shrubs and annuals are able to
thrive with less irrigation. We are calling those plants X-rated. (X is for xeric which means dry). To
be x-rated, established plants need 1 inch of water or less each week to thrive. Check our website for a
list of X-rated plants. We also have a list in a brochure which also gives
you guidelines for xeriscape gardening.
Lift and divide crowded perennials late this month if new
growth is evident. Proper soil preparation is essential for good growth
Lily bulbs can be planted outdoors as soon as the ground can
be worked for blooms in late June through September.
Cut back old stalks from your perennials, so you can enjoy
the new foliage and flowers. Cut back ornamental grasses as low as possible so
the old foliage won’t detract from the new growth.
Trees & Shrubs
Early March is the best time to prune deciduous trees and
shrubs. You can see the branching structure. (Some exceptions are birch, maple,
walnut, and elm. These should be pruned mid-summer.) Remove dead, dying, or
unsightly parts of the tree. Remove branches that are crossed against each
other. Use a pole pruner to reach branches up to about 15′ off the
ground. Pruning paints and wound dressings are NOT recommended on the
Prune fruit trees before they leaf out. There is less danger
of spreading disease. Pruning assures good air circulation for better fruit
production. Examine apple, pear, hawthorn, crabapple trees and cotoneasters for
evidence of fire blight. The leaves remain on the branches and the branches
will look scorched. Prune out infected branches and sterilize your pruners,
loppers or saws between every cut. While these plants are in flower prevent
this disease by spraying Ferti-lome Fire Blight Spray.
Prune new shrubs and trees very little for the first two
years. Your plants need to establish a good root zone, and the more top
growth (leaves and branches) the plant has the more the plant can produce its own food to grow. Look for these three things when
pruning – dead branches, broken branches and branches that cross over and rub
If your lilacs, honeysuckle or any other shrubs are really
overgrown, prune out two or three of the oldest, largest stems using a lopper
or a pruning saw. This will rejuvenate these plants.
Trees, shrubs, vines and roses have deeper root systems and
should be watered for a longer period of time and less frequently than
shallower rooted plants such as perennials and annuals. Do not water if the
ground is frozen.
Suffocate overwintering insects, like aphids, spider mites
and scale on trees and shrubs by spraying dormant oil.
Don’t be in a hurry to remove the mulch around roses and in
perennial beds. We could still have some harsh weather.
Remember to rotate your vegetable crops each year. Plant
each variety of vegetable in a different part of your garden than you did last
Plant spinach, peas, Swiss chard, radishes, turnips,
parsnips, carrots, kale, lettuce, leeks, rutabaga, onion seed and sets, bare
root strawberries, asparagus, and potatoes directly into the garden if soil temperature
is at least 40 degrees
Now is the time to start broccoli, Brussels sprouts,
cauliflower, kohlrabi, onion, alyssum, lobelia and pansy and geranium seeds
inside for planting out later in the spring. Start tomatoes and peppers
inside now to be planted out in late May.
When starting flower and vegetable seeds indoors, use clean
new containers and a good seed-starting mix in order to prevent disease problems.
Give asparagus beds a good layer of compost or cow manure.
You will have much larger and better production.
Prune out raspberry canes which produced fruit last
year. (They will have a papery gray bark and traces of where the fruit
attached.) Leave the canes which didn’t bear for this year’s crop.
If you saved seeds from previous years, plant a few seeds in
small pots. Label and test to see if they will sprout.
Plan to grow one new vegetable you haven’t tried
before. It will create renewed interest in your garden, and you might find a new favorite.
Rototill or turn over your gardens when the soil is fairly
dry. Add organic matter like Canadian sphagnum peat moss and/or compost to your
gardens before rototilling.
Although earthworms can be a nuisance for some, they are of
great value in keeping soil aerated.
Earthworms take organic matter from the surface and drag it down into
the soil, thus making them great little composters.
Core aerate your lawn before you fertilize in the middle of
April. This helps to promote deep root growth by providing oxygen and moisture
to the roots. You can leave the plugs on the lawn as they will compost
back into the soil.
Overseeding a thin lawn can begin as March warms up. Rake
areas to be seeded to expose the soil.
Seed these areas with a good quality grass seed and keep
moist until well germinated
We do not normally recommend power raking, but hand
thatching is very beneficial for the lawn. It allows good air circulation and
can prevent many diseases of the grass.
If you had disease problems in your lawn last year, apply
Scotts Lawn Fungus Control when grass greens up as a preventive measure.
Once snow has melted off your lawn, check the turf in shaded
areas for snow mold, a fungus that is white to pink in color and grows on the surface of the grass
blades. If you see snow mold, lightly rake the affected areas and dispose of
the debris. Exposure to light and air will normally dissipate the snow
mold. The grass will grow out from the
crown of the plant as spring progresses. If the turf becomes patchy, you can
overseed the area. There is no effective chemical control.
March is a great time to transplant houseplants into the
next-sized larger pot. Use a good well-drained houseplant potting mix.
Prune back leggy houseplants now before the spring
flush of growth.
As days grow longer, houseplants resume active growth
and benefit from applications of fertilizer like Jack’s Classic Houseplant Special.
Start an indoor herb garden. Plant several kinds
of herbs together in a pot, or grow them individually in small pots. Chives, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, sage,
tarragon and thyme are good choices for a sunny kitchen windowsill. Snip and
use herbs during their indoor stay. In spring set the pots outdoors or
transplant them into your garden.
You can help birds with their nests by providing a mesh bag
near bird activity areas outside, filled with pieces of thread, string, yarn or
lint from your dryer. Also leave small piles of twigs to help them in
their nesting process.
Put up birdhouses this month in preparation for new arrivals
this spring. Birds are very specific about the size of the entry hole. Be
sure you have the right-sized entry hole for the birds you want to attract.
Also remember to clean out and sterilize last year’s houses.
Put up a woodpecker house under the eaves or near your
home. This may deter other flickers from beating on your house.
Woodpeckers and flickers are territorial and will keep others away.
Now’s a great time to inspect your old patio furniture and
replace it if necessary. Special orders placed now will usually arrive in time
for the outdoor season.
Make sure your tools are clean and sharpened. For a
nominal fee Echter’s will sharpen your pruners, shovels, hoes, hedge and grass
Bring smaller twigs of crabapple, cherry, forsythia, quince
and pussy willow into the house. Place them in a vase of water and you will have spring flowers in a few
Has your compost pile stopped “cooking”? Reactivate the
microbes this month with a prepared compost maker product and get that
decomposition started again.
Clean leaves and debris from your gutters for more
efficient water runoff from your roof.