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Green Thumb Tips - March

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.

Flower Gardens
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
Lift and divide crowded perennials late this month if new growth is evident. Proper soil preparation is essential for good growth after replanting.
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 pruning cuts.
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 on others.
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.

Vegetable Gardens
Remember to rotate your vegetable crops each year. Plant each variety of vegetable in a different part of your garden than you did last year
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. That is done by poking holes in the ground and pulling out plugs throughout the lawn using an aerator. This reduces soil compaction and promotes deep root growth by providing oxygen to the roots. It water and fertilizer move into the root zone and helps to control thatch buildup. Water the lawn the day before aerating so the ground will be softer. Mark your sprinkler heads and cable TV lines to avoid damaging them. Water again after aeration to help the lawn recover. Leaving the plugs on the ground will help break down the thatch that has accumulated as the plugs break up.
Overseeding a thin lawn can begin as weather begins to reliably warm up in March. Rake areas to be seeded to expose the soil. Apply a thin layer of Nature's Yield Compost to the area. Use a high-quality seed blended for your conditions. A hand spreader will help to apply the seed evenly. Be sure to keep the surface area moist until the seed is well germinated. You may need to sprinkle water on the area more than once a day to keep it moist.

Echter's Grass Seed Blends

We do not normally recommend power raking, but hand thatching can be 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 Ferti-lome F-Stop 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.
Indoor Plants
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.
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.
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 days.
Has your compost pile stopped “cooking”? Reactivate the microbes this month with a prepared compost maker product and get that decomposition started again.

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