March is the gateway to the gardening season in Zones 6-8. Trees are forming buds, birds are chirping sweet songs, and new signs of life are emerging everywhere. This is a time packed with initiating garden preparations, carving out new garden beds, edging, pruning, much-anticipated seed starting, and the outdoor planting of cool weather crops.
Check out our robust March Garden Checklist Zones 6-8 for valuable information on all you can do in your garden this month to ensure a hearty and healthy garden this year.
Visit Your Local Extension Office
The month of March is the perfect time to visit your local extension office before the gardening season gets underway. Each State Department of Agriculture has offices set up within local counties to help gardeners and farmers find local garden resources. These specialized agencies are staffed by experts on garden and landscaping topics who are ready and willing to answer your questions, troubleshoot problems, provide local guidelines, and provide advice and support to all who seek some help in the garden.
- Soil Test: Obtain a sample of your soil and bring it to your local garden extension office or nursery for a soil test before planting time arrives. Experts can help you identify the quality of your native soil and provide recommendations for amending.
- Before going to your local extension office or nursery, brainstorm some questions ahead of time. Bring along your garden journal and as you ask gardening questions, jot down suggestions and expert advice.
- Find out about native plants and what grows best in your region.
- Gain valuable planting information detailing when you can start thinking about getting new plants and seedlings in the ground.
Spring Garden Planning
There are still many chilly and rainy days ahead where you can keep working on your garden planning in Zones 6-8. Although, you’ll likely be heading to the yard for some prep and maintenance. Keep your garden journal close at hand and dream of warmer days and fruitful gardens.
- Attend a Horticulture Show! Nothing is more inspirational than seeing a whole arena filled with a gardening extravaganza. It’s the perfect way to shake off those winter doldrums.
- Grab some new gardening magazines and books. Scour your favorite gardening websites for ideas and tips.
- Use your sketched-out garden design plans and dream boards to figure out where your future plants and seedlings will go.
- Chart seed and plant varieties. Note their planting specifications, days to germination and maturity, and keep notes about what worked well and what was not entirely successful. This chart will help you plan from year to year by knowing when to sow seeds, plant with optimal spacing, when you can expect blooms, and when to harvest your plantings.
- If pests or diseases were a problem for you last season, it’s a great time to research companion plants and spacing provisions to protect and boost your plants’ productivity.
- Decide what you still need to fill unoccupied spaces in your garden beds before it is time to buy them.
- Use your vegetable garden planting charts to guide you on what to plant and when, so you will be ready for planting when warmer temperatures roll in.
- Construct your new raised beds, trellises, and other garden structures indoors for later placement.
Garden Tools and Supplies Assessment
Spring will be here before you know it, so it is worth repeating on our March Garden Checklist Zones 6-8 that your garden tools should be at the forefront of your mind. If you haven’t done so already, be sure that you assess your tools for sharpening and cleaning needs. The lawnmower should receive a fluid change as well. It’s best to get all of your gardening supplies in tip-top shape so that when spring rolls in, you are fully prepared for yard and garden work, so you do not have any setbacks.
Check your tools for disrepair signs, tune-up and thoroughly clean and sanitize, sharpen blades, and oil up moving parts. These steps will give you confidence for a strong start to the garden season. It is also essential to keep your garden free from diseases that may have plagued your garden last season.
- Start by using steel wool or a metal grill brush to clean any debris off your garden tools.
- Wipe surfaces with a damp rag.
- Use coarse sandpaper to scuff away any signs of rust on metal surfaces.
- Dab vegetable oil onto a rag and wipe metal surfaces.
- Use a piece of sandpaper to slough away any rough or splintering spots on wooden handles.
- Wipe wooden handles down with a rag wet with linseed oil.
Stock Up on Garden Supplies
Garden centers and nurseries should be putting out this year’s gardening tools and supplies. Peruse the aisles and snatch up some of the most sought-after items on your list while the shelves are fully stocked.
- If any tools were beyond repair, have gone missing, or you have longed to acquire, now is the time to do it!
- Once you get your soil test results, you can gather some of the amendments that you need to boost your soil’s performance.
- If you haven’t shopped for seeds yet, you can be sure to have them on time by purchasing them at your local nursery or garden center-the same goes for seed starting supplies.
- Summer bulbs such as Elephant Ears, Caladium, and Dahlias will be fully stocked on store shelves now, so while you cannot plant them in the ground yet, you can get a hold of the best selection now. Store them in a cool dark place until next month.
- Bare root plants are also most plentifully stocked at this time. You’ll have the best options to pick from this month. This includes roses, berry bushes, fruit trees, and other favorites.
Spring Garden Maintenance
If you live in Zones 6-8, the weather may be unpredictable, but your gardens are starting to awaken. It’s prime time for beginning some prep and maintenance tasks.
- Be aware that the ground is just beginning to soften, and if rain has been prevalent in your area, avoid walking or driving in your garden when the soil is saturated. Compressing the soil with weight will result in soil compaction, leading to a plethora of problems in the garden bed.
- If you planted nitrogen-fixing vegetable garden cover crops in your garden bed, those in Zones 7 and 8 might be able to start turning them over in the garden bed before they go to seed.
- Pull up any weeds before they get established in the garden bed.
Mulching and Amending the Garden
It’s a great time to start mulching and amending. You can stomp out weeds in early spring by adding a couple of inches of mulch to your garden beds. Once your soil test results are in, add well-decomposed compost and any other necessary amendments to help build healthier soil. These actions will bolster your soil and prevent a lot of propagating spring weeds from overtaking your garden before your gardens are in full swing.
Pruning Trees and Shrubs After Winter
March is an excellent time for late winter pruning. Pruning considerations can get confusing at times, especially at this time of year. If you have any doubt on whether or not to prune back a perennial dramatically, simply let it be and prune it after it flowers. Do some more research on your plant variety and gain more insight for the next time around. This is a great question for an expert at your local extension office.
- Prune away branches that have succumbed to winter damage before the new shoots of spring emerge.
- If you live in Zones 5-6, you can prune grapevines and fruit trees.
- It’s time to do a hard pruning of dormant woody perennials and dormant ornamental grasses. You can be aggressive about your pruning with these dormant plants and only leave the first bud at the plant’s base. This applies only to plants that produce blooms on new stems.
Many perennial shrubs have already formed buds for next season’s blooms. It is not the time to prune these shrubs unless you are only growing them for greenery or hedge; otherwise, you risk cutting away their blooming potential. If your plantings are purely for greenery and privacy, you may trim the bushes’ tips to shape them; Boxwoods are an example of these green shrubs.
Some of the flowering shrubs to leave intact at this time include:
It’s time to start some seeds indoors! This is one part of the March Garden Checklist Zones 6-8 that I’m sure you are eager to begin. Here are some of our recommendations for what to get started planting. As always, consult the local extension office in your county for additional guidance.
Indoor Seed Starting
Before we discuss starting seeds indoors on our March Garden Checklist Zones 6-8, it is crucial to identify your planting zones last frost date. This date varies with each zone and is just an estimation. The last frost date is essential because this is how you will calculate what you can start planting indoors by counting the seed maturation days backward from the last estimated frost date so transplants will be ready for outdoor planting.
- Zone 6– Estimated last frost date of April 30, which means you can start planting seeds indoors in early March.
- Zone 7– Estimated last frost date of April 15, which means you can start planting seeds indoors in late February and throughout the month of March
- Zone 8 – Estimated last frost date of April 1, which means you can start planting seeds indoors in mid-February throughout early March.
Zones 6-8 can start seeds for:
You can begin planting warm-season crops indoors in early March. These include, but are not limited to:
Flower seeds with long maturation periods like coneflower and rudbeckia can also be germinated in seed trays and pots indoors throughout the month as well. Remember to stagger your plantings with new plants every two weeks to prolong your harvest!
Force Branches Indoors
Consider pruning a few branches from some flowering shrubs and trees. Make a clean cut and arrange the branches in a vase of clean water to force an early bloom.
The following make great branch sources:
- Flowering Cherry or Pear Trees
- Pussy willow
- Flowering Fruit Trees
Outdoor Garden Planting In Zones 6, 7, and 8
The exciting time of outdoor planting has arrived, at least for cool-season crops. Check out some of the March Garden Checklist Zones 6-8 ideas for outdoor garden planting.
- Those in Zone 6 can plant potatoes and move cauliflower and broccoli transplants outdoors to a cold frame.
- Gardeners in Zone 7 can begin planting broccoli, cauliflower, and peas.
- Zone 8 growers can begin planting beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, kale, lettuce, peas, spinach, and tomatoes.
- Zones 6-8 can plant pansies, snapdragons, and other cool-weather flora.