08 Mar MARCH GARDEN GOAL DIGGER
About this time every year, gardeners everywhere are eagerly eying their hand trowels, compost piles, and seed packets. We’re just itching to get out there — and some warm-climate gardeners actually can (don’t hate me; I’m one of them). Whether you’re breaking out the tank tops or still bundled up in snow gear, March is the month when things start to happen. Let’s set some garden goals to stay on track.
GARDEN SEASON PREP GOALS:
• You can still order seeds if you haven’t already, particularly those of you in colder climates.
• Refine your garden design, whether in your head or on paper. Go outside and notice what your garden looks like this time of year when so many perennials have yet to leaf out. Are there bare spots, a lack of structure, or no cold-weather focal points? You can address those this year.
• Do a final inspection of your tools and supplies — next month, we’re off to the races!
GARDEN CHORE GOALS:
• Protect your garden. If your ground is frozen, the soil soggy, or the lawn muddy, don’t work the soil. Doing so breaks down the soil structure, which in turn is bad for your plants. I know it’s tempting to get out there, but hold off until the snow melts, the ground thaws, and the mud drains or dries up.
• Work the beds first where you know you will be planting early with plants like asparagus crowns, strawberries, rhubarb, onions, shallots, and seed potatoes. Leave the other beds alone for now.
• Continue sowing indoor seeds. You want those little darlings ready to go when the weather warms! And as always, count back from recommended planting dates for your area, and sow your seeds accordingly.
• Clean up garden debris — particularly from those beds that contain your early bloomers. Do it carefully, removing soggy leaves and fallen twigs so your plant babies can poke their heads out with confidence.
• Cut back perennials and ornamental grasses. Of course, the timing of this depends upon where you live, but cleaning up old growth is sometimes what a plant needs to send up new growth. With ornamental grasses, I like to give them a pretty severe haircut just as I see some new growth at the base — this way, I enjoy their winter form and only have to live with the cut-back form for a bit.
• Prune with a goal in mind. Know which plants need pruning at what time — for example, if you prune an early flowering tree, shrub or vine now, you’re removing the future blooms. Wait until after they are finished blooming to prune those back.
• Inspect your houseplants. Some may be waking up from their winter’s sleep and may be in need of additional watering or fertilization. Look for any sign of pest or disease and treat promptly.
GARDEN CHILL GOALS:
• Notice and appreciate the subtle ways that your garden is waking up — different bird sounds in the morning, tiny buds on the ends of your tree branches, the appearance of bulb foliage poking their heads out of the ground, slightly warmer temperatures (or maybe “less chilly” is more appropriate).
• Set a goal to learn a new gardening skill this year by creating a Gardening Bucket List. Write down a list of dreams for skills you’d like to acquire — cultivating mushrooms, introducing a beehive, adding fruit to your edible garden, or raising chickens.
• Bring the outdoors in by forcing branches. This may seem like a garden chore (okay, it kind of is), but it’s even more soul-lifting to have blooming branches inside your home. Take cuttings of branches from trees like pear, redbuds, pussy willow, forsythia, apple, and cherry.