March Garden Tips
It's almost planting time!
Let’s get out and prepare the soil for planting. By the end of the month, it will be time to plant summer veggies, citrus and summer color. Be sure to work in an inch or two of Gold Rush or Bumper Crop plus a few handfuls of Master Nursery Tomato and Vegetable Food to last year's vegetable area.
Visit the Wegman Pros at the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show, Booth #1137, March 20-24 at the San Mateo Event Center.
Pick up a brochure at our nursery's counter for a list of activities and savings with your early ticket purchase.
Ours has been a most unusual winter. Our normal rainfall is 18 to 21 inches, but so far we have had only about 13 inches. Until we get several rainfalls of 2 inches or more, it's time NOW to go on your summer irrigation schedule. The winter rains usually soak into the soil and give us a flush of bright green spring growth. It is not going to happen this year. Usually, there is enough soil moisture to satisfy fruit trees until the middle of May. Not this year. Young fruit trees and bare root trees will require weekly or biweekly irrigation. Established fruit trees will require monthly deep irrigation, all starting NOW. Think drought.
- Summer annuals, such as impatiens, petunias, marigolds, fibrous begonias, alyssum, Cosmos, hollyhock, Nemesia, stock, snapdragons, Nasturtium, sweet peas, mimulus, and lobelia are coming in. Throughout March, our selection will grow. Come in soon!
- For fast color, continue planting winter annuals. Primrose, fairy primrose, Primula obconica, cineraria, and violas work in shady spots. Pansies, violas, Iceland poppies, and stock, work in sunny spots. Pansies and violas will serve you through summer as well.
- Sow seeds for Forget-Me-Not, nasturtium, cosmos, bachelor buttons, alyssum, lobelia, and erigeron directly into the garden. These should sprout in 10-14 days.
See our new Care Guide on Summer Bulbs
- Summer blooming bulbs are here! Check out our selection of gladioli, dahlias, calla lilies, crocosmia, and more. Come early for the best selections!
- Plant Asian lilies by the end of March. If you don’t have space in garden beds, grow them in large pots. Plant deeply, (6 to 8 inches) and cover with alyssum or lobelia.
- Plant gladiolus bulbs in 2-week intervals through March, April, May and June for continuous bloom. Plant bulbs about 4 times the depth of the bulb. If you plant the bulbs 4-6 inches apart, the foliage of individual plants will act as stakes and support flowering spikes of neighboring plants.
- Deadhead and feed daffodils withMaster Nursery Bulb Food when they’re finished blooming. Fertilizing at this time is crucial, as daffodils soak up the sun and store food in the bulb, for next year’s blooms.
- The key to strong and sturdy dahlias is planting them in 12 inch deep holes and covering them with only 3 inches of soil. Let them grow those extra 9 inches, gradually covering them with soil as they grow. Planted this way, dahlias will develop strong and sturdy flower stalks. For the tall dahlias, put a one inch by one inch by six foot stake next to the "bulb" when you plant it. (See our Dahlia Care Guide.)
- When planting tuberous begonias, remember to leave about one-quarter inch of the growing tip exposed.
- Divide canna bulbs and transplant or share with friends through mid-March.
- Next year, plant some Spring Starflowers (Iphion uniflorum) in your lawn. These bulbs bloom in February and March and have leaves which are grass-like and can be mowed.
- Prepare soil for bulbs by broadcasting two inches of a compost product such as Gold Rush and working it into the soil. Broadcast a starter fertilizer such as Master Nursery Master Start under the bulbs before you plant them or work it into the soil with the compost. Alternatively, you can add Gold Rush and Master Start
- Apply Master Nursery Bulb Food when bulb growth breaks ground and again when they finish blooming.
- If your fruit trees show flowers or leaves, it is too late for dormant sprays. Check labels for growing season dilution rate, if problems such as brown rot or bacterial canker are present. The past year or two have been particularly bad ones for brown rot and blossom blight on apricots and to a lesser degree peaches, cherries and plums. Early symptoms are when the flowers turn brown, shrivel up and fail to produce much or any fruit. Cankers appear later. The most effective spray for brown rot/blossom blight is Ortho Garden Disease Control (chlorothalonil). Liqui-Cop
- Any dead twigs or branches should be cut back 6” into healthy wood.
- Some gardeners have expressed concern that lack of rain has damaged flowers on fruit trees so that no fruit was produced last year. This is not so! More likely is the lack of honey bees to pollinate the fruit tree flowers!
- Watch for aphids when new leaves are one-half to one-inch long and begin to curl, particularly on plum trees. Spray with Monterey Take Down Garden Spray or Malathion. Do not spray while there are flowers on the trees as these insecticides are extremely toxic to bees. A non-toxic approach is to 'blast' the aphids with a strong stream of water which will knock off a lot of them. You can also spray with Safer's Insecticidal Soap which will not harm the bees. Before trees come into bloom, spray Malathion on apple and pear trees for woolly apple aphids, which appear as a white cottony substance, usually in crevices, healed pruning cuts and in the soil next to the trunk.
- Paint deciduous fruit tree trunks with a white, water-based indoor latex paint, cut 50% with water. This is especially important for young trees and trees planted in blazing hot locations.
- Captain Jack’s Deadbug Brew with Spinosad is not listed for use on olives which are to be consumed. Do not use it to control Olive fruit flies on olives which will be consumed. The Olive Fruit Fly traps are okay.
- If you haven’t had a chance to prune your fruit trees, it’s still safe to prune. You can also wait to prune during bloom. If you’re unsure of which wood will fruit, trees in flower are great learning opportunities if you remember that each flower is a potential fruit! Leave some of those and remove some of the flowerless wood.
- Fireblight was a serious problem on pears and some apples last year. If you had this problem you will need to spray Liqui-Cop again before or during the bloom period in addition to cutting out diseased tissue. Do not use any Horticultural Oil with the Liqui-Cop.
- Watch for ‘bleeding’ or oozing of sticky sap from stone fruit trees which may indicate Bacterial Canker. If the sap is clear, there is usually no problem, but amber-colored sap indicates a potential problem and will require spraying as trees come into bloom. Check our individual fruit tree Care Guides for details and see above.
- Select and plant citrus beginning mid to late March, after the danger of frosts has passed.
- Citrus can be pruned now if desired or needed. Check now for scale, a sucking insect that usually clusters along fruit stems, new growth and the undersides of leaves. If found, the U.C. Agricultural Extension Service recommends that you spray the tree with a mixture of Malathion and horticultural oil. Wait two weeks for a second application, and never spray oil more than 4 times during the growing season. Ants running up and down the trunk often indicate the presence of scale, so look carefully, as more than one kind of scale may be present.
- Fertilize citrus in March, May, July, and September. In November, we also like to spread chicken manure around the base of trees (avoiding the trunk) to give them a slow nitrogen source.
- Coddling moth (wormy apples and pears) is most effectively controlled with a single spray of Sevin about one week after all of the flower petals have dropped so that bees are not affected.
- Mow low-growing groundcovers such as ivy, periwinkle and Peruvian verbena. Then fertilize with Formula 49 and water thoroughly.
- Slugs and snails are especially abundant and troublesome this time of year, reproducing and resting in groundcovers and citrus trees and shrubs. Baiting now will help minimize extant populations and also minimize damage in the coming spring. Use Sluggo, safe for pets and people because it does not contain metaldehyde which is deadly to dogs, cats and children.
- Spread seed or lay sod March through May. For details on preparing an area for installation, check out our New Sod Care Guide. Sod orders placed with Wegman’s usually take 2-3 days for delivery. Call us for details!
- Feed lawns with Master Nursery Fall & Winter Feed for Lawns. If your lawn has been beset with dead spots which seem to grow in size, the problem is probably insect grubs which can be eliminated with Bayer Grub Control or organically with Nematodes. Apply them now.
- If you have had problems with Bermuda grass in your lawn, apply Turflon Ester, which also controls annual and perennial broadleaf weeds in established lawns. For crabgrass, as well as a host of other tenacious broadleaf weeds, use Trimec Plus.
- For oxalis and broadleaf weeds, use Turflon Ester (1 teaspoon to 1 gallon of water), a liquid that can be sprayed over entire lawns and is our most effective herbicide for creeping Wood Sorrel (Oxalis). One application will often control this weed. An effective, all organic, pre-emergent weed killer is Concern All Natural Weed Prevention Plus (made from corn gluten). Remember: You cannot use pre-emergent products for 3-4 months prior to seeding a lawn or laying sod. You can, however, use Turflon Ester or Master Nursery Kleen-Up 3-4 days before seeding or laying sod. Before installing pick up our New Sod Care Guide.
- It's time to set mowers to summer levels: 2.5 to 3 inches for fescue and bluegrass lawns and 1“-1.5” for Bermuda grass lawns.
- Spring is underfoot! Check out these spring bloomers for sun: Iberis, Veronica, Peony, Lithodora, Arabis, Arenaria, and the true geraniums (Geranium sanguineum, G. Johnson’s Blue, G. macrorrhizum, etc.!). For the shade, check out the Hellebores, bleeding heart, coral bells, Heuchera, Douglas Iris, Columbine and fibrous begonia.
- Check perennials for frost damage. Mexican sage, Mexican heather and other frost-sensitive perennials may need to be pruned or replaced.
- Perennials (such as Shasta Daisies, Agapanthus or Penstemon) which may have become crowded or which do not bloom as vigorously as in the past should be divided now. Dig the whole clump and gently separate into parts or hose off soil and divide. Amend soil one-quarter to one-third with Master Nursery Gold Rush or Bumper Crop and replant the divisions. Fertilize the new plantings with Formula 49 after 2 to 3 months.
- Perennial grasses, such as purple fountain grass, can still be cut back. Fertilize lightly with a lawn fertilizer that does not contain an herbicide.
- To control Bermuda grass and crabgrass and other weedy grasses in ornamental beds, try Grass-Getter. Do not use around perennial ornamental grasses! Grass-Getter will be 30% off while supplies last.
- Bait now with Sluggo for snails and slugs or Master Nursery Pest-Fighter. Especially vulnerable are perennials such as columbine, hosta, tuberose and delphinium.
- Plant Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly weed) from seed if you want to attract Monarch butterflies this coming summer and fall.
- Cut back all perennials such as lavender, Penstemon, guara, salvia, etc. if not already done so. Lavender should be trimmed after each blooming, but never into leafless stems or between October and January.
- Resume your summer watering schedule.
- As new leaves emerge, watch for aphids. Apply Safer Insect Killing Soap or Master Nursery Nature's Pest Fighter (horticultural oil). A mixture of 2 tablespoons of Liqui-Cop and 2 tablespoons of Nature’s Pest Fighter in one gallon of water makes a good preventive against mildew, rust and blackspot and kills aphids.
- Most chemicals and organics designed to control rust, mildew and blackspot are “preventives” and must be sprayed before the plant is infected.
- Rub off leaf buds that are facing the center of the rose bush. This will redirect growth to outward buds and help keep the center of the bush open. Watch for sucker sprouts and remove by tearing them off at the base not by clipping.
- Climbers such as Cecile Brunner, Lady Banks and Belle of Portugal, which bloom only once, are not to be pruned until after they have bloomed.
- Prevent weeds in rose beds by applying Concern Weed Prevention Plus (8-2-4). This product contains corn gluten, which prevents seeds from germinating and contains 8% nitrogen, providing a slow-release fertilizer.
- Begin monthly feedings with Master Nursery Rose & Flower Foodor your favorite organic fertilizer.Alfalfa meal: once in March and again in June. Alfalfa contains the chemical triacontanol, which spurs the formation of new canes.
- If you haven't done so, put 2 to 4 inches of Gold Rush or Bumper Crop over the rose beds to maintain a good level of mulch.
- Last year was a bad year for Black Spot and our cool, late rains this year is ideal for Black Spot disease.Mr. Ed has already sprayed his roses and those at the nursery with Ortho Garden Disease Control (Chlorothalonil) as a preventive.
SHRUBS & VINES
- Some of our big shipment of rhododendrons have arrived from Oregon. We carry over 30 hybrids in one, five and fifteen gallon containers. We’re especially pleased to offer such great plants at low prices.
- Many fragrant shrubs and vines bloom in early spring, taking our senses out of winter slumbers. For shrubs, check out Boronia, a Mediterranean climate native, Ceanothus and lilac for full sun, and Daphne, Choisya and Sarcococca for shade. For vines, check out Pink jasmine, which grows well in full to part sun (better bloom in full sun) and wisteria. Use evergreen clematis and white potato vine for shadier areas.
- You should be noticing hummingbirds in action as the days warm up. They’re hungry! To attract them to your garden the old fashioned way, plant any of the Grevilleas, Coleonema, Callistemon, Salvia Greggii and the native Arctostaphylos. For part sun, plant abutilon or any of the fuchsias. All of these plants provide early nectar for these garden friends. Again, remember that if you spray poisons on the flowers, you get the good bugs as well as the bad, and can make the hummers sick.
- The garden wakes up in late winter/early spring as many of the Mediterranean climate natives begin to bloom. Check out Astartea, Grevillea, Eriostemon, Coleonema, Hardenbergia, Correa, and Leptospermum. While you may not be familiar with these plants, they make excellent additions to the landscape with their early bloom, deer-resistance, and tolerance to wet winters and dry summers.
- Wisteria should be pruned before it blooms. Establish a main framework of canes or branches and cut all secondary growth back to two or three buds. (See our Wisteria Care Guide.)
- Fertilize evergreen shrubs and vines now with Master Nursery Formula 49 (8-4-4 plus minor elements).
- Now’s a good time to select Japonica camellias and azaleas, as their flurry of color continues.
- Both camellias and azaleas are susceptible to petal blight, which appears as brown splotching on petal margins of open flowers, partly open flowers and flower buds. A fungus causes both petal blights. Camellia petal blight can be partially controlled through sanitation: Remove infected flowers and buds and try not to let infected petals hit the ground. If they do, gather and place in trash immediately-do not compost! Azalea petal blight is controlled by spraying with Ortho Garden Disease Control (chlorothalonil) before the buds open.
- Prune tender shrubs and vines (25 ° F-30° F), such as potato vine, Bougainvillea, Abutilon, Geraniums, Lantana, Mandevilla, and Fuchsia through late March.
- Fuchsias grown in containers should be repotted yearly, usually late February or early March (see Fuchsia Care Guide). Fuchsias whether in the ground or in pots should have one-half of their total top growth pruned off. Containerized plants should be planted up into larger containers or root-pruned. If you prune the roots, remove about one-quarter to one-third of the root mass and add fresh soil to the pot. Prune the tops back to the edge of the container. If you were troubled with crinkly, gnarly, leaves on your fuchsias last year (fuchsia mites) start your monthly spray schedule with Sevin when leaves are one-half inch long.
- This month marks the last application of aluminum sulphate (blue) or lime (pink) to intensify hydrangea flower color. Use oystershell lime, which contains calcium carbonate, an excellent addition to our soils. Remember, with the exception of ‘Endless Summer’ you cannot make Blue Hydrangea flowers pink or vice-versa (see our Hydrangea Care Guide).
- Wait to prune flowering cherries, plums and pears until after bloom. If you have had problems with Shot-Hole fungus on cherries or plums, spray before and after flowering with Liqui-Cop or Ortho Garden Disease Control (chlorothalonil).
- Come check out our selection of Magnolias as they begin to bloom! We carry the classic saucer Magnolia as well as some more unusual varieties that grow up to 15-20 feet and feature distinctively different flower forms and colors.
- The first shipments of Japanese maples have begun arriving. These trees are field-grown in Oregon, then planted in containers and held for one additional year to root-in and be pruned to shape. This year’s selection includes Bloodgood, Bonfire, Burgundy Lace, Fireglow, Emperor I, Oshio Beni, Red Dragon, Shaina, Seiryu, Shishigashira, Sango Kaku, Crimson Queen, Garnet, Inabe Shidare, Tamukeyama, Viridis, and Waterfall. We’ll also be carrying some unusual and harder to find varieties in 1-gallon and specimen sizes.
- Now is the best time to shop for and to plant large containerized conifers. Early spring’s cooler and more moist conditions assist conifers to become established more readily than at other times of the year.
- This may be a bad year for oak moths. Mr. Ed has seen numerous trees with caterpillars hanging on their delicate threads. Spray the trees with Bt or Spinosad while the caterpillars are still small.
- Look for broken and torn branches after storms. Prune to healthy tissue, using heading cuts if parts of branches are broken or torn and remove entire branches if needed. Consulting a simple, informative book such as Ortho’s All About Pruning or ‘The Practical Guide to Gardening’ in the back of the Sunset Western Garden Book will help you determine where to prune and how to make the proper cut. If severe damage is done to older, mature trees, we strongly encourage you to seek the services of an arborist. While you may pay more for their work, you can be assured that the health and longevity of your trees will not be compromised by poor practices such as topping and incorrect cuts. "Topping" a tree is considered a cardinal sin by the tree gods.
See our E-Newsletter dated February 18, 2010 and February 25, 2010 for articles on preparing, planting and fertilizing your vegetable garden.
- Begin planting summer vegetables and herbs in late March. Remember to amend and fertilize soil liberally, as vegetable crops deplete nutrients from soils rather quickly. We like Gold Rush, which includes chicken manure, supplemented with Master Nursery Tomato and Vegetable Food.
- Plant horseradish, rhubarb, and artichokes now from 4 inch and 1 gallon containers.
- Cool season greens can be planted throughout spring into summer. Lettuce, spinach, cilantro, chard, and mustard will all perform well.
- Captain Jack's Deadbug BrewSpinosad) can be used up to one day before harvest on most vegetables. This is especially good news for controlling leaf miners in chard and other crops, but it will not work on aphids and other sucking insects; for them use Safer's Insecticidal Soap.
- Continue planting onions from starts and garlic from cloves.
- Plant potatoes until April.
- Start tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, squash, corn, basil, and melons indoors or in greenhouses. Early Girl seedlings will be available near the end of the month and can go in the ground by the end of March. Early Girl fruits will be ready in about 54 days. If soil temperatures are below 55° F, no growth will take place and the seedlings will sit there and be food for birds and snails. Don't plant in the ground yet.
- Check out the Wall of Water display to see how you can give your tomatoes a greenhouse environment in a container.
- If you grow plants from seeds (acorns to zucchini) give them a boost with bottom heat from one of our Seedling Heat Mats. The mats are also used to speed rooting of cuttings (azaleas to zauschneria).
OTHER THINGS TO DO
- Mr.Ed found mosquito larva swimming in a bird bath recently.Quick Kill Mosquito Bits or Mosquito Dunk into larger containers of water. These are organic products; harmless to pets and people.
- Check your drip systems now: flush out sediments, check for algae and scrub screens and emitters with a toothbrush if necessary. Turn on water and make sure all emitters are working properly and there are no leaks in the lines. See Irrigating Plants Care Guide.
- Begin fertilizing container plants with an appropriate granular fertilizer. Continue monthly through October. If you are a fan of liquid fertilizers, begin applications in late March.
- Sharp pruning tools make clean cuts that heal quickly. Check out our Pruning Tool Renovation Service, which includes cleaning and sharpening and replacing missing parts. If you’re unsure whether we can service your tool, bring it in for assessment.
- Check your potted plants to see whether they will need repotting this season. If so, repot at the end of the month. You can plant up into larger containers or root-prune and replant in the same container. When root-pruning, prune away one-quarter to one-third of the root mass, about one-third of the top, and repot in Gardener’s Gold Potting Soil.
- Once a month, irrigate your potted plants with water to which one tablespoon of vinegar per gallon of water has been added. This will help to acidify the soil and dissolve excess fertilizer.