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- The perennials are starting to put on growth and the spring flowering plants are doing their thing. Time to fertilize, especially those hungry roses. Prune the late-flowering hedges before birds start nesting in them.
- March is a good time to divide those plants that bloom in mid- to late-summer.
- Keep after those weeds - most importantly, don't let them set seed. Getting them now will pay off later. Henbit, chickweed and other cool weather weeds can be effectively controlled by diligent hand-pulling (and adds green biomass to your spring compost pile).
- Pick off spent blooms and prune the early spring-blooming perennials when they've finished blooming. Dead-head the bulb plants but leave the leaves until they die back naturally - they're putting away energy for next year's flowering.
Year-Round Kitchen Garden:
- Prepare your garden beds - add compost, manure, peat moss, and/or your chosen amendments. However, don't try to dig into or otherwise work the soil until the soil is dry enough to crumble in your hand; this especially goes for clay soils - take care not to work them wet as the clay will bind together, just like pottery clay. Raised beds shouldn't need to be dug at all, just top-dress them with your amendments.See Assess your soil for gardening.
- Direct seed into your beds arugula, cress, cilantro, mustard, lettuce, radishes, turnips, beets, carrots, onion sets, chard, mache, mesclun, Asian vegetables and anything else that prefers cool weather and grows fairly fast and transplant out any cool-weather seedlings you may have started last month for your salad garden.
- Transplant broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. Look to your local hardware store or garden center, if you didn't start them indoors. Fast maturing broccoli varieties like 'Southern Comet' and 'Packman' work well in zone 7. See Territorial Seeds for more Northwest varieties.
- Indoors, start your tomatoes, peppers and eggplants as well as the hardy greens - kale, mustard, endive, chard, parsley. They need lots of illumination, so keep your lights close to the growing seedlings. Transplant the hardy greens outdoors when plants have two sets of true leaves. It's much too early to set tomato seedlings out into the garden (even though the garden centers already have them). Wait until the soil is warm enough for them, otherwise they'll just sulk. You can also start cucumbers, squash and melons indoors now. Use peat or newspaper pots to avoid transplant shock - you can plant the whole pot when the ground is warm enough.
- If you use floating row covers, keep an eye out for unseasonably warm days - you may want to pull them back - but don't remove them yet. There's still a good chance of a freeze.
- Over-wintered spinach and lettuce will start growing again and may even be ready for harvest.
- Fall planted garlic can be encouraged to grow a strong stand of leaves by side-dressing with compost and high nitrogen soil amendments. The early leaves are tender and will spice up spring salads. But only take a few as the size of the harvested garlic bulb is determined by health, size, and number of the plant's leaves.
- Peas can go into the ground when a week of warm weather is forecast. Improve germination by pre-sprouting them under a damp cloth. Plant them outside just when the roots begin to show.
Woody and Ornamental:
- Bare-root trees and bushes purchased this month need to go directly into the ground. If you can't, "heel" them in - dig a trench, place the plants in at an angle, then back-fill so the soil covers the roots completely. Keep the soil moist. This technique can protect your plants for a couple of weeks.
- Prune fruit trees, landscape trees, and shrubs. Remove dead and broken branches, crossing branches that are rubbing, and any diseased wood. Prune and shape apple trees just before the buds open. Trim spring-flowering shrubs like forsythia, Japanese camellia, and azalea after they bloom.
- Before your plants begin budding out and when the weatherman says it will be between 40° to 75°, give your fruit trees one more application of dormant spray or horticultural oil. Lime sulfur, or commercial lime sulfur plus oil mix can be used to control black spot in roses, and downy mildew and other fungal diseases in fruit trees. Apply while the plants are still dormant and follow the directions exactly.
Soil and Maintenance:
- Take a minute to carefully look at your yard. Are there places where you and Mother Nature are at odds? For example, shade trees thrive in the Zone 7 climate. Struggling to keep grass healthy while competing with hungry tree roots and deep shade is a battle doomed to failure. Instead, consider planting a natural area, combined with mulch or a shade-tolerant living ground cover under those shade trees.
- Take time to assess your garden soil. Good soil is porous, rich in organic matter, neither cloddy (hard) or powdery. See
10 easy soil tests. Also see: Willamette Valley Soil Quality Card Guide.
- Now is a good time to renew your mulch. Mulch has many benefits - just remember to keep it no deeper than 2" to 4" for landscaping uses. More isn't better. When putting it around a tree or shrub, don't pile it up against the trunk - think "donut", not "mound".
- Now is also a good time to begin your spring compost, using the leaves, old mulch and garden debris from your spring cleanup. Make a new bin or clean out an existing bin area to collect green weeds you pull this spring.
- If your fall batches of compost are ready, dig some in as needed when you work your vegetable beds for spring, and top-dress the places you want to improve the health of your soil.
- Fescue, bluegrass, and ryegrass lawns are starting to grow. Needless to say, you'll need to start mowing again if you haven't already. Tall fescue needs to be at least 3" inches in height to out compete the weeds. Mow at least once a week and don't remove more that 1/3 of the leaf each time. If your grass is already too tall - set your mower on it's highest height setting then go back a few days later and repeat the process, lowering the blade each time, until you reach the 3" mark. Unless you have so many clippings that they are clumping under the mower, just leave them in the lawn. If the clippings are clumping - usually meaning the grass is wet - just rake them up, dry them out, and add them to your compost pile. (Don't do this is you've used commercial pesticides and or herbicides on your lawn - send those clippings to a yard waste recycler and promise to go organic this year.)
- Don't fertilize your fescue lawn after March 15, and only use a half strength application. Wait until warm weather to fertilize if you have Bermuda or another warm season grass. If weeds are an issue, consider an organic pre-emergent like corn gluten (most versions are also 10-1-0 fertilizers as well). See Gardens Alive WOW!® Supreme, or your local garden center - many now carry organic products.
Critters Good and Otherwise
- Put up houses for bluebirds, finches and other birds this month and clean out the old birdhouses. Check out WSU Backyard Birds and Audubon Washington.
- It's time for the annual Zone 7 slugfest. Cheap beer is the traditional bait for slug traps. Or, patrol the garden for the slimy beggars in the early morning or evening with a flashlight. To ease the hunt, lay out wooden planks for them to congregate under. Cut every slug in half or drop them into a bucket of soapy water.
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