March Gardening Tips


Forsythia - one of spring's early heralds.

Forsythia – one of spring’s early heralds.

Springtime is at the door, and gardening fever is starting afflict folks. I don’t know if March came in as a lion or lamb, but one thing is certain – you can’t predict the weather in Texas. The cooler weather in late February and early March slowed down what looked like an early springtime.

Saturday March 16 is the second East Texas Garden Lecture Series workshop at the Tyler Rose Garden Center, featuring “Creating Creative Container Gardens”. Gone are the days of boring, one-plant pots! Come be inspired watching 3 nurserymen – Sharon Lee Smith of Blue Moon Gardens, James Wilhite of Wilhite Landscape & Lawn, and Laurie Breedlove of Breedlove Landscape Nursery, demonstrate how to plant beautiful and interesting container gardens, and Mary Wilhite of Blue Moon Gardens will be adding color commentary during throughout the morning.


A mixed plating with some spillers and thrillers. Photo courtesy of Laurie Breedlove.

You’ll not only learn the basics of container gardens – soils, containers and plants, but your creativity will be stimulated for making arrangements using stylish containers consisting of combinations of evergreens, grasses, and perennial arrangements; color flower and foliage arrangements; and using odd and/or structural items in arrangements. Each person will present an initial arrangement solo, then all will create a second container garden. The program begins at 9:00 a.m., with registration beginning at 8:30. Registration is $15 at the door. Some containers will given as door prizes.

Will it freeze again? In general, the last freeze date for our area is around mid-March, so you should  not set out tender summer vegetable and annual flowers too early unless you are prepared to replant in case of a late spring freeze. Some annual vegetables and flowers, such as peppers and periwinkles, even if they are not damaged by a late freeze, don’t like cold soils, so planting early does not gain you any benefit. They will sulk, not grow, and may even be stunted for the rest of the growing season.

Sweet alyssum makes a great edger and filler

Sweet alyssum makes a great edger and filler

Some flowers to plant right away include sweet alyssum, larkspurs, poppies, English daisies, stocks, snapdragons, and petunias.

If you have larkspur, zinnia, cockscomb and cosmos seedlings coming up, be sure to thin them to eliminate crowding. Plants will bloom much better if thinned to about 4″ apart. Transplant or share the extras with gardening friends.

Vegetables to plant right away as transplants include broccoli, cabbage, and collards. The following can still be seeded in early March: beets, carrots, collards, mustard greens, leaf lettuce, radish, turnips, Swiss chard and spinach.  Summer vegetables can begin to be sown and transplanted a little later this month. These would include: beans, sweet corn, cucumber, melons, tomatoes and squash. Delay planting sweet potatoes, okra, eggplant (transplant) and peppers (transplant) until early April.

Lawn Care. Wait another month to fertilize your lawns. Let the grass green up naturally without pushing it into growth. Turfgrass spring green up is in response to temperature and day length, not fertilizer. Fertilize in April after mowing actively growing grass one or two times. This practice results in a turf that is more resistant to summer stress by helping develop a stronger root system.

The best weed prevention is a sound lawn maintenance program of frequent mowing, proper fertilizing and timely watering. Mowing infrequently or at the wrong height, over or under fertilizing, and frequent, shallow irrigation are some of the factors that lead to poor turf quality.  No amount of weed preventer or weed killer can overcome poor lawn care practices.

Now is the time to apply a preemergence herbicide (weed preventer) if crabgrass or sandburs (grassburs) were a problem last year. Follow label directions carefully and do not exceed application rate. It is very important to immediately water-in the product following application.

Tidy up and encourage new growth of Asian jasmine, mondograss, liriope, and ornamental grasses by shearing them back now before new growth starts. A tip to make cutting back large ornamental grasses easier is to wrap all the blades together with twine before cutting. When finished, you have a sheaf ready to haul away.

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