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In March, it can be difficult to be patient. The days are beginning to warm and lengthen; a few buds appear on the trees and we are all quite through with the cold and the rain! There are several things we can do to get started on the season, although, in some cases it is prudent to wait. In March, we can begin to amend and wake up the soil, preparing it for spring planting. A few early plants can go into the ground in March. Keep reading for advice and ideas on what to do in the garden in early spring!
Amending the Soil
It is expected that our plants deplete the soil every year. Their roots take nutrients and water, to contribute to health and growth. This is the natural way of things. In nature, plants replenish their own nutrient supply by dropping their leaves or branches that then rot into the soil. In the garden, we rarely allow that kind of natural progression (what a mess!) so we then take soil health into our own hands. We must build the soil in order to feed the plants that we grow!
The health of the soil is directly related to the health of the plants: the better the soil, the better the plant! It’s as simple as that! Soil is composed of minerals (rock particles), organic matter, water and air. Some soils can contain high levels of clay or sand, which can cause imbalances that make it difficult for plants to grow. The gardener must work to bring the soil back into balance, to maintain homeostasis (stability).
There are many soil test kits available for sale, as well, that will give more information on the quality of your soil, including the pH. PH is a numbered scale that measures how acidic or alkaline something is. A lemon has a pH of 3 and is very acidic, dish soap has a pH of 12 and is quite basic. Most plants thrive in balanced soil with a pH of 6 or 7, right in the middle of the scale.
Once you know the quality of your soil, you can begin to amend it. It take can time to build healthy soil but there are many ways to speed things up. Adding compost and manure every year will increase the vital organic matter in the soil. Add good organic fertilizers like Dr. Earth as well as lime, blood or bone meal to increase the amount of minerals in the soil. Tilling, either with shovels or a rototiller, will ensure aeration, as will making sure your soil has plenty of worms.
Increasing soil health is an important way to improve the health of your garden and everything that grows there! Protect your plant investment with proper soil preparation.
Wake up your Lawn!
Grass goes semi-dormant in the winter, reducing its growth rate significantly. In the spring, however, it bounces back to life faster than you can say “lawn mower”! It is time to start thinking about its health for the season.
Check to see how much thatch is built up on your lawn. Thatch is made of dead plant material that gets matted right at the base of the plant and can choke the grass over time. It’s good to get the thatch out in the springtime, to leave room for new, vibrant growth. Raking firmly and deeply will loosen matted thatch from the soil, pulling up chunks of dead, tangled roots and stems. To rake this deeply, it is a good idea to use a metal rake and a very firm hand.
Lawns can be fertilized in the spring to activate spring growth. Sprinkle the fertilizer onto your grass, following package directions for amounts. The fertilizer will revitalize and invigorate the lawn for the year, helping it to retain moisture throughout the summer and crowd out dandelions and other weeds that try to invade.
Early Vegetables and Hardy Annuals
Even though nighttime temperatures can dip below freezing in March, a few hardy plants can make it through the cold. Get a jump on the season with these early favorites:
Salad greens: Plant lettuce and spinach in March, either from seed or starts and get an early crop of fresh, spring salads! We like to plant arugula and kale along with them, to add a little spice to our salads. Kale is one of the most nutrient-dense vegetables, packing high levels of iron, vitamin C and antioxidants! Beware: slugs just love the wet soil of springtime and will devour fresh green leaves until there is nothing left. Keep your plants unharmed by surrounding them with Sluggo.
Peas: Ornamental sweet peas produce fragrant, colorful blossoms on a vivacious climbing vine. You can also plant several types of edible peas, from shelling peas to varieties with edible pods. Both of these peas need a trellis or arbor to grow on, but they’ll reward you with tasty early-season peas!
Pansies: This cool weather annual comes in a wide range of cheery colors, including yellow, violet, purple, white, maroon and orange that are just perfect for shaking off the winter doldrums. Pansies thrive in the cool air of springtime and will be just about spent when all your summer flowers come into bloom. These plants average 4 to 10 inches in height, suitable for growing in containers or in the front of a garden bed.
Love-in-a-mist: This aptly named flower looks as pretty as a love song sounds. Its delicate feathery leaves frame stunning blue and white blossoms. After the blossoms fade, viewers are treated to a striking seedhead with vertical striping. Also known by the Latin name, Nigella, they can be planted anytime in March.
While you are waiting for the soil to dry and the weather to warm up, take a look around your garden. Do you need to make any updates and changes this year? Think back on the year before and see if you can remember what worked and what didn’t. Sometimes, we need to update our paths or redirect a walkway around a growing plant. Tree roots grow larger every year and some bushes or branching shrubs take up more space than they did before. Or, it may just be time to redesign for the sake of aesthetics and keeping things interesting. Come chat with us about how to create your own beautiful garden pathways.