March is the traditional start of spring in East Texas. Our average last frost date is March 15 and although we frequently have frosts after that date, it means that winter is effectively over this month. I know we have all been enjoying the sight of the daffodils blooming in gardens and alongside the road for the past week or ten days. We will also “spring forward” this month by turning out clocks ahead by one hour on Sunday March 12, so we will have an extra hour of light in the evening – something that I appreciate as I get older.
So all these signs mean that your winter gardening vacation is now officially over and for the next several months your list of things to do is going to look really long. Here’s what you need to be doing this month:
- Clean out your beds of dead plant material and leaves and apply a new layer of mulch to a depth of 4-6 inches
- Apply fertilizer to lawns after repairing any damaged areas.
- Finish pruning roses the first week of the month if you haven’t completed this task in February. Do not prune climbing roses until after they bloom.
- Do not prune spring flowering shrubs and vines until after they finish blooming.
- Allow the foliage from spring-blooming bulbs to die back naturally. The foliage feeds the bulb for next year’s bloom.
- Divide fall-blooming perennials.
- Plant gladiolas in two week intervals to stretch out the bloom season.
- Finish sowing seeds of Swiss chard, collards, leaf lettuce and spinach early in the month.
- After the danger of frost has passed, set out transplants of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and squash.
- Begin setting out warm -season annuals but wait until the end of April to plant periwinkles or caladium that like really warm temperatures.
- Late in the month sow seeds of bush and lima beans, cantaloupe, sweet corn, pumpkins and watermelon.
- Also late in the month sow seeds of zinnia, cosmos, celosia, torenia and portulaca.
- Be on the lookout for aphids. Treat with a strong burst of water on the plant’s leaves. Treat severe infestations with insecticidal soap.
- Secure canes of climbing roses and vines.
— The Smith County Master Gardener program is a volunteer organization in connection with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.