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March Gardening Checklist

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Fellow Gardeners,

The information, dates, and techniques in this blog for March gardening are as accurate as I can currently offer. During the past three decades, I have cared for, nurtured, and observed tens of thousands of plants. With the help of many gardening friends, I have attempted to offer you some useful information to help you with your March gardening in Orange County. Gardening is sharing information and knowledge, so here is our early spring gardening checklist. Any corrections, comments, or suggestions are appreciated and will improve future information!

What to Plant in Your Garden in March

March can be a busy month in the garden, so having an early spring gardening checklist can be helpful to keep you on track. There's plenty of things to plant in March since it's a good time for warm-season plants to establish root systems before the heat of summer hits with force.

Garden planting in March should be followed by a consistent watering schedule to help plants settle in well before they experience the stress that hot summer weather can cause. Gardening in March should also include caring for your cool-season annuals, like deadheading and fertilizing to keep them going a few weeks longer.

Here’s what to plant in March.

● Trees, shrubs, perennials, flowers, and vegetables. This is the first month to plant warm-season flowers from color packs to small pots and outdoor pottery planters. Good choices for putting in the ground now are marigolds, lobelia, petunia, ageratum, alyssum, cosmos, verbena, coleus, begonias, and impatiens.

● It is still a month or two too early for the super heat lovers like zinnia, vinca, and (eustoma).

● Cool-season flowers like primrose, pansies, violas, Iceland poppies, bedding cyclamen, stock, and snapdragons are still going strong. Keep these fertilized and deadheaded.

Table of Contents:




Annuals:

March is a transition month from cool-season annuals to warm-season annuals, and your possibilities for planting are almost endless. Plus, there's some annual plant care to check off your list. Here are a few of the main March gardening tasks to help your early spring garden transition smoothly into summer. Your spring garden to-do list will include refreshing your cool-season annuals for a few more weeks of color and getting warm-season annuals established.

      This is your last chance to get a quick shot of color from cool-season garden annuals.  Best choices for sunny areas include pansies, violas, Iceland poppies, stock, flowering cabbage, flowering kale, English daisy, linaria, schizanthus, and the ‘Bloomingdale’ series of ranunculus. These are especially good choices along the southern California coast.

      Warm-season annual blooming flowers are just now beginning to appear on the scene.  Choices include petunias, lobelia, verbena, marigold, ageratum, cosmos, impatiens, coleus, and begonias.

      For the real hot weather sizzlers like dahlias, zinnias, gomphrena, and lisianthus, it’s best to wait another month or two for the soil to warm up a little more.

      If you’re wondering what flowers to plant in March, there are a few “spring-only” annuals that are uncommon but well worth planting this month for some transitional color. These include schizanthus, annual nemesia, annual mimulus, torenia, and candytuft.

      Due to their quick growth and heavy flowering potential, annuals need more fertilizing than most other plants in the garden.

      Keep deadheading (removing spent flowers) annuals to help them continue blooming abundantly.

      As always on the spring gardening checklist, keep up with weeding!

Geraniums:

      This group includes ivy geraniums, zonal geraniums (also called “common” geraniums), Martha geraniums, and the various scented geraniums, but does not include true geraniums (sometimes called “Hardy” geraniums), which are discussed under Perennials.

      Ivy and zonal types should be blooming well now.  Remove spent flowers to the bottom of the stem regularly to encourage more blooms.

      Fertilize all geraniums, except most scented types, regularly with a balanced fertilizer.  Geraniums prefer slightly acidic soil, so periodically alternate feedings with an acid fertilizer, such as cottonseed meal or an all-natural acid mix.

      Pay particular attention to continued feeding and tip pinching of Martha types this month to encourage a big bloom.

      Feed scented geraniums very lightly, if at all. However, if they’re potted, they will need more regular feedings.

      Ivy and zonal geraniums do not like heavy pruning. To keep the plants shapely and vigorous for a longer period of time, prune back a few long stems every month or so from now through fall, but never very many at once.

      Rust may begin appearing, especially on zonal and Martha varieties.  First seen as small brown clustered and raised spots on the foliage’s undersides, this is nearly impossible to control chemically. However, it is generally a short term springtime issue and can be managed through proper culture. Fresh air circulation, adequate sunlight, and keeping the foliage dry in the evening are effective prevention tactics.

      This is a great time to snip healthy three-to four-inch tip cuttings to propagate all varieties. For best results, use sterile shears, let the cutting “cure” for a few hours in a dry, shady area, then root them in clean potting soil and clean outdoor planters.  When thoroughly rooted, plant them into the garden to replace old, tired, and woody plants.

Sweet Peas:

      These outdoor annual flowers should be in full bloom about now.  Keep the flowers trimmed regularly to encourage more blooms. Clip them back as often as twice a week.  Sweet peas are one of the plants that really benefit from having their flowers trimmed.

      Feed these old-fashioned beauties regularly!

      Assist them with climbing and support if necessary.

For more information, watch & learn: World-Class Sweet Peas with Steve Hampson

 

 

 

Poinsettias:

      Potted holiday poinsettias can go outdoors now.  They may be looking pretty rough at this time of year—don’t worry, it’s normal!

      If they are no longer attractive, cut the tops down to two or three buds near the base (probably about 3-4 inches high).

      Gradually transition to plant to a full sun location, but move it back to shelter on cold nights.

      No fertilizing is necessary this month.

Grapes and Berries:

      New growth should be sprouting just below the pruning cuts that were made in December or January.

      Your primary grape and berry plant care task this month is to monitor new growth so that you know when to start feeding them. As soon as the new growth is a couple of inches long, begin fertilizing. Use a well-balanced organic product that contains trace minerals, which grapes need.

For more information, watch & learn: Growing Blueberries in Southern California

Strawberries:

      Strawberry plant care is all about feeding them regularly. Periodically alternate between an all-purpose organic fertilizer and an organic acid fertilizer to keep the soil pH low, which strawberries prefer.

      This is the first big fruiting month. Check your growing strawberry plants regularly for ripe fruit concealed within the foliage.

      Bait, trap, or handpick snails and slugs regularly to avoid fruit damage.

      Adding a barrier between the soil and berries is very beneficial for taking care of strawberry plants. Strawberry fruit will be less likely to be bothered by sowbugs, earwigs, or any rotting if separated from the soil slightly. Straw works quite well for this, as do pine needles, or even rings cut out of unprinted corrugated cardboard. All of these can be turned into the soil at the end of the season as well.

      There is still time to plant alpine strawberries (also called “fraise du bois”). They are smaller plants, with intensely flavorful and aromatic fruit, smaller foliage, and no runners.

For more information, watch & learn:How to Grow the Best Strawberries with Sarah Smith

Shrubs

March gardening is a good time to get to work on the shrubs in your yard. You may resume pruning most hedges and topiaries now since new growth on the plants is beginning. Moving shrubs in March is fine, and you can plant new ones during this month, too. You can also work on pruning shrubs in March, whether it's just a trim or a full revitalization prune.

      This and next month are good times to rejuvenate any old or overgrown shrubs. Many vigorous varieties can be cut back into old wood and will sprout new growth just below these cuts and near the crown of the plant. Be sure the plant is healthy, well-fertilized, and producing new growth before cutting. 

      Check with a reliable authority about the species involved before beginning. If everything checks out, these may often but cut back 75% or even more. A corresponding root pruning may also be beneficial.

For more information, watch & learn:
  Hardy Flowering Shrubs with Dalia Brunner

 

 

 

Azaleas:

      Many azaleas will be blooming now. For these shrubs that bloom in March, be cautious of getting the flowers wet, especially from prolonged rainstorms. The flowers will turn to mush with water on them, especially pure white hybrids. In a rain shower, drape a plastic bag over the plant or, even better, poke an umbrella into the ground above it.

      Azaleas are nearly dormant while they are in bloom, so this is an excellent time to plant them. Since they are also in bloom, the selection is excellent as well.

Camellias:

      Depending on the variety, Japanese camellias may now be in full bloom. Be sure to keep the old flowers picked up underneath the plant to eliminate the occurrence of a disease called camellia petal blight (a fungal disease that causes the petals to turn brown and mushy).

      Right after your camellia has finished blooming is the best time to do any shaping or pruning.

      Apply the first of three feedings to your camellia about 4-6 weeks after it finishes blooming. Use an “azalea/camellia” or acid based fertilizer, like cottonseed meal. Apply a light application (camellias are not heavy feeders) evenly around the base of the plant, but do not dig it into the soil. Camellias (and many other plants) have very delicate surface roots within the top inch of soil that are easily damaged by cultivation. You will want to feed again in 4-6 weeks and then apply a final feeding another 4-6 weeks later.


For more information, watch & learn: Gardening 101 Series | How to Plant & Maintain a Camellia

Gardenias:

      Gardenias are starting to wake up now and should be showing signs of new growth. You may even be able to spot some small flower buds developing.

      In mild gardens, you can begin your first fertilizing of the year now. Other areas can wait until next month. Use a fertilizer with lots of trace minerals, such as most organic types.

      This is the first month to apply a good dose of an iron supplement to your plants. Iron only works well in warm soil temperature, so applying it much earlier than this in the season probably won’t do much good.


Gardenias for Southern California with Nicholas Stadden

Hydrangeas:

      These should be waking up from the cool winter months.

      Apply a moderate feeding.

      Do not prune hydrangeas at all this time of the year. Hydrangeas bloom on one-year-old stems. Pruning now will eliminate most of the flowers.

      If you want to try to get blue or lavender flowers on your otherwise pink plant, continue applying aluminum sulfate to the soil. White-flowered varieties will not be affected, and not all pinks will be affected the same.


For more information, watch & learn: Re-blooming Hydrangeas with Nicholas Staddon

Roses:

      Rose plants are growing quickly in March! The first buds will appear this month and maybe even some flowers, especially toward the end of the month.

      Be on the lookout for aphid infestations on the new growth. Hose them off with a strong jet of water or use a mild product like insecticidal soap.

      Continue fertilizing roses as they are heavy feeders. Do not use soil-applied fertilizers combined with a systemic insecticide. These products are very disruptive to soil life (beneficial microorganisms, bacteria, mycorrhizal fungi, earthworms, etc.). Many rosarians also believe they reduce the vigor of the rose.

      Granular, well-balanced, organic fertilizers work exceptionally well for roses, and most of these will encourage beneficial soil life.

      For larger flowers with better form and single stems, you may want to consider disbudding. To do this, simply pinch out some of the competing buds while they are very small.

      Weed as needed, but avoid most herbicides around rose bushes.

      Watch for the earliest signs of diseases like powdery mildew or rust. If disease is spotted, act immediately–do not delay!

For more information, watch & learn: How to Prune Your Roses With Laura Weaver, Bare Root Roses with Dalia, & How to Plant and Care for Roses

Deciduous Fruit Trees:

      Sometime this month (or possibly last month on some early flowering varieties) will be your third and last dormant disease control application. This may be either a copper sulfate or lime-sulfur product (do not use lime-sulfur on apricots). Both of these are organic products. Applying these products should be an annual fruit tree care chore, repeated every year to avoid infestations of such diseases as peach leaf curl, shothole fungus, apple scab, brown rot, and many others. The timing of this application is the most important of them all.  Apply these at the “pink-bud-stage.” This is the point in which the buds have swollen and may even be “pink.” but have not yet opened.

      Apply your first feeding this month as soon as you see the buds beginning to swell, but before the flowers open. The second and last feeding of the year will be in April. Apple, apricot, peach, plum, etc., should be given between about ½ pound of actual nitrogen per inch of trunk diameter. (Example: 15 pounds of 20% nitrogen if a six-inch trunk; 30 pounds of 10% nitrogen if a six-inch trunk, etc.)

      This is absolutely the last chance to do your deciduous/wintertime pruning, especially if you did not perform “summer pruning” this past year. You can prune fruit trees in March, but don’t put it off any longer.

Citrus:

      Citrus are starting to wake up this month, and new growth may be evident, possibly even some flowers. Grapefruits, if not picked already, should be ready to harvest. There will likely be a combination of both ripe fruit and immature fruit on lemons and limes. Most tangerines (mandarins) were picked months ago, but the ‘Kinnow’ tangerines are an exception and are ripening now. ‘Kara’ tangerines are even later and will ripen in early summer.

      Continue fertilizing as part of your fruit tree spring care this month, and feed every month from now until July. Use a fertilizer rich in trace minerals such as iron, zinc, manganese, copper, and others. These ingredients are usually well represented in organic fertilizers like Dr. Earth.

      Keep ants out of your citrus at all times. If ants are crawling up the trunk of the tree, apply Tanglefoot (a sticky, waterproof substance) to stop them.

For more information, watch & learn: Growing Citrus in Southern California with David Rizzo & Growing Citrus in Containers with Kathleen

Avocados:

      Avocados are waking up this time of the year, and new leaves are usually filling out on the tree. Many of the older leaves from the previous year have already dropped.

      Rains may take care of some of the irrigation needs this month but irrigate as needed to supplement the weather.

      March is the first really good month for planting avocados. Being sub-tropical plants, avocados prefer to be planted at the beginning of the long warm half of the year.

      Avocados can be pruned this month. They do not particularly need any specific annual pruning, but size reduction or general shaping, if necessary, can be done now.

      Be sure to keep a very thick blanket of mulch, compost, or fallen leaves under mature avocados at all times. Avocados need a cool root-run for good health.

      Most varieties will not have fruit ready for harvest this early. However, some varieties, like ‘Gwen’ and ‘Whitsell’, will often have fruit at unusual times.

For more information, watch & learn: Edible Gardening: How to Grow Avocados in Southern California with Sarah Smith

Subtropical Fruits:

      Hand pollinate cherimoya and guava.

      Harvest macadamia nuts of the ‘Beaumont’ variety from the tree. This is the only variety of macadamia that must be harvested off the tree (others drop to the ground when ready). Pick every fruit on the tree or the tree will eventually weaken, bear too much fruit, and produce very small nuts. For varieties other than ‘Beaumont’, keep checking for fallen macadamia nuts and pick them off the ground weekly. Most of these other varieties will have already finished dropping by now.

      Most subtropical fruits are still asleep, so there's not too much fruit tree care to do in March. It is still very early for these plants and, in most locations, still too early to be thinking about much planting.

      A few varieties may be showing signs of new growth on the tips or along the branches. These can be fertilized, but most can wait another month.

      If needed, annual pruning can often be done now, but consult a reference or expert first. Some varieties only bloom and set fruit on old wood, and pruning now would remove the potential for fruit this year.

Perennials:

Here’s one more type of planting for your spring gardening checklist. March is an important planting month for perennials. The selection is good and many will be in bud or bloom. It’s also an important time of year for perennial plant care and maintenance for perennials already in your garden. Perennial care isn’t too complicated this time of year, but it is important to set them up for a successful season with regular feeding and irrigation.

 

 

 

      Almost the whole perennial garden (and the rest of the garden, too!) can enjoy its first really good fertilizing this month. The frequency and amount will depend upon the formulation you are using and the effects you desire. If you have been building up your soil’s health, your fertilizing duties will be much reduced this year.

      Tall, upright, spiking perennials like most dahlia (tuberous perennial types), delphinium, foxglove (digitalis), kniphofia (red hot poker), liatris, true lilies (lilium), monkshood (aconitum), oriental poppy, thalictrum (meadow rue), and many others should be staked to prevent breaking. Stake these early and tie them to the stake as they grow. Thin, unpainted, natural bamboo stakes work well for this and look very pleasant in the garden.

      Most perennials are growing well now and either blooming or getting ready to very soon.

      Most of your perennials that needed a moderate to heavy cutting back have already had it by now.

      This is the first month that you can successfully cut back and shape tender sub-tropical perennials like begonias, heliotrope, impatiens, lamium, pentas (starflower), and plectranthus.

      This is another month for dividing perennials, unless you did so last fall. Dividing plants is an important part of perennial plant care as it keeps plants growing healthily, and it gives you free plants! Examples of some that might need dividing are agapanthus, campanula, calla, daylily, Shasta daisy, and yarrow.

      Your cool-season easy-care perennial plants that have been flowering non-stop for the past few months are still going strong. These include alstroemeria (except in very cold inland gardens), armeria, euryops daisy, forget-me-not (myosotis), hellebore, Marguerite daisy, and viola (perennial types).

      Those perennials that completely disappeared three or four months ago are now sprouting from the bare soil again. Ones that might be showing signs of life again this month include asclepias (butterfly weed, some varieties), bleeding heart (dicentra spectabilis), coneflower (echinacea), dahlia (tuberous perennial types), liatris, monkshood (aconitum), obedient plant (physostegia), and thalictrum (meadow rue).

      Removing spent or old flowers regularly will help them to produce more new flowers.

      Keep on weeding!

For more information, watch & learn: Gardening 101 Series | How to Use Annuals vs. Perennials with Lynn Hillman & Gardening 101 Series | Pruning Lavender & Perennials with Dalia Brunner

Clematis:

      Clematis are growing well and rather quickly now. Feed them with a balanced organic fertilizer to keep them going.

      A few varieties may already be blooming, or at least setting buds.

      Help them as they grow by guiding them or carefully tying them.

Wisterias:

      Big, fat flower buds should be obvious now and some varieties may already be beginning to bloom. Sit back and enjoy the show over the next several weeks!

      Don’t prune now or you will interfere with the blooms.

      There is still no need to fertilize now and irrigation should be minimal, if at all.

Fuchsias:

      Feed plants regularly with a fertilizer high in nitrogen to promote lots of vigorous foliage growth at this time of the year.

      Keep pinching your plants, especially those in hanging baskets, every couple of weeks through the end of this month and then let them bloom. You’ll have a full and glorious plant with hundreds of flowers.

Groundcovers:

      This and next month are the best times to plant slopes (except most California natives), especially large scale plantings. Erosion will be minimized since most of the rains are behind us. 

      Ground cover planting in general is easy to accomplish now. After planting, mulch the area heavily between plants to reduce weed growth, improve soil quality, and reduce irrigations.

      California native groundcover plants, like ceanothus and arctostaphylos (manzanita), are blooming well now, but this is not a good month to plant these. Wait until late this fall. In addition to ceanothus and arctostaphylos, some of the best California native plants include buckwheat, (eriogonum), Cleveland sage, lemonade berry (rhus), and toyon (heteromeles).

      Cool-season groundcovers are still growing and blooming well.

      A few warm-season groundcovers may be beginning to wake up to start their spring growth again, but many will wait another month or so.

      This is a good time to check irrigation systems on slopes, before the warm weather of summer.


For more information, watch & learn How to Plant & Grow Groundcover with Dalia Brunner

Orchids (outside grown):

      This and last month may be the peak time of bloom for most cymbidiums. Continue feeding with a high phosphorus fertilizer through to the end of their bloom period.

      As epidendrum orchid flowers fade, cut the individual stems to two or three buds above the soil. This will keep them blooming almost year-round.

      Feed epidendrums with a low-nitrogen/high-phosphorus fertilizer.


For more information, watch & learn Orchids

Bulbs, rhizomes, tubers, etc

      March is a big month for blooming bulbs, and those that are in bloom now are those that you planted last fall. In Orange County, these include anemone, babiana, calla, chasmanthe, crocosmia (late in the month), crocus (spring-blooming types), daffodils, Dutch Iris (late in the month), freesia, hyacinth, ipheion, ixia, leucojum, muscari, narcissus, ranunculus, scilla campanulata (late in the month), scilla peruviana, sparaxis, tritonia, and tulips.

      Bedding cyclamen, although not generally referred to as a bulb, are still in full bloom throughout Orange County.

      Many ornamental oxalis are winter-blooming, non-invasive and naturalize easily. These are still in full bloom.

      Continue planting gladioli this month. By staggering the planting dates of gladioli, you will have a longer season of successive flowers. Some gardeners buy several dozen and plant them in two-week intervals over a three-month period.

      Finish planting any remaining calla (hybrid colored types), canna, and Mexican shell flower (tigridia), but wait until April to plant tuberose.

      Now is the time to start your tuberous begonias.

      Plant or re-plant perennial dahlias this month.

      If you want to give your bulbs the opportunity to return next year, be sure only to trim off the faded flowers when they finish blooming. Leave the foliage intact and continue feeding and watering until they naturally turn completely brown and dry.

      Watch for germinating weeds and control them now, before they get much larger.

Bearded Iris:

      Bearded Iris are building up their energy now in preparation for the big spring bloom that should begin next month.

      Apply a good, well-balanced, general-purpose organic fertilizer to them this month, and the flower production will be even better. Any fertilizer labeled for roses (but not with insecticides or other added ingredients) will do fine.

      Don’t stop weeding!

Dahlias (tuberous types):

      Tubers should still be out of the ground now and quietly resting somewhere in the garage or other cool, dry location.

      Nurseries should still have some dormant tubers in stock. Shop early while the selection is still good, but don’t plant them for another month.

      If the weather is warm and rain has slowed down, begin planting (or re-planting) any dormant tubers toward the later part of the month. There is no rush; you can always plant them next month. Choose a full-sun location and drop a little fish bone meal or regular bone meal into each hole before planting.

      For tall varieties, put stakes in when planting, to avoid damaging the roots later.

      Keep newly planted tubers moist, but be careful not to overwater until growth shows above the soil.

      When the foliage is a few inches out of the ground, begin fertilizing. Use a liquid or granular organic fertilizer that is low in nitrogen and high in phosphorus. Fish bone meal is excellent.


For more information, watch & learn Lew Whitney's Secrets to Growing and Maintaining Dahlias

Tuberous Begonias:

      Plant (or re-plant) tubers now into flats. Fill a nursery flat with good-quality potting soil. Wiggle the healthy tubers gently into the soil so that the soil just barely comes to the top of the tuber. One side of the tuber is indented (concave), the other is rounded outward (convex). The concave side should be up. Put the flat into a warm, bright filtered-sun location and keep them moist, but not soggy.

California Native Plants:

      This is your last-ditch possibility of planting most of these and still having success.  California native plants are best planted in the cool fall and early winter months, which is the beginning of their growing season.

      This can be one of the prettiest times of the year for many of our California natives. Many of these are blooming and growing well now, but in some cases, they are nearing the end of their growing season and will be beginning to slow down and prepare for the long, hot, and dry summer months ahead.

      Be very cautious irrigating most of our native plants too often, especially during their dormant summer period. An extra irrigation or two now may be justified and will keep them blooming and happy a bit longer.


For more information, watch & learn: Gardening with Native Plants with James Maxwell and Success with Native Plants with James Maxwell

Wildflowers:

      These should still be looking good and blooming abundantly, depending upon the varieties of seed involved and the weather. Extend the season of the flowers with supplementary irrigations. If you want some of your wildflowers to re-seed for next year, leave the bloomed out plants in place for a while and allow the seed to fall to the soil.

      If you have been weeding diligently, by now the wildflowers should be filled in. Keep an eye out for any weeds that you may have missed and pull them before they set their own seed.

Subtropicals

      Plants like cannas, gardenias, ginger, begonia, brunfelsia, etc., can be trimmed now, even in colder inland gardens, if you didn’t already do it last month.

      A few are barely beginning to awaken from the cool winter months, but it is still very early for these plants and, in most locations, still a bit too early to be thinking about large-scale plantings.

      This and next month is the time to do any serious pruning to hibiscus.

      A few varieties may be showing signs of new growth on the tips or along the branches.  These can be fertilized, but most can wait another month.

      Frost is unlikely, but not impossible. Take precautions during any unseasonably cold nights.

      Continue watering cautiously; wait until new growth begins before resuming regular irrigations.

Foliage Plants

March gardening for ferns and foliage plants like ornamental grasses is pretty hands-off. Once you start to see new growth on fern foliage you can start to fertilize lightly. This is a great time of year to plant ornamental grasses, too

Ferns:

      Although many flowers are blooming now and the garden is colorful and growing, most ferns are still not cooperating much. Unless signs of new growth are showing, there is no need to fertilize yet.

      Irrigations can still be light, but adjust according to the variety and especially the weather.

      Begin fertilizing mounted and containerized staghorn ferns now with a mild, liquid fertilizer. Fish emulsion is excellent.

Ornamental Grasses:

      The ornamental grasses that were cut to the ground sometime during the past couple of months are now beginning to sprout new growth. Give them an application of a mild organic fertilizer and watch them grow!

      A couple of the grasses that were not cut down over the past couple of months can be trimmed now; they will bounce right back with fresh growth. These include blue fescue (festuca), quaking grass (briza), and sesleria. Unlike those that were cut back in fall or winter, these are cool-season grasses, and should only be cut back about two-thirds, not to near the soil line like their warm-season brothers.

      This and next month are excellent times to plant nearly any species of ornamental grass.


For more information, watch & learn: Low Water Ornamental Grasses with James Maxwell

Vegetables and Herbs:

Your herb and vegetable garden should be growing nicely by now. If you started a garden for growing herbs and vegetables last month, now is the time to start succession planting. With succession planting, even a small herb and vegetable garden can keep you supplied with fresh produce throughout most of the year.

      Plant a second (later crop) of potatoes. Your main crop should have been planted about October. A second planting now will provide tubers this fall.

      Putting in successive plantings of many vegetables a couple of weeks apart from each other will ensure a constant, uninterrupted supply for the kitchen.

      It’s too late to plant artichokes now from dormant bareroot plants, but potted plants are available.

      This and next month are the absolute best times to plant tomatoes from transplants. A crop planted now will produce for several months. Choose carefully; as hundreds of varieties are now available.

      This is probably the best month to harvest asparagus spears. However, don’t harvest asparagus for the first two years after planting.

      Members of the cabbage family (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.) are often attacked by caterpillars in spring. If you only have a few plants, handpicking may be enough. Otherwise, use BT, which is a safe, effective, and organic solution.

      Especially along the coast, there is still time to get in a crop of quick growing, cool-season herbs and vegetables from transplants. Good choices are arugula, broccoli, celery, collards, endive, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, and spinach.

      This is the first month to attempt warm-season vegetables. Good bets are most beans, cucumbers, eggplants, squash, and tomatoes.

      It’s still a bit early to plant the real heat lovers like corn, melons, okra, peppers, and pumpkin. Both the soil and the nighttime temperatures need to be a bit warmer.

      Beets, carrots, chard, radish, and possibly turnips can be planted just about year-round.  All but chard are planted from seed only.

      Fava beans are finishing up this month. Keep harvesting them regularly to extend their season.

      Since most annual vegetables are shallow-rooted and quick growing, feed them regularly with a well-balanced organic fertilizer

      Control weeds before they get out of hand.

For more information, watch & learn: Edible Gardening Series Cool Season Vegetable Gardening with Suzanne Hetrick & The Culinary Garden

Herbs:

      Many perennial herbs can be planted nearly year-round, but are particularly well-suited to spring planting since they thrive during the warm summer months. These include marjoram, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme, catmint, catnip, chamomile, comfrey, feverfew, lavender, lemon balm, lemon grass, lemon verbena, St. John’s wort, tarragon, and thyme.

      Many cool-season annual or short-lived herbs that can be planted now include anise, arugula, borage, chervil, chamomile, chives, cilantro, comfrey, dill, fennel, garlic chives, lovage, parsley, salad burnet, and sorrel.

      Although tempting, wait another month for better results when planting basil.

      Rejuvenate certain old or tired herbs now by giving them a hard trim. Herbs like mint, oregano, marjoram, thyme, lemon balm, and salad burnet can be scalped to almost the soil line and, with a little fertilizer, will recover almost immediately. Woody herbs like sage and rosemary should be cut a bit higher.


For more information, watch & learn: Unique and Unusual Herb Plants with Sarah Smith

General Gardening

There’s always some general spring garden tasks to do that don’t pertain to specific types of plants. If you're adding some later warm-season flowers, now is a good time to do your flower bed preparation for spring. It's also a great time to enjoy and photograph the last flush of blooms for your cool season annuals, and make note of any spring garden ideas you might want to implement next year.

Beneficial Insects:

      Many beneficial insects also feed on pollen. Beneficials can be encouraged in your garden by planting a few flowers that they particularly enjoy. These include yarrow (achillea), alyssum, chamomile, white clover, paludosum daisy, cosmos, lantana, Queen Anne’s lace (ammi majus), and centranthus (sometimes called valerian or Jupiter’s beard).

      Pollinators, like honeybees, mason bees, and others are pollinating fruit trees this month. Do not use any sprays on these trees during this critical period.

      The first releases of ladybugs can be this month. Lacewings can be released along the coastal areas (but inland gardeners should wait until next month).

      Giant whitefly may become active again in coastal gardens. Predators and parasites will need more time to begin their activity.

      Use any pesticides wisely and select them carefully. Avoid the use of broad-spectrum products and those with residuals.

      Release predacious decollate snails now. These will take some time to establish themselves in your garden, so be patient. Do not use any snail baits, which also harm decollate snails.

      Two or three releases of both ladybugs and lacewings in the spring can reduce many pest populations significantly, very possibly eliminating the need for pesticides. If you didn’t last month, this is an excellent month to begin your first release.

      Trichogramma wasps are very effective parasites of caterpillars. If these pests are usually a problem in your garden, a couple of releases of these beneficials will be worthwhile. Space the releases 30 to 45 days apart.

Lawns:

      Feed all lawns this month. Cool-season grasses like fescue, ryegrass, and bluegrass are at their peak in the cool springtime weather. Warm-season grasses like bermudagrass, St. Augustine, and zoysia are starting to wake up this month. For these warm-season grasses, this will be their first feeding of the year and will help them regain their deep green color.

      This is a good month to plant new cool-season lawns from seed or sod (fescue, ryegrass, or bluegrass).

      It is still too cool to plant warm-season lawns (hybrid bermudagrass, St. Augustine, zoysia, etc.) from sod. Wait at least until April.

      Remember, cool-season lawns should be mowed about a half an inch lower in the cool months than in the warm months. Keep the mower at this lower height for another month at least.

      If you over-seeded your warm-season grass with annual rye last fall, you may notice it showing signs of heat stress and beginning to fade. At the same time the rye is fading away, your warm-season grass is greening up. You may not even notice the transition.

      Many weeds are potentially sprouting and showing themselves now. If applied now, pre-emergent herbicides (corn gluten is an organic version) will catch a few of these, but many have already germinated. The best weed control is a healthy, vigorous lawn, but herbicides may be necessary in a pinch.

Pests & Diseases:

      Keep after the snails and slugs in your garden

      Keep a look out for aphids, or for signs of ants farming aphids.

      Release beneficial insects, like ladybugs and lacewings, to control pests.

      Plant plants that attract beneficial insects and pollinators.

      Talk to us in-store about giant whitefly control options.

For more information, watch & learn: How to Identify & Eliminate Common Garden Pests

Records, Catalogs, Books, and Organizations:

      Be sure to make lots of entries in your garden journal now about what is blooming, what you like, and what you don’t. This and next month’s entries will be the ones that guide you and remind you what you should do this fall.

      With all the planting going on this month, it’s a good idea to make some notes in your journal about the names and varieties of what you planted. Often, much later, the name or variety or a plant is hard to remember. After the plant is taken out of the pot, save the tag and jot a note into your journal about where and when you planted it.

      The first of several home garden tours are starting this month. If you haven’t participated in one of these before, you have missed one of the most rewarding gardening experiences! Don’t miss out this year.

Soil Care:

      We have included this section, because as you know, or will discover with more experience, a good garden begins with the soil. Investing in the soil, managing the soil, and protecting the soil are not afterthoughts in a successful garden, but the foundation.  Healthy soil is living and breathing, teaming with earthworms, microorganisms, beneficial fungi, bacteria, microbes, and other invisible life. This section, possibly the most important topic of all will, provides some helpful guidance to good soil care.

      A thick layer of organic mulch, averaging about two inches should be maintained on top of the soil just about year-round. This is an excellent month to add additional mulch as needed to maintain this level.

      Applied now, a thick layer of mulch will cool the root systems from the hot temperatures ahead, reduce irrigations by as much as half this summer, reduce weed growth, and improve both soil life and soil quality.

      If you have been considering inoculating your soil with beneficial mycorrhizae, this is a perfect month in which to do it. The soil temperatures are just right for quick establishment. Inoculation can be done quickly and easily in established areas by using mycorrhizae “tablets”. In moist soil, poke a hole near the plant with a ½” or ¾” rod or stick. Drop a tablet into the hole and push it in again with the stick.

      We do not suggest the use of very high-analysis fertilizers in a garden, especially phosphorus. Examples of fertilizers to avoid are synthetic versions with formulations like, 10-55-10, 10-30-10, etc. We don’t even suggest the popular 15-30-15 formula. These formulations will inhibit or even destroy much of the soil life that is so vital to a healthy, sustainable soil.

      We also suggest that you not use soil-applied systemic fertilizer/insecticide combinations (especially popular with roses). These are very damaging to soil life.

      Use insecticides only when necessary and even then use the least-damaging product available. Many of these products move into the soil and interfere with the invisible soil life.

      If you can, begin a compost pile or purchase a compost bin. Leaves, clippings, kitchen produce scraps, and many other ingredients can be composted and returned to the garden. Home compost is one of the very best ingredients you can add to your soil. The benefits are huge in the areas of disease suppression, increasing beneficial microorganisms, improving soil structure and texture, nutrient retention, and nematode suppression.

      Try to keep from walking on wet, soggy soil, especially after a rain or thorough irrigation.  This compresses the soil and reduces its oxygen content and ability to drain quickly.

      This is definitely a planting month. Before you plant, be sure that you have considered the soil and are doing all you can to improve it and protect its health.





Places to Visit:

      Gardens that look terrific almost any time of the year include Sherman Library and Gardens (Corona del Mar), The Fullerton Arboretum (Fullerton), Los Angeles Arboretum (Arcadia), Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens (San Marino) and San Diego Botanical Gardens (Encinitas).

      UC Irvine Botanic Gardens. Hurry!

      Mediterranean and California native plant gardens are in their peak bloom now. Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont is beginning to show lots of color this month. A little further away, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden also features California native plants and is beautifully presented.

      Worth a quick visit this month, and not far away, is the relatively young and developing Niguel Botanical Preserve in Laguna Niguel. The plant focus is almost entirely on Mediterranean and California natives.

      This is a perfect time for a visit to our coastal and low-elevation wild areas to observe our native plants. The coastal grasslands and sage scrub communities at Laguna Canyon, Casper’s Park, and Aliso Creek are at their peak this month.

      Further afield, one of the best Mediterranean botanical gardens in the country is the UC Santa Cruz Botanic Garden (in Santa Cruz). This is the peak of its bloom, hurry!

      Check locally for home garden tours in your neighborhood.

      Usually held mid-month, the San Francisco Flowers and Garden Show is, by far, the biggest and best garden show in California. However, for 2021, the show has been postponed to April 8-11, 2021. Held just south of San Francisco at the Cow Palace, this is five days of heaven for west coast gardeners. Enormous displays, dozens of expert seminars, and a marketplace full of specialty and hard to find plants are just some of the reasons to attend.

      The San Diego Spring Home and Garden Show at the Del Mar Fairgrounds is usually held at the end of February or the beginning of March. However, the show has been postponed to May 14-16 for 2021. Unlike most home and garden shows, which are all “home” and very little “garden”, this is an excellent show. With the assistance of The San Diego Horticultural Society, this three-day event offers very good displays, seminars, hard-to-find plants, and dozens of dozens of vendors and organizations.

Fellow Gardeners,

The information, dates, and techniques in this blog for March gardening are as accurate as I can currently offer. During the past three decades, I have cared for, nurtured, and observed tens of thousands of plants. With the help of many gardening friends, I have attempted to offer you some useful information to help you with your March gardening in Orange County. Gardening is sharing information and knowledge, so here is our early spring gardening checklist. Any corrections, comments, or suggestions are appreciated and will improve future information!

What to Plant in Your Garden in March

March can be a busy month in the garden, so having an early spring gardening checklist can be helpful to keep you on track. There's plenty of things to plant in March since it's a good time for warm-season plants to establish root systems before the heat of summer hits with force.

Garden planting in March should be followed by a consistent watering schedule to help plants settle in well before they experience the stress that hot summer weather can cause. Gardening in March should also include caring for your cool-season annuals, like deadheading and fertilizing to keep them going a few weeks longer.

Here’s what to plant in March.

● Trees, shrubs, perennials, flowers, and vegetables. This is the first month to plant warm-season flowers from color packs to small pots and outdoor pottery planters. Good choices for putting in the ground now are marigolds, lobelia, petunia, ageratum, alyssum, cosmos, verbena, coleus, begonias, and impatiens.

● It is still a month or two too early for the super heat lovers like zinnia, vinca, and (eustoma).

● Cool-season flowers like primrose, pansies, violas, Iceland poppies, bedding cyclamen, stock, and snapdragons are still going strong. Keep these fertilized and deadheaded.




Table of Contents:




Annuals:

March is a transition month from cool-season annuals to warm-season annuals, and your possibilities for planting are almost endless. Plus, there's some annual plant care to check off your list. Here are a few of the main March gardening tasks to help your early spring garden transition smoothly into summer. Your spring garden to-do list will include refreshing your cool-season annuals for a few more weeks of color and getting warm-season annuals established.

      This is your last chance to get a quick shot of color from cool-season garden annuals.  Best choices for sunny areas include pansies, violas, Iceland poppies, stock, flowering cabbage, flowering kale, English daisy, linaria, schizanthus, and the ‘Bloomingdale’ series of ranunculus. These are especially good choices along the southern California coast.

      Warm-season annual blooming flowers are just now beginning to appear on the scene.  Choices include petunias, lobelia, verbena, marigold, ageratum, cosmos, impatiens, coleus, and begonias.

      For the real hot weather sizzlers like dahlias, zinnias, gomphrena, and lisianthus, it’s best to wait another month or two for the soil to warm up a little more.

      If you’re wondering what flowers to plant in March, there are a few “spring-only” annuals that are uncommon but well worth planting this month for some transitional color. These include schizanthus, annual nemesia, annual mimulus, torenia, and candytuft.

      Due to their quick growth and heavy flowering potential, annuals need more fertilizing than most other plants in the garden.

      Keep deadheading (removing spent flowers) annuals to help them continue blooming abundantly.

      As always on the spring gardening checklist, keep up with weeding!

Geraniums:

      This group includes ivy geraniums, zonal geraniums (also called “common” geraniums), Martha geraniums, and the various scented geraniums, but does not include true geraniums (sometimes called “Hardy” geraniums), which are discussed under Perennials.

      Ivy and zonal types should be blooming well now.  Remove spent flowers to the bottom of the stem regularly to encourage more blooms.

      Fertilize all geraniums, except most scented types, regularly with a balanced fertilizer.  Geraniums prefer slightly acidic soil, so periodically alternate feedings with an acid fertilizer, such as cottonseed meal or an all-natural acid mix.

      Pay particular attention to continued feeding and tip pinching of Martha types this month to encourage a big bloom.

      Feed scented geraniums very lightly, if at all. However, if they’re potted, they will need more regular feedings.

      Ivy and zonal geraniums do not like heavy pruning. To keep the plants shapely and vigorous for a longer period of time, prune back a few long stems every month or so from now through fall, but never very many at once.

      Rust may begin appearing, especially on zonal and Martha varieties.  First seen as small brown clustered and raised spots on the foliage’s undersides, this is nearly impossible to control chemically. However, it is generally a short term springtime issue and can be managed through proper culture. Fresh air circulation, adequate sunlight, and keeping the foliage dry in the evening are effective prevention tactics.

      This is a great time to snip healthy three-to four-inch tip cuttings to propagate all varieties. For best results, use sterile shears, let the cutting “cure” for a few hours in a dry, shady area, then root them in clean potting soil and clean outdoor planters.  When thoroughly rooted, plant them into the garden to replace old, tired, and woody plants.

Sweet Peas:

      These outdoor annual flowers should be in full bloom about now.  Keep the flowers trimmed regularly to encourage more blooms. Clip them back as often as twice a week.  Sweet peas are one of the plants that really benefit from having their flowers trimmed.

      Feed these old-fashioned beauties regularly!

      Assist them with climbing and support if necessary.

For more information, watch & learn: World-Class Sweet Peas with Steve Hampson

 

 

 

Poinsettias:

      Potted holiday poinsettias can go outdoors now.  They may be looking pretty rough at this time of year—don’t worry, it’s normal!

      If they are no longer attractive, cut the tops down to two or three buds near the base (probably about 3-4 inches high).

      Gradually transition to plant to a full sun location, but move it back to shelter on cold nights.

      No fertilizing is necessary this month.

Grapes and Berries:

      New growth should be sprouting just below the pruning cuts that were made in December or January.

      Your primary grape and berry plant care task this month is to monitor new growth so that you know when to start feeding them. As soon as the new growth is a couple of inches long, begin fertilizing. Use a well-balanced organic product that contains trace minerals, which grapes need.

For more information, watch & learn: Growing Blueberries in Southern California

Strawberries:

      Strawberry plant care is all about feeding them regularly. Periodically alternate between an all-purpose organic fertilizer and an organic acid fertilizer to keep the soil pH low, which strawberries prefer.

      This is the first big fruiting month. Check your growing strawberry plants regularly for ripe fruit concealed within the foliage.

      Bait, trap, or handpick snails and slugs regularly to avoid fruit damage.

      Adding a barrier between the soil and berries is very beneficial for taking care of strawberry plants. Strawberry fruit will be less likely to be bothered by sowbugs, earwigs, or any rotting if separated from the soil slightly. Straw works quite well for this, as do pine needles, or even rings cut out of unprinted corrugated cardboard. All of these can be turned into the soil at the end of the season as well.

      There is still time to plant alpine strawberries (also called “fraise du bois”). They are smaller plants, with intensely flavorful and aromatic fruit, smaller foliage, and no runners.

For more information, watch & learn:How to Grow the Best Strawberries with Sarah Smith

Shrubs

March gardening is a good time to get to work on the shrubs in your yard. You may resume pruning most hedges and topiaries now since new growth on the plants is beginning. Moving shrubs in March is fine, and you can plant new ones during this month, too. You can also work on pruning shrubs in March, whether it's just a trim or a full revitalization prune.

      This and next month are good times to rejuvenate any old or overgrown shrubs. Many vigorous varieties can be cut back into old wood and will sprout new growth just below these cuts and near the crown of the plant. Be sure the plant is healthy, well-fertilized, and producing new growth before cutting. 

      Check with a reliable authority about the species involved before beginning. If everything checks out, these may often but cut back 75% or even more. A corresponding root pruning may also be beneficial.

For more information, watch & learn:
  Hardy Flowering Shrubs with Dalia Brunner

 

 

 

Azaleas:

      Many azaleas will be blooming now. For these shrubs that bloom in March, be cautious of getting the flowers wet, especially from prolonged rainstorms. The flowers will turn to mush with water on them, especially pure white hybrids. In a rain shower, drape a plastic bag over the plant or, even better, poke an umbrella into the ground above it.

      Azaleas are nearly dormant while they are in bloom, so this is an excellent time to plant them. Since they are also in bloom, the selection is excellent as well.

Camellias:

      Depending on the variety, Japanese camellias may now be in full bloom. Be sure to keep the old flowers picked up underneath the plant to eliminate the occurrence of a disease called camellia petal blight (a fungal disease that causes the petals to turn brown and mushy).

      Right after your camellia has finished blooming is the best time to do any shaping or pruning.

      Apply the first of three feedings to your camellia about 4-6 weeks after it finishes blooming. Use an “azalea/camellia” or acid based fertilizer, like cottonseed meal. Apply a light application (camellias are not heavy feeders) evenly around the base of the plant, but do not dig it into the soil. Camellias (and many other plants) have very delicate surface roots within the top inch of soil that are easily damaged by cultivation. You will want to feed again in 4-6 weeks and then apply a final feeding another 4-6 weeks later.


For more information, watch & learn: Gardening 101 Series | How to Plant & Maintain a Camellia

Gardenias:

      Gardenias are starting to wake up now and should be showing signs of new growth. You may even be able to spot some small flower buds developing.

      In mild gardens, you can begin your first fertilizing of the year now. Other areas can wait until next month. Use a fertilizer with lots of trace minerals, such as most organic types.

      This is the first month to apply a good dose of an iron supplement to your plants. Iron only works well in warm soil temperature, so applying it much earlier than this in the season probably won’t do much good.


Gardenias for Southern California with Nicholas Stadden

Hydrangeas:

      These should be waking up from the cool winter months.

      Apply a moderate feeding.

      Do not prune hydrangeas at all this time of the year. Hydrangeas bloom on one-year-old stems. Pruning now will eliminate most of the flowers.

      If you want to try to get blue or lavender flowers on your otherwise pink plant, continue applying aluminum sulfate to the soil. White-flowered varieties will not be affected, and not all pinks will be affected the same.


For more information, watch & learn: Re-blooming Hydrangeas with Nicholas Staddon

Roses:

      Rose plants are growing quickly in March! The first buds will appear this month and maybe even some flowers, especially toward the end of the month.

      Be on the lookout for aphid infestations on the new growth. Hose them off with a strong jet of water or use a mild product like insecticidal soap.

      Continue fertilizing roses as they are heavy feeders. Do not use soil-applied fertilizers combined with a systemic insecticide. These products are very disruptive to soil life (beneficial microorganisms, bacteria, mycorrhizal fungi, earthworms, etc.). Many rosarians also believe they reduce the vigor of the rose.

      Granular, well-balanced, organic fertilizers work exceptionally well for roses, and most of these will encourage beneficial soil life.

      For larger flowers with better form and single stems, you may want to consider disbudding. To do this, simply pinch out some of the competing buds while they are very small.

      Weed as needed, but avoid most herbicides around rose bushes.

      Watch for the earliest signs of diseases like powdery mildew or rust. If disease is spotted, act immediately–do not delay!

For more information, watch & learn: How to Prune Your Roses With Laura Weaver, Bare Root Roses with Dalia, & How to Plant and Care for Roses

Deciduous Fruit Trees:

      Sometime this month (or possibly last month on some early flowering varieties) will be your third and last dormant disease control application. This may be either a copper sulfate or lime-sulfur product (do not use lime-sulfur on apricots). Both of these are organic products. Applying these products should be an annual fruit tree care chore, repeated every year to avoid infestations of such diseases as peach leaf curl, shothole fungus, apple scab, brown rot, and many others. The timing of this application is the most important of them all.  Apply these at the “pink-bud-stage.” This is the point in which the buds have swollen and may even be “pink.” but have not yet opened.

      Apply your first feeding this month as soon as you see the buds beginning to swell, but before the flowers open. The second and last feeding of the year will be in April. Apple, apricot, peach, plum, etc., should be given between about ½ pound of actual nitrogen per inch of trunk diameter. (Example: 15 pounds of 20% nitrogen if a six-inch trunk; 30 pounds of 10% nitrogen if a six-inch trunk, etc.)

      This is absolutely the last chance to do your deciduous/wintertime pruning, especially if you did not perform “summer pruning” this past year. You can prune fruit trees in March, but don’t put it off any longer.

Citrus:

      Citrus are starting to wake up this month, and new growth may be evident, possibly even some flowers. Grapefruits, if not picked already, should be ready to harvest. There will likely be a combination of both ripe fruit and immature fruit on lemons and limes. Most tangerines (mandarins) were picked months ago, but the ‘Kinnow’ tangerines are an exception and are ripening now. ‘Kara’ tangerines are even later and will ripen in early summer.

      Continue fertilizing as part of your fruit tree spring care this month, and feed every month from now until July. Use a fertilizer rich in trace minerals such as iron, zinc, manganese, copper, and others. These ingredients are usually well represented in organic fertilizers like Dr. Earth.

      Keep ants out of your citrus at all times. If ants are crawling up the trunk of the tree, apply Tanglefoot (a sticky, waterproof substance) to stop them.

For more information, watch & learn: Growing Citrus in Southern California with David Rizzo & Growing Citrus in Containers with Kathleen

Avocados:

      Avocados are waking up this time of the year, and new leaves are usually filling out on the tree. Many of the older leaves from the previous year have already dropped.

      Rains may take care of some of the irrigation needs this month but irrigate as needed to supplement the weather.

      March is the first really good month for planting avocados. Being sub-tropical plants, avocados prefer to be planted at the beginning of the long warm half of the year.

      Avocados can be pruned this month. They do not particularly need any specific annual pruning, but size reduction or general shaping, if necessary, can be done now.

      Be sure to keep a very thick blanket of mulch, compost, or fallen leaves under mature avocados at all times. Avocados need a cool root-run for good health.

      Most varieties will not have fruit ready for harvest this early. However, some varieties, like ‘Gwen’ and ‘Whitsell’, will often have fruit at unusual times.

For more information, watch & learn: Edible Gardening: How to Grow Avocados in Southern California with Sarah Smith

Subtropical Fruits:

      Hand pollinate cherimoya and guava.

      Harvest macadamia nuts of the ‘Beaumont’ variety from the tree. This is the only variety of macadamia that must be harvested off the tree (others drop to the ground when ready). Pick every fruit on the tree or the tree will eventually weaken, bear too much fruit, and produce very small nuts. For varieties other than ‘Beaumont’, keep checking for fallen macadamia nuts and pick them off the ground weekly. Most of these other varieties will have already finished dropping by now.

      Most subtropical fruits are still asleep, so there's not too much fruit tree care to do in March. It is still very early for these plants and, in most locations, still too early to be thinking about much planting.

      A few varieties may be showing signs of new growth on the tips or along the branches. These can be fertilized, but most can wait another month.

      If needed, annual pruning can often be done now, but consult a reference or expert first. Some varieties only bloom and set fruit on old wood, and pruning now would remove the potential for fruit this year.

Perennials:

Here’s one more type of planting for your spring gardening checklist. March is an important planting month for perennials. The selection is good and many will be in bud or bloom. It’s also an important time of year for perennial plant care and maintenance for perennials already in your garden. Perennial care isn’t too complicated this time of year, but it is important to set them up for a successful season with regular feeding and irrigation.

 

 

 

      Almost the whole perennial garden (and the rest of the garden, too!) can enjoy its first really good fertilizing this month. The frequency and amount will depend upon the formulation you are using and the effects you desire. If you have been building up your soil’s health, your fertilizing duties will be much reduced this year.

      Tall, upright, spiking perennials like most dahlia (tuberous perennial types), delphinium, foxglove (digitalis), kniphofia (red hot poker), liatris, true lilies (lilium), monkshood (aconitum), oriental poppy, thalictrum (meadow rue), and many others should be staked to prevent breaking. Stake these early and tie them to the stake as they grow. Thin, unpainted, natural bamboo stakes work well for this and look very pleasant in the garden.

      Most perennials are growing well now and either blooming or getting ready to very soon.

      Most of your perennials that needed a moderate to heavy cutting back have already had it by now.

      This is the first month that you can successfully cut back and shape tender sub-tropical perennials like begonias, heliotrope, impatiens, lamium, pentas (starflower), and plectranthus.

      This is another month for dividing perennials, unless you did so last fall. Dividing plants is an important part of perennial plant care as it keeps plants growing healthily, and it gives you free plants! Examples of some that might need dividing are agapanthus, campanula, calla, daylily, Shasta daisy, and yarrow.

      Your cool-season easy-care perennial plants that have been flowering non-stop for the past few months are still going strong. These include alstroemeria (except in very cold inland gardens), armeria, euryops daisy, forget-me-not (myosotis), hellebore, Marguerite daisy, and viola (perennial types).

      Those perennials that completely disappeared three or four months ago are now sprouting from the bare soil again. Ones that might be showing signs of life again this month include asclepias (butterfly weed, some varieties), bleeding heart (dicentra spectabilis), coneflower (echinacea), dahlia (tuberous perennial types), liatris, monkshood (aconitum), obedient plant (physostegia), and thalictrum (meadow rue).

      Removing spent or old flowers regularly will help them to produce more new flowers.

      Keep on weeding!

For more information, watch & learn: Gardening 101 Series | How to Use Annuals vs. Perennials with Lynn Hillman & Gardening 101 Series | Pruning Lavender & Perennials with Dalia Brunner

Clematis:

      Clematis are growing well and rather quickly now. Feed them with a balanced organic fertilizer to keep them going.

      A few varieties may already be blooming, or at least setting buds.

      Help them as they grow by guiding them or carefully tying them.

Wisterias:

      Big, fat flower buds should be obvious now and some varieties may already be beginning to bloom. Sit back and enjoy the show over the next several weeks!

      Don’t prune now or you will interfere with the blooms.

      There is still no need to fertilize now and irrigation should be minimal, if at all.

Fuchsias:

      Feed plants regularly with a fertilizer high in nitrogen to promote lots of vigorous foliage growth at this time of the year.

      Keep pinching your plants, especially those in hanging baskets, every couple of weeks through the end of this month and then let them bloom. You’ll have a full and glorious plant with hundreds of flowers.

Groundcovers:

      This and next month are the best times to plant slopes (except most California natives), especially large scale plantings. Erosion will be minimized since most of the rains are behind us. 

      Groundcover planting in general is easy to accomplish now. After planting, mulch the area heavily between plants to reduce weed growth, improve soil quality, and reduce irrigations.

      California native groundcover plants, like ceanothus and arctostaphylos (manzanita), are blooming well now, but this is not a good month to plant these. Wait until late this fall. In addition to ceanothus and arctostaphylos, some of the best California native plants include buckwheat, (eriogonum), Cleveland sage, lemonade berry (rhus), and toyon (heteromeles).

      Cool-season groundcovers are still growing and blooming well.

      A few warm-season groundcovers may be beginning to wake up to start their spring growth again, but many will wait another month or so.

      This is a good time to check irrigation systems on slopes, before the warm weather of summer.


For more information, watch & learn How to Plant & Grow Groundcover with Dalia Brunner

Orchids (outside grown):

      This and last month may be the peak time of bloom for most cymbidiums. Continue feeding with a high phosphorus fertilizer through to the end of their bloom period.

      As epidendrum orchid flowers fade, cut the individual stems to two or three buds above the soil. This will keep them blooming almost year-round.

      Feed epidendrums with a low-nitrogen/high-phosphorus fertilizer.


For more information, watch & learn Orchids

Bulbs, rhizomes, tubers, etc

      March is a big month for blooming bulbs, and those that are in bloom now are those that you planted last fall. In Orange County, these include anemone, babiana, calla, chasmanthe, crocosmia (late in the month), crocus (spring-blooming types), daffodils, Dutch Iris (late in the month), freesia, hyacinth, ipheion, ixia, leucojum, muscari, narcissus, ranunculus, scilla campanulata (late in the month), scilla peruviana, sparaxis, tritonia, and tulips.

      Bedding cyclamen, although not generally referred to as a bulb, are still in full bloom throughout Orange County.

      Many ornamental oxalis are winter-blooming, non-invasive and naturalize easily. These are still in full bloom.

      Continue planting gladioli this month. By staggering the planting dates of gladioli, you will have a longer season of successive flowers. Some gardeners buy several dozen and plant them in two-week intervals over a three-month period.

      Finish planting any remaining calla (hybrid colored types), canna, and Mexican shell flower (tigridia), but wait until April to plant tuberose.

      Now is the time to start your tuberous begonias.

      Plant or re-plant perennial dahlias this month.

      If you want to give your bulbs the opportunity to return next year, be sure only to trim off the faded flowers when they finish blooming. Leave the foliage intact and continue feeding and watering until they naturally turn completely brown and dry.

      Watch for germinating weeds and control them now, before they get much larger.

Bearded Iris:

      Bearded Iris are building up their energy now in preparation for the big spring bloom that should begin next month.

      Apply a good, well-balanced, general-purpose organic fertilizer to them this month, and the flower production will be even better. Any fertilizer labeled for roses (but not with insecticides or other added ingredients) will do fine.

      Don’t stop weeding!

Dahlias (tuberous types):

      Tubers should still be out of the ground now and quietly resting somewhere in the garage or other cool, dry location.

      Nurseries should still have some dormant tubers in stock. Shop early while the selection is still good, but don’t plant them for another month.

      If the weather is warm and rain has slowed down, begin planting (or re-planting) any dormant tubers toward the later part of the month. There is no rush; you can always plant them next month. Choose a full-sun location and drop a little fish bone meal or regular bone meal into each hole before planting.

      For tall varieties, put stakes in when planting, to avoid damaging the roots later.

      Keep newly planted tubers moist, but be careful not to overwater until growth shows above the soil.

      When the foliage is a few inches out of the ground, begin fertilizing. Use a liquid or granular organic fertilizer that is low in nitrogen and high in phosphorus. Fish bone meal is excellent.


For more information, watch & learn Lew Whitney's Secrets to Growing and Maintaining Dahlias

Tuberous Begonias:

      Plant (or re-plant) tubers now into flats. Fill a nursery flat with good-quality potting soil. Wiggle the healthy tubers gently into the soil so that the soil just barely comes to the top of the tuber. One side of the tuber is indented (concave), the other is rounded outward (convex). The concave side should be up. Put the flat into a warm, bright filtered-sun location and keep them moist, but not soggy.

California Native Plants:

      This is your last-ditch possibility of planting most of these and still having success.  California native plants are best planted in the cool fall and early winter months, which is the beginning of their growing season.

      This can be one of the prettiest times of the year for many of our California natives. Many of these are blooming and growing well now, but in some cases, they are nearing the end of their growing season and will be beginning to slow down and prepare for the long, hot, and dry summer months ahead.

      Be very cautious irrigating most of our native plants too often, especially during their dormant summer period. An extra irrigation or two now may be justified and will keep them blooming and happy a bit longer.


For more information, watch & learn: Gardening with Native Plants with James Maxwell and Success with Native Plants with James Maxwell

Wildflowers:

      These should still be looking good and blooming abundantly, depending upon the varieties of seed involved and the weather. Extend the season of the flowers with supplementary irrigations. If you want some of your wildflowers to re-seed for next year, leave the bloomed out plants in place for a while and allow the seed to fall to the soil.

      If you have been weeding diligently, by now the wildflowers should be filled in. Keep an eye out for any weeds that you may have missed and pull them before they set their own seed.

Subtropicals

      Plants like cannas, gardenias, ginger, begonia, brunfelsia, etc., can be trimmed now, even in colder inland gardens, if you didn’t already do it last month.

      A few are barely beginning to awaken from the cool winter months, but it is still very early for these plants and, in most locations, still a bit too early to be thinking about large-scale plantings.

      This and next month is the time to do any serious pruning to hibiscus.

      A few varieties may be showing signs of new growth on the tips or along the branches.  These can be fertilized, but most can wait another month.

      Frost is unlikely, but not impossible. Take precautions during any unseasonably cold nights.

      Continue watering cautiously; wait until new growth begins before resuming regular irrigations.

Foliage Plants

March gardening for ferns and foliage plants like ornamental grasses is pretty hands-off. Once you start to see new growth on fern foliage you can start to fertilize lightly. This is a great time of year to plant ornamental grasses, too

Ferns:

      Although many flowers are blooming now and the garden is colorful and growing, most ferns are still not cooperating much. Unless signs of new growth are showing, there is no need to fertilize yet.

      Irrigations can still be light, but adjust according to the variety and especially the weather.

      Begin fertilizing mounted and containerized staghorn ferns now with a mild, liquid fertilizer. Fish emulsion is excellent.

Ornamental Grasses:

      The ornamental grasses that were cut to the ground sometime during the past couple of months are now beginning to sprout new growth. Give them an application of a mild organic fertilizer and watch them grow!

      A couple of the grasses that were not cut down over the past couple of months can be trimmed now; they will bounce right back with fresh growth. These include blue fescue (festuca), quaking grass (briza), and sesleria. Unlike those that were cut back in fall or winter, these are cool-season grasses, and should only be cut back about two-thirds, not to near the soil line like their warm-season brothers.

      This and next month are excellent times to plant nearly any species of ornamental grass.


For more information, watch & learn: Low Water Ornamental Grasses with James Maxwell

Vegetables and Herbs:

Your herb and vegetable garden should be growing nicely by now. If you started a garden for growing herbs and vegetables last month, now is the time to start succession planting. With succession planting, even a small herb and vegetable garden can keep you supplied with fresh produce throughout most of the year.

 

 

 

      Plant a second (later crop) of potatoes. Your main crop should have been planted about October. A second planting now will provide tubers this fall.

      Putting in successive plantings of many vegetables a couple of weeks apart from each other will ensure a constant, uninterrupted supply for the kitchen.

      It’s too late to plant artichokes now from dormant bareroot plants, but potted plants are available.

      This and next month are the absolute best times to plant tomatoes from transplants. A crop planted now will produce for several months. Choose carefully; as hundreds of varieties are now available.

      This is probably the best month to harvest asparagus spears. However, don’t harvest asparagus for the first two years after planting.

      Members of the cabbage family (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.) are often attacked by caterpillars in spring. If you only have a few plants, handpicking may be enough. Otherwise, use BT, which is a safe, effective, and organic solution.

      Especially along the coast, there is still time to get in a crop of quick growing, cool-season herbs and vegetables from transplants. Good choices are arugula, broccoli, celery, collards, endive, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, and spinach.

      This is the first month to attempt warm-season vegetables. Good bets are most beans, cucumbers, eggplants, squash, and tomatoes.

      It’s still a bit early to plant the real heat lovers like corn, melons, okra, peppers, and pumpkin. Both the soil and the nighttime temperatures need to be a bit warmer.

      Beets, carrots, chard, radish, and possibly turnips can be planted just about year-round.  All but chard are planted from seed only.

      Fava beans are finishing up this month. Keep harvesting them regularly to extend their season.

      Since most annual vegetables are shallow-rooted and quick growing, feed them regularly with a well-balanced organic fertilizer

      Control weeds before they get out of hand.

For more information, watch & learn: Edible Gardening Series Cool Season Vegetable Gardening with Suzanne Hetrick & The Culinary Garden

Herbs:

      Many perennial herbs can be planted nearly year-round, but are particularly well-suited to spring planting since they thrive during the warm summer months. These include marjoram, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme, catmint, catnip, chamomile, comfrey, feverfew, lavender, lemon balm, lemon grass, lemon verbena, St. John’s wort, tarragon, and thyme.

      Many cool-season annual or short-lived herbs that can be planted now include anise, arugula, borage, chervil, chamomile, chives, cilantro, comfrey, dill, fennel, garlic chives, lovage, parsley, salad burnet, and sorrel.

      Although tempting, wait another month for better results when planting basil.

      Rejuvenate certain old or tired herbs now by giving them a hard trim. Herbs like mint, oregano, marjoram, thyme, lemon balm, and salad burnet can be scalped to almost the soil line and, with a little fertilizer, will recover almost immediately. Woody herbs like sage and rosemary should be cut a bit higher.


For more information, watch & learn: Unique and Unusual Herb Plants with Sarah Smith

General Gardening

There’s always some general spring garden tasks to do that don’t pertain to specific types of plants. If you're adding some later warm-season flowers, now is a good time to do your flower bed preparation for spring. It's also a great time to enjoy and photograph the last flush of blooms for your cool season annuals, and make note of any spring garden ideas you might want to implement next year.

Beneficial Insects:

      Many beneficial insects also feed on pollen. Beneficials can be encouraged in your garden by planting a few flowers that they particularly enjoy. These include yarrow (achillea), alyssum, chamomile, white clover, paludosum daisy, cosmos, lantana, Queen Anne’s lace (ammi majus), and centranthus (sometimes called valerian or Jupiter’s beard).

      Pollinators, like honeybees, mason bees, and others are pollinating fruit trees this month. Do not use any sprays on these trees during this critical period.

      The first releases of ladybugs can be this month. Lacewings can be released along the coastal areas (but inland gardeners should wait until next month).

      Giant whitefly may become active again in coastal gardens. Predators and parasites will need more time to begin their activity.

      Use any pesticides wisely and select them carefully. Avoid the use of broad-spectrum products and those with residuals.

      Release predacious decollate snails now. These will take some time to establish themselves in your garden, so be patient. Do not use any snail baits, which also harm decollate snails.

      Two or three releases of both ladybugs and lacewings in the spring can reduce many pest populations significantly, very possibly eliminating the need for pesticides. If you didn’t last month, this is an excellent month to begin your first release.

      Trichogramma wasps are very effective parasites of caterpillars. If these pests are usually a problem in your garden, a couple of releases of these beneficials will be worthwhile. Space the releases 30 to 45 days apart.

Lawns:

      Feed all lawns this month. Cool-season grasses like fescue, ryegrass, and bluegrass are at their peak in the cool springtime weather. Warm-season grasses like bermudagrass, St. Augustine, and zoysia are starting to wake up this month. For these warm-season grasses, this will be their first feeding of the year and will help them regain their deep green color.

      This is a good month to plant new cool-season lawns from seed or sod (fescue, ryegrass, or bluegrass).

      It is still too cool to plant warm-season lawns (hybrid bermudagrass, St. Augustine, zoysia, etc.) from sod. Wait at least until April.

      Remember, cool-season lawns should be mowed about a half an inch lower in the cool months than in the warm months. Keep the mower at this lower height for another month at least.

      If you over-seeded your warm-season grass with annual rye last fall, you may notice it showing signs of heat stress and beginning to fade. At the same time the rye is fading away, your warm-season grass is greening up. You may not even notice the transition.

      Many weeds are potentially sprouting and showing themselves now. If applied now, pre-emergent herbicides (corn gluten is an organic version) will catch a few of these, but many have already germinated. The best weed control is a healthy, vigorous lawn, but herbicides may be necessary in a pinch.

Pests & Diseases:

      Keep after the snails and slugs in your garden

      Keep a look out for aphids, or for signs of ants farming aphids.

      Release beneficial insects, like ladybugs and lacewings, to control pests.

      Plant plants that attract beneficial insects and pollinators.

      Talk to us in-store about giant whitefly control options.

For more information, watch & learn: How to Identify & Eliminate Common Garden Pests

Records, Catalogs, Books, and Organizations:

      Be sure to make lots of entries in your garden journal now about what is blooming, what you like, and what you don’t. This and next month’s entries will be the ones that guide you and remind you what you should do this fall.

      With all the planting going on this month, it’s a good idea to make some notes in your journal about the names and varieties of what you planted. Often, much later, the name or variety or a plant is hard to remember. After the plant is taken out of the pot, save the tag and jot a note into your journal about where and when you planted it.

      The first of several home garden tours are starting this month. If you haven’t participated in one of these before, you have missed one of the most rewarding gardening experiences! Don’t miss out this year.

Soil Care:

      We have included this section, because as you know, or will discover with more experience, a good garden begins with the soil. Investing in the soil, managing the soil, and protecting the soil are not afterthoughts in a successful garden, but the foundation.  Healthy soil is living and breathing, teaming with earthworms, microorganisms, beneficial fungi, bacteria, microbes, and other invisible life. This section, possibly the most important topic of all will, provides some helpful guidance to good soil care.

      A thick layer of organic mulch, averaging about two inches should be maintained on top of the soil just about year-round. This is an excellent month to add additional mulch as needed to maintain this level.

      Applied now, a thick layer of mulch will cool the root systems from the hot temperatures ahead, reduce irrigations by as much as half this summer, reduce weed growth, and improve both soil life and soil quality.

      If you have been considering inoculating your soil with beneficial mycorrhizae, this is a perfect month in which to do it. The soil temperatures are just right for quick establishment. Inoculation can be done quickly and easily in established areas by using mycorrhizae “tablets”. In moist soil, poke a hole near the plant with a ½” or ¾” rod or stick. Drop a tablet into the hole and push it in again with the stick.

      We do not suggest the use of very high-analysis fertilizers in a garden, especially phosphorus. Examples of fertilizers to avoid are synthetic versions with formulations like, 10-55-10, 10-30-10, etc. We don’t even suggest the popular 15-30-15 formula. These formulations will inhibit or even destroy much of the soil life that is so vital to a healthy, sustainable soil.

      We also suggest that you not use soil-applied systemic fertilizer/insecticide combinations (especially popular with roses). These are very damaging to soil life.

      Use insecticides only when necessary and even then use the least-damaging product available. Many of these products move into the soil and interfere with the invisible soil life.

      If you can, begin a compost pile or purchase a compost bin. Leaves, clippings, kitchen produce scraps, and many other ingredients can be composted and returned to the garden. Home compost is one of the very best ingredients you can add to your soil. The benefits are huge in the areas of disease suppression, increasing beneficial microorganisms, improving soil structure and texture, nutrient retention, and nematode suppression.

      Try to keep from walking on wet, soggy soil, especially after a rain or thorough irrigation.  This compresses the soil and reduces its oxygen content and ability to drain quickly.

      This is definitely a planting month. Before you plant, be sure that you have considered the soil and are doing all you can to improve it and protect its health.





Places to Visit:

      Gardens that look terrific almost any time of the year include Sherman Library and Gardens (Corona del Mar), The Fullerton Arboretum (Fullerton), Los Angeles Arboretum (Arcadia), Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens (San Marino) and San Diego Botanical Gardens (Encinitas).

      UC Irvine Botanic Gardens. Hurry!

      Mediterranean and California native plant gardens are in their peak bloom now. Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont is beginning to show lots of color this month. A little further away, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden also features California native plants and is beautifully presented.

      Worth a quick visit this month, and not far away, is the relatively young and developing Niguel Botanical Preserve in Laguna Niguel. The plant focus is almost entirely on Mediterranean and California natives.

      This is a perfect time for a visit to our coastal and low-elevation wild areas to observe our native plants. The coastal grasslands and sage scrub communities at Laguna Canyon, Casper’s Park, and Aliso Creek are at their peak this month.

      Further afield, one of the best Mediterranean botanical gardens in the country is the UC Santa Cruz Botanic Garden (in Santa Cruz). This is the peak of its bloom, hurry!

      Check locally for home garden tours in your neighborhood.

      Usually held mid-month, the San Francisco Flowers and Garden Show is, by far, the biggest and best garden show in California. However, for 2021, the show has been postponed to April 8-11, 2021. Held just south of San Francisco at the Cow Palace, this is five days of heaven for west coast gardeners. Enormous displays, dozens of expert seminars, and a marketplace full of specialty and hard to find plants are just some of the reasons to attend.

      The San Diego Spring Home and Garden Show at the Del Mar Fairgrounds is usually held at the end of February or the beginning of March. However, the show has been postponed to May 14-16 for 2021. Unlike most home and garden shows, which are all “home” and very little “garden”, this is an excellent show. With the assistance of The San Diego Horticultural Society, this three-day event offers very good displays, seminars, hard-to-find plants, and dozens of dozens of vendors and organizations.