Trees & Shrubs
A partial list of trees and shrubs that may be pruned in March
Beech, catalpa, crape myrtle, ginkgo, hickory, honey locust, linden, mulberry, black gum, oak, sourwood, stewartia, sweetgum, sycamore, tulip tree, zelkova. Engage a pro to prune large versions of these trees.
Cedar, cypress, fir, hemlock, evergreen holly, juniper, Leyland cypress, magnolia, pine, spruce.
Abelia, arborvitae, boxwood, butterfly bush, cherry laurel, clethra, cotoneaster, red-twig dogwood, gardenia, deciduous holly, juniper, nandina, osmanthus, photinia, privet, smoke tree, sumac, yew.
Other perennials (cut back to 8 inches)
Bush lespedeza, Russian sage, caryopeteris divaricata, false aster, aster, coreopsis, baptisia, beautyberry
Other perennials (cut back to 1/3 of full size)
aster, Montauk daisy
Prune all dead, damaged or diseased branches any time of the year
Provided your soil is dry enough, this is a good time of year to aerate your soil. Engage a company to do it or rent a core aerator. Follow the aeration with a top dressing of compost.
Last chance to service your mower before the mowing begins in earnest. At the very least, your mower needs a sharpened blade and an oil change. It may need a new air filter and spark plug as well. And don’t forget that leaving gas in the mower’s fuel tank over the winter is a very bad idea. You may not be able to start it in the spring.
Buy pre-emergent crab grass killer for use next month. You will be putting down this material in early to mid-April depending upon temperature. Do NOT buy a combination weed and feed product. The right time to apply crabgrass preventer (while the forsythia is in full bloom) is the wrong time to add fertilizer to your lawn.
When temperatures are above 50 degrees F, treat winter broadleaf weeds such as chickweed, henbit, dead nettle, hairy bittercress, and geranium. To choose the proper herbicide, it is necessary to identify the weeds. Call the VCE Help Desk for assistance.
If you didn’t lime in the fall, early spring is a good time. Ground limestone is fairly insoluble. It takes most of a year for the lime to have its full effect on raising pH. Liming should be based on a soil test. Soil test kits are available at public libraries in the County.
If you still have bare spots in your lawn, early spring is the second best time of year for spreading grass seed (late summer to early fall is the best). Grass seed will germinate and come up strong in the spring. The tough part is getting a newly sprouted lawn to survive through our hot and sometimes dry summers.
Working the soil
It’s tempting to start digging in the garden on nice days in March, but you must take care not to compress wet soil. This causes compaction that ruins soil structure. Pick up a handful of soil and squeeze it into a ball. Now drop it from a height of 3 feet. If the ball shatters into many pieces, the soil is dry enough to be worked. If it keeps its shape or maybe breaks into a few large pieces, it is too wet to be dug.
Raised beds and cover crops
You can cheat a little bit on working wet soil if you have raised beds because you will not be standing in the beds while you dig them. If you have a cover crop such as annual rye, you will need to begin to turn the rye into the soil in late March or early April to give it enough time to decompose and return its nutrients to the soil before you plant that bed in May. Turn it with a shovel first and finish it off with the rototiller a couple of weeks later.
If you have bought onion plants from a seed company, they will likely be delivered on or about the 15th of March. Follow directions in the box to care for the seedlings until you can plant them in the ground. They should be planted within a week or 10 days of delivery.