March 2018 Gardening

From Mélie’s Garden

I am not a cold weather person so the longer hours of sunlight in March thrill me and I always feel that the end of winter is in sight and a few mid-winter gardening chores can be completed.

Inside Chores
With the increased light, plants begin to wake up and it is a good time to give your houseplants some attention. If I can lift the plant, I like to put it in the shower and give it a good spray of water to wash away accumulated dust and possible bugs acquired during the winter. Once the plant has dried off, I spray it with Insecticidal Soap to get rid of any hiding pests. If the pot is too heavy to put into the shower and needs to be sprayed, I put a cleaner bag over it and tape the bottom of the bag to the rim of the pot with duck tape. I then spray the Insecticidal Soap through the hanger opening in the bag and tie it off leaving the plant in the plastic for a few hours. This works quite well as an emergency measure with large plants to get rid of bugs. Another good thing to do to for “mid-winter plant perk up” is to place the pot in a sink or bucket full of water. Leave it in the water until bubbles rise to the surface. This is a good way to hydrate the plant and it flushes out accumulated salts that have built up in the pot throughout the winter. Once the bubbles stop, remove the pot from the water and let it drain well before placing it back in its saucer. Never let a plant sit in a saucer full of water because it will become water-logged and that will encourage rot. At this time of year, you can start to feed your houseplants half-strength organic fertilizer once per week and they will start to begin their active growing and blooming time again.

Outside Chores
March is the last month you can safely prune trees and shrubs while they are dormant. Remove all diseased and broken branches and suckers. Among the clipped branches you might find a branch or two with buds on it that you can bring into the house to force. The best branches to force are pussy willow, forsythia, apple, cherry, pear, beech, birch, and redbud. Margaret Roach says in her gardening blog that you will be more successful in your forcing if the branches are closer to their blooming date, which makes sense. She recommends splitting the stems to allow more water to get up into the branch and then putting the branches in a bucket of cold water. The bucket should be out of the light with a cleaning bag covering the branches to keep them hydrated. Once the buds swell enough to shed their coverings you can remove the bag and bring the branches to the part of the house where you want to enjoy them. It is nice to have a touch of spring inside a bit before it starts outside in April.


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