A Few Things To Do In March

Last Tuesday (the last day of February) started out cold and frozen with a few snowflakes falling from the sky, but as the day went on the sun came out and it actually felt like a taste of spring for me.  I was working in the garden doing some cleanup and for the first time this year I was whistling, lost in thought as I scurried about with my pruners, rake, and wheelbarrow.  I couldn’t help but feel that the last vestiges of winter were finally behind us.  It was at that moment that a bit of panic came over me as I realized I still had a ton of things to do to get ready for spring.  Here is what I accomplished and what you should focus on as well.


I defoliated my evergreen perennials (including ferns):  it’s time to remove all the old foliage from evergreen ferns like Alaska fern, Autumn fern, our native sword ferns and Deer ferns.  Cut off last year’s leaves from Hellebores and Epimediums.  Clean up Bergenias and cut back Dusty Millers and Euphorbias that show signs of frost damage.


I pruned the Hydrangeas:  PG type hydrangeas can be cut back “hard” since they bloom on new wood.  “Mophead” and “Lacecap” varieties should be cut just below last year’s blooms.  


I “mowed down” my deciduous grasses such as Maiden Grass and Switch Grass.  Evergreen varieties like the sedges will get a “bowl cut” a little later this month.


I sheared my summer blooming heathers:  heaths and heathers that bloomed last summer should be sheared now before they put on new growth for the season.  Winter blooming heather is still in color so leave it alone until April or May and then shear it back.


I touched up my sheared hedges of Japanese Holly, Laurel and Osmanthus.  Since I gave these a haircut late last summer they only needed a very light trim to keep them looking tidy.  I will prune them again after their spring flush of growth.


I raked up the rest of the litter and leaves in the beds so the bulbs could see the light of day.  I had mixed feelings about doing this.  It is so much fun to watch the little birds scamper through the leaves looking for bugs and seeds.


I pruned the roses, what there is left of them.  Years ago I had a rose garden of 100 roses that brought me great joy and mostly a lot of frustration (think spring rains that ruin the first blooms).  One spring I went “postal” and tore them all out so that all I have now is three scarlet Floral Carpet roses that I “prune” with my gas hedge trimmer.  No more frustration.  One of these days I will forget all that frustration and plant more roses.


I did some weeding:  specifically, I pulled out every last clump of “shot weed” before they went to seed and you should do the same just as soon as you can.  Shot weed (also known as pop weed) is an annual that comes up in the fall and about this time it goes nuts, blooms and sets seed in a matter of minutes or so it seems.  When the seeds are ripe they are literally “shot” throughout the garden.  This process is called explosive dehiscence and trust me when I say you don’t want this to happen.


If you need more gardening tips come to the Everett Home and Garden Show this weekend where I will be speaking Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.