March is a month that I am always a bit timid with anything in the garden. The weather has a way of tempting you to believe that the warmer temperatures are here to stay. Then it turns around and the temperatures dip below freezing causing damage to early bloomers and less hardy plants. Here in Atlanta, we are quickly approaching our last average frost date, but we definitely aren’t out of the woods yet. March days can see huge swings in temperature being sunny and mid-60’s during the day, and then plunging to a freeze at night. I always plan my March garden chores to make the best use of the weather, good or bad.
It’s going to be a little while before we are planting tender vegetables in the garden, but it’s still a perfect time to plant dormant trees, shrubs, and perennials. We have a few stragglers ourselves still hanging out in pots that need to find a home before spring. Our March garden chores are focused on getting our spring gardens started and setting us up for a great summer.
Keep in mind that we are in the fairly mild climate sitting on the border of 7b and 8a. We get some freezing weather but nothing compared to more northern climates.
When the weather is nice:
Wear your pruners out
prune evergreens and roses
Give your evergreen shrubs like boxwood and holly their first trims of the year. Hand prune boxwood to let light reach thinner areas. Hollies and roses can be pruned fairly heavily and will recover quickly through the spring. Roses should be pruned back as well trimming no more than 1/3 of their growth off. They should flush out beautifully this spring.
cut back grasses, perennials, and hydrangeas.
Many gardeners like to keep winter interest in the garden by letting hydrangea, ornamental grasses, and many perennial blooms stay on through the winter without trimming or deadheading. Now is the time to finally cut them back and say goodbye for a few weeks until the spring temperatures cause them to flush out.
Break out the shovel
plant bare root roses, shrubs, and trees before the buds break.
Get bare root woody plants in the ground as soon as possible. This gives them time to establish a strong root system before the rigors of the growing season begin.
Carefully divide hostas as the first leaves begin to emerge by splitting them with a sharp shovel or knife. A hori hori knife works perfect for this. The replanted divisions will have plenty of time to fill out through the spring.
plant potatoes towards the end of the month.
Potatoes can take a little bit of frost but not a hard freeze. Wait until you are safely past the hard freezes and until the ground dries out. The end of March is usually a good target.
Feed and seed the garden:
direct seed in the garden:
It’s finally time to really start planting the cool season crops that will dominate our spring gardens. Beets, collards, kale, arugula, and lettuce can all be direct sown now. You should also set out any onion sets or seedlings now. By next month, you will be drowning in delicious spring greens.
fertilize your spring bulbs and shrubs.
Spread organic fertilizer as directed around spring bulbs as they start to emerge and shrubs as they start to break buds and leaf out. This will give them a big boost of nutrition as they get their seasons started.
When the weather is bad:
trim and repot overgrown houseplants.
By this time of the year, there’s always a few of our houseplants are either bursting out of their pots or ready for a good haircut. Now is the time to take care of it all. Give your houseplants a new home this March and watch them thrive all year. It’s also time to start gradually feeding them with a little fertilizer. The houseplants will start flushing out over the next few weeks as the days get longer and the amount of sunlight increases.
start seeds indoors:
March is the month when indoor seed starting gets pretty serious. Get your summer crops started soon for a huge head start on the growing season. Here’s some of what can be started now:
Basil, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, eggplant, okra, peppers, squash, tomato, tomatillo, and annual flowers. This month our seed starting rack always goes from a few lonely plants that are being nursed back to health to completely filled up. By April, I’m always wishing for even more growing space.
study up on what you are growing
Take this time to read up on all those plants you are getting ready to add to your gardens. A little prep now is going to go a long way in the success you have this year nourishing your plants and fending off pests and disease. This goes double for anything you are trying out for the first time this year.
order those seeds you ran out of
It’s inevitable on planting day, there’s always something I seem to forget to order or just run out of. Get those last seed orders in asap before there’s nowhere to find what you need (or it’s too late to plant). We have a helpful guide for buying GMO-free seeds here.
There is plenty to keep you busy this month. Come April, hopefully, these winter temperatures will be long behind us, and our gardens will be filled with flowers and vegetables once again. These March garden chores should help this crazy month fly by.