March Madness

March 2, 2019


One of my California cousins follows this column. She told me that she loves a to-do list of garden tasks. I rarely make that the subject of a piece, but this month is action-packed as we get back to gardening so it seems like a good time.


Remove the remnants of last year’s growth from perennials. A weed whip makes quick work of the job. Assess winterkill and plan replacement plants.


This is the time to divide the late summer and autumn bloomers. These like to become established before hot weather arrives. Allow daffodil foliage to yellow, feeding the bulbs for next year’s flowers.


It is not too late to start seeds indoors for mid to late April transplanting. Cool-season vegetables can be planted this month. Carrots, lettuces, greens, peas and radishes can handle a little frost but not summer heat.


Houseplants respond to the lengthening days by growing. Fertilize with a product formulated for their needs. Continue to use the product as directed on the label until September, when decreased light levels cause growth to slow for winter.


Apply a pre-emergent herbicide around shrubs, trees and perennials before renewing their mulches. This dramatically reduces the need to weed. Mulching is also a great way to conserve water while insulating the plant roots from temperature extremes. As mulch decomposes, it adds organic matter to the soil. There are many benefits from this one practice.


Mid-March is the perfect time to prune your roses and give them their first fertilization of the year. Before the shrubs leaf out, prune out any dead, diseased, or broken canes. Where two are rubbing against each other, prune out one to prevent damage. Shrub roses may need to have some old growth removed to maintain a pleasing shape. Hybrid teas require more drastic renewal pruning to promote flowering.


Ruthlessly remove any roses showing signs of rose rosette. This viral disease has no cure and will spread to all your roses if not dealt with promptly. The main symptom is deformed red foliage. The virus is spread by microscopic mites. Take care to remove the entire root system of infected plants before replanting in the same spot. Disinfect the tools used and bag the diseased plant before placing it in the trash.


(Photos, from top: Let daffodil foliage stand--it's feeding next year's bulbs; allow irises to bloom before separating them; give perennials like this oregano a spring haircut; and left, when you see rosette in your roses, "shovel-prune!" Remove the plant ruthlessly.)



It is time to tune up the lawn mower and begin another season of turf care. If you have cool-season grass, apply one half of the recommended fertilizer now and the other half next month. Wait until April to fertilize Bermuda or Zoysia turf. Go ahead ​​and apply pre-emergent herbicide this month. Turf grasses need an inch of water weekly. Irrigate to supplement rainfall throughout the growing season.

Welcome spring! It is great to be back out in the garden.


Master gardener Ann Bartlett is one busy lady in the spring! She's already ticking items off her list. Email her your gardening questions at 

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