Spring has Sprung: The Whistling Gardener's March check list

Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville. Photo credit: Sunnyside Nursery.

This weekly column is being reproduced with the permission of Steve Smith, The Whistling Gardener, and owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville.

Yes I know, it still feels like the dead of winter. But the calendar says it is March and in three weeks it will be the first day of spring. So like it or not it is time to get to work.

LAWNS: I continue to be amazed at how well organic lawn foods work. Yes, they seem expensive if you just look at the price on the bag but they last 3-4 times as long as the commercial ones and improve the soil over the long run. Maybe it is time for you to kick the Scotts Turf Builder habit and start using these all natural and organic feeds. Most independent garden centers will have a turf expert on staff that can help guide you through this transition.

PRUNING: Yes, March is the month to trim our fruit trees, tidy up our hedges, cut back our ornamental grasses, massacre the roses and shape up the wisteria and clematis. While we used to do all this in February it seems like due to the weather March is now the month to get these things done. I have even waited until April in some years but let’s hope that is not the case this year.

PERENNIALS: Be very careful this month when you are tromping through the flower beds. The tender new shoots of perennials are starting to pop through the surface and the last thing you want to do is squash them.

VEGGIE GARDENS: It’s time to get the veggie garden in shape. Remove any weeds and spread some lime, organic fertilizer and compost and till it all together and you will be ready to plant all the cool season crops like potatoes, carrots, peas, radishes, onions, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower to name just a few. Buy a roll of “row cover” to protect your babies on the really chilly nights. This is also the time to plant perennial veggies like rhubarb and asparagus.

SMALL FRUITS AND BERRIES: Blue berries, raspberries, black berries and strawberries are all itching to be planted this month. They are still dormant and will slip into your garden now and never skip a beat. Grapes and Kiwis, currants and gooseberries can also be planted now. Always use some compost and organic starter fertilizer when you are planting new plants.

FRUIT TREES: Like I mentioned above, this is the consummate month to prune and spray your fruit trees with copper and oil. It is also a perfect time to plant a few new ones as well. Most trees these days are on dwarf or mini-dwarf root stocks that keep them 10-12 feet tall. Buy them while they are still at bareroot sale prices.

BULBS: Summer blooming bulbs are now in stock such as dahlias and gladiolas and lilies and should be purchased this month for the best selection even though I would recommend holding off until April to plant them.

WEEDS: Don’t let those weeds get ahead of you and go to seed. My favorite weeding tool is the Hula-Hoe and the Cape Cod Weeder. They are both quick and efficient. Remove the weeds and get the ground covered immediately with a layer of compost and some Preen or equivalent weed preventer and you will be miles ahead of the weeding game.

EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITES: We’ve got a great line up of classes this month as do most local garden centers. Check out everyone’s websites for details. You can also come see me at the Everett Home and Garden Show this Friday through Sunday, March 7th – 9th and find out what is new for 2014.

Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached online at

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