March Tips for Gardening in the Midwest
Here's a rundown of what you can be doing in the garden this month.
Start Your Vegetable Garden
Now's a great time to think about vegetable gardening. It's fun -- and you can reduce your grocery bills by growing your own food.
Plant cool-season vegetables, such as radishes, peas, lettuce, broccoli, and cauliflower, outdoors as soon as you can work the ground this month -- these plants survive frosty weather. Don't forget to add some pansies to your spring vegetable garden -- they'll add color, and you can use them in salads.
Start seeds of your favorite warm-season varieties, such as tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers, indoors under fluorescent lights to get a head start on the gardening season.
Now's also a great time to get out and prune your fruit trees (including apple, pear, and cherry trees), as well as fruits such as raspberries and grapes.
Go ahead and prune summer-blooming shrubs such as butterfly bush and rose of Sharon that grew out-of-bounds last year. But hold off pruning your spring-blooming shrubs (such as forsythia and lilacs) -- take the shears to them only after they've finished blooming.
It's also the time to prune your roses. Cut back hybrid tea, grandiflora, and floribunda roses to about 4-6 inches tall.
Learn more about pruning roses.
While you have your pruners out, take a look at trees in your landscape to see if any of them need pruning. Now's a great time to do it. However, hold off on pruning oaks and walnuts to reduce the threat of disease.
Click here for more pruning tips.
Divide Your Perennials
Later this month is the ideal time to start dividing perennials. Most perennials do best when divided every three years or so, but some vigorous growers could use splitting every other year.
Replant the divisions to fill in holes in your garden, or use them to trade for other plants with gardening friends.
Here's a hint: It's best to wait and divide many spring-blooming favorites such as bleeding heart and barrenwort after they've finished blooming.
As the weather warms up, get outside and begin to cut back dead stems of any perennials or grasses that you left standing over winter.
Here's a hint: Leave the stems about 3 or 4 inches tall -- this helps you remember where late-waking flowers such as perennial hibiscus and butterfly weed are. Plus, the stubs might deter bunnies and other critters from nibbling on your perennials' new growth.
Watch for your perennials to start to put on new growth. Once they do, remove winter mulch from your beds and borders. Throw the mulch in the compost pile so you can use it to enrich your soil. Watch for weeds -- early-season pests such as chickweed and henbit don't mind cool temperatures and might start sprouting near the end of the month.
Early-Spring Lawn Care
If annual weeds such as crabgrass are a problem in your yard, stop them in their tracks by applying a pre-emergence herbicide. Watch for your forsythia to bloom -- that's typically a good indicator of when it's best to treat your lawn for crabgrass.
Even though your grass might be starting to green up, it's probably too early to fertilize. Wait a month or so until your grass is actively growing before feeding it.
Help Your Houseplants
As the days grow longer, you'll probably start to see more growth on your houseplants. You can typically start watering and feeding them a little more this month to help them push new growth.
Take cuttings from your favorite houseplants if you want to use any outdoors this summer. For example, spider plants can make a fun edging plant or groundcover in shade. Let philodendron or pothos start to climb a tree.
Here's a hint: Check if there's a layer of dust on your plants' leaves. If there is, wash it off with lukewarm or room-temperature water. This will allow more light to reach the leaves, so your plants can grow and bloom better.