March Gardening Tips
This is a great time to do some housekeeping around the yard in preparation for spring planting. Rake any leaves remaining in ground covers or beds, cut back ornamental grasses to a few inches above the ground, and remove any tree branches and twigs from your lawn. When your yard has dried out a bit from melting snow and rain, you can prepare garden areas for planting. Adding organic matter to soil will improve its structure and increase air space, a key to successful growing. Organic matter includes compost, manure and peat moss. Thawing and freezing (you know, 78 degrees today, 10 inches of snow tomorrow!) can force plants right out of the ground. If you notice plants that have heaved, gently push them back into the ground to help re-establish roots and protect plants from further damage due to extreme changes in temperature. PLANT SOME PANSIES!!! They love the cooler weather, and can survive when temperatures drop below freezing. Did you know that all pansies grown at For The Garden have already been acclimated to cold weather? They’ve been grown outside whenever possible to get used to wind, sun and cool weather. They’re ready for your gardens and containers!
Because the time to mulch is NOW, before most plants have emerged. Using mulch is a great time saver as it will help prevent weeds further into the season. Mulch also reduces the watering frequency necessary to keep plants hydrated. Mulch keeps the soil cool and makes a garden look neat and tidy.
The most common mulch question I get from homeowners is, “How much mulch do I need?” Obviously, the answer depends on the size of your garden. It also depends on the depth of the mulch. You will hear different suggestions on recommended depth (between 2 and 4 inches are the most common). I feel that 2 ½ inches is a good depth. At For The Garden, we sell mulch in bags—1 bag will cover about 10 feet of garden space. If your garden is 4’ x 12’ you will need 5 bags of mulch. Don’t worry about the math… we’ll make it easy for you…just measure your garden area and we will tell you exactly how many bags of mulch you will need for optimal coverage.
One more important detail about mulch is that the source of the mulch is very important. I know exactly where the mulch I sell is coming from and I urge you to use caution in selecting mulch from an unknown source. Cheap mulch is usually a sign that it is coming from wood that is undesirable (possible termites, and other problems you don’t want anywhere near your yard). It’s worth a few extra dollars to use quality mulch in your garden.
Deciding which pansies to grow is hard! With well over 100 varieties to choose from growers have to pick out ones that they feel will grow the best in their particular climate, and will offer their customers the traits and colors they want. One of our seed suppliers offered 11 new pansy colors for this spring! The palette continues to grow with awesome new colors each season.
Seeds for our pansy crop were planted last October (about the time you were here to learn about pumpkins). Right after Christmas, they were transplanted (taken out of the seed trays) and put into the containers they are in now.
We place all of our pansies in greenhouses on benches that can be rolled outside. Beginning in mid January, each day that the temperature is above freezing (32 degrees F) we roll the benches outside so the pansies can get used to cooler temperatures. Then we roll them back inside the greenhouse during the night so they do not freeze after the sun goes down.
In mid February, if the weather is not too cold, we will leave the benches full of pansies outside all night to get them used to a light frost. They stay outside, unless it will be below 20 degrees F. By mid March, the pansies are used to cold weather, so we take them off the rolling benches, place them on the ground where they will grow until they are ready to be shipped to this greenhouse.
When leaving pansies outside during the night, one of the biggest problems we have faced is deer eating the pansy flowers. When deer see and smell pansies, they love to eat them, because there are not many other “leafy” things around for them to eat. We have to be very careful how we handle this problem.
The pansies we have here are “hardened off” and can be planted now, even if it snows, or if it gets cold. If you were to compare these pansies with others that are in some of the stores now, the other ones may have bigger leaves and flowers. It is unlikely that those pansies have been introduced to cold temperatures, and probably will not hold up as well if the weather turns cold.
Look for pansies that are used to cold weather, or hardened off.
Decide what colors you like – you have many choices!
Look at the roots. Are they well formed? Do they look strong?
Avoid leggy looking plants. They have stretched from being in a greenhouse too long.
When planting pansies, if they are going in pots or other containers, be sure to use potting soil. When planting them in the ground, make sure to dig in some organic material such as peat moss. Pansies will grow best in well-drained soil. Because pansies are low growing plants, they make great borders and edging that delivers brilliant color. They’re also a great choice for pots and window boxes, and are delightful for cut flower bouquets!
If they just liked hot weather, they could possibly be the perfect plant to perk up any garden!!!
Here are a few growing tips to keep your plants looking great all summer:
Fertilizer - With all the extra watering you 've been doing, you have probably washed all the nutrients out of the soil. I recommend at least 3 applications of fertilizer one week apart. Use any all purpose fertilizer or bloom booster (like Miracle Grow). If you are an osmocote lover this would be a good time to do a second application in addition to the liquid feed.
Trim - Shape up your plants that are getting long and leggy. I like to cut plants back to within an inch or two of the edge of the pot as well as rounding off the top. Don't be afraid, your plants will thank you in a week and they will rebound and look better the ever.
Replace and refresh - There is still a lot of summer left, so if some of your plants are beyond hope, stick a new one in to freshen up your garden. Most annuals will look great well into October.
Even though it’s cold outside, there are some things you can do now that can make a
difference for the upcoming growing season.
Spread ice melt and salt carefully to avoid damage to shrubs. Sand may be a safer choice for sidewalks close to plants.
Carefully remove snow from evergreens as soon as possible after a heavy snow. This could help minimize damage to branches.
It’s a great time to turn and lightly prune houseplants—don’t forget to check for bugs too!
Protect poinsettias from cold drafts and keep moist to enjoy their color longer and keep them healthy—they make great patio plants next spring.
Have fun looking at gardening magazines and catalogs! It’s not too early to make some plans for your spring gardens.
Holiday decorating has almost become an art, and with the color choices now available for poinsettias, it seems there should be something for everyone! There’s a color for every décor and mood.
It used to be when you thought of a poinsettia, the color red is what came to mind. But growers have responded to consumer trends and now offer them in a variety of colors, including pink, white, marbled, burgundy as well as several shades of red, just to name a few.
Did you ever stop to think of where poinsettias are grown, and how they show their colors just in time for the holidays? In the St. Louis area, tens of thousands of poinsettias are grown in various sizes and colors by local growers. The process begins in April, when they receive cuttings from suppliers (most come from California). These cuttings grow all spring, summer and fall, being trimmed, transplanted and attended to as necessary. Then in late October, they begin to appear in a few retail stores. The majority are carefully shipped to stores between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Because poinsettias need long, dark nights to set their buds, some are “shaded” with black cloth during the growing process to allow them to obtain their colorful bracts earlier than they naturally would. (These are the poinsettias you see early in the season.) The rest of the crop catches up with the shaded poinsettias as nights naturally become longer, and days are shorter. So, just in time for the holidays, these glorious plants are ready for decorating and gift giving!
Before cold winds begin to blow and you need your heavy winter coat to be outside, take a look around your yard to see what needs to be done. Think of the work you do this fall as a jump on work to do next spring! And, some attention to your landscape now can make a big difference in how your yard looks all winter.
Most annuals that grew outside all summer long will not do so well indoors. There are a few exceptions (some customers say they bring their tropical hibiscus, lantana and geraniums inside to winter over in their garage or basement). Generally it’s best to start over next season with fresh annuals.
If perennials were used in your containers, get them in the ground while the soil is still warm. Assume the winter will be severe enough to kill them if left in pots.
Be sure to clean out your containers. If they are ceramic or clay you will need to bring them inside to assure they won’t crack.
They are tough and do not require care at this time of the year. It’s best to cut them back next spring when new growth appears. Enjoy the movement and texture they bring to your landscape during the long winter.
We’re still below the average rainfall for the year, so it’s a good idea to give your evergreens, shrubs and perennials one last big drink before a hard frost.
If you like mulch around trees in your yard check to be sure the mulch isn’t piled up next to the trunk of the tree. This will help keep voles, mice and other creatures from making a cozy home.
After a killing frost remove all damaged, diseased or frozen plants. This will help avoid potential problems during the next growing season.
Hybrid Tea, Grandaflora and Floribunda roses need protection from the cold and strong winter winds. After a killing frost and before the ground freezes, remove all debris on the ground around each plant. Tall canes can be cut back 30-36 inches and tied together to prevent wind damage. Apply a 15-18 inch mound of mulch around each rose.
Drain fountains completely and either bring them inside (smaller ones) or cover them completely with plastic. You may want to tie the plastic at the base to keep it in place. It’s important to avoid water from collecting, which will freeze and crack the concrete.
To keep your garden mums looking their best pinch off blossoms as they turn brown. To over-winter, add a thin layer of mulch or leaves. Next Spring cut off dead stems as new growth appears and keep plants pinched low to avoid early blooms and splitting. After mid July, allow them to grow for beautiful FALL blooms
Pansies are cheerful flowers that grow best in cool weather. They are one of the most loved annuals, with jubilant faces in a rainbow of colors that are among the first blooms that welcome spring!
Often customers ask what is the difference in pansies, violas and Johnny-jump-ups? They’re all in the same plant “family” but each has individual traits.
Pansies are the largest in this family, both in leaf size and flower size. They are great companions to early spring bulbs, such as daffodils and tulips. They also mingle well with ivy when planted in pots. Their smiling “faces” are a true delight at a time when other flowers cannot survive outside.
Violas are often called mini-pansies because they look so much like pansies, only on a smaller scale. Leaves, stems and flowers are all smaller. The smaller size of viola blooms reminds many of violets – perhaps that is where their name came from!
The smallest of the family: Johnny-jump-ups is also known as Good King Henry. They often reseed, and end up in surprising places - between stones, in gravel or between cracks of a driveway! Their colors range from white, lemon yellow to violet blue.