As the snow melts, flowering dandelions already bloom forward. (Andrew May/Peninsula Daily News)

As the snow melts, flowering dandelions already bloom forward. (Andrew May/Peninsula Daily News)

A GROWING CONCERN: Stepping towards spring

This month is known for coming in like either a lion or lamb, then exiting as the opposite.

But to me, March is always like a fuzzy little bunny rabbit due to the Olympic Peninsula’s fantastic mild weather.

March has myriad of garden tasks to perform, so let me jam up your “free time” with a to-do list of upcoming garden chores.

1. Pestilence prevention

Now is the time to destroy those things that wish to harm your garden.

I have already seen slugs destroying emerging perennials. Shot weed is already in bloom (the weeds that when mature and dry, shoot seeds into your eyes when touched), and dandelions are in flower, so get on those weeds with spray, pulling, hoeing, digging down and removing them along with their tap roots.

Spread germination inhibitors and do not overlook the munching mice.

They will eat your tender shoots down to the ground when you are inside your home and sitting cozy.

And please put out “pet safe” slug bait. Attend those concerns ASAP.

2. Restoration pruning

March Madness brings the perfect time to severely cut back those plants that require restoration or rehabilitation pruning.

Your spireas, potentillas, colored twig dogwoods, Russian sages, herbaceous clematis, honeysuckles and hydrangeas can be cut down just inches above ground level.

3. Be a planting fool

All sorts of trees, bushes, shrubs, vines, fruit trees, berries, perennials and ground covers are arriving at your favorite plant outlets now. Pick out and plant them as soon as possible.

The earlier you plant, the better they will do because the ground is moist, temperatures are low and transplant shock is at a bare minimum.

4. Tool list

Shovels, trowels, pruners, ladders, hoses, wheel barrows, rakes, gloves and knee pads — all these items and more will be needed soon.

Get them or repair them now before you need them so when the job is on, you and your weaponry are ready.

An ounce of preparation is worth a pound of cure.

5. Mower preparation

Get your mower oiled, serviced, sharpened, tuned and gassed up.

In a few weeks you will be mowing twice a week. Dull mower blades shred grass, and the result is a brown lawn.

Starting your mower on the first pull is also very rewarding, so get it ready now and make sure the mower height is 3.25 inches to 3.5 inches.

6. Feed the beast

Your lawn, trees, roses, orchard, flowers and all of your plants will soon have their highest nutrient requirements as leaves, buds and new branches begin growing.

It takes three to six weeks with this soil temperature for the nutrients to become readily available to your hungry beasts.

7. Divide and conquer

March is a great time to divide and rejuvenate many of your perennials which perform poorly when they get too crowded.

Ideal candidates for this chore would include irises, daisies, day lilies, hostas, peonies, asters, sedum, ornamental thistle, coreopsis, ornamental grasses, lupine, delphinium, coral bells, astibles, yarrow and ajuga.

Dig and lift the clumps out gently, wash and tenderly separate them, then transplant them in a new spot. Make sure to water everything extremely well.

8. Lime away

Lime is not only beneficial to your lawn, but also your flowers, blooming perennials, deciduous shade trees, the orchard, vegetable garden and most non-indigenous ground covers.

This time of year it can take six to eight weeks for lime to work its magic due to our cool temperatures, so apply only pelletized lime for easy application and uniform coverage.

9. Mulch and re-mulch

Dry weather will return very soon. For now, your soil is wet (very wet thanks to the snow) and the mulch you buy is even wetter.

Wet mulch on wet soil locks in moisture for most of the summer.

Mulch four to eight inches or top dress two inches. If you have an existing mulch, cover that anew if it needs the layer and improved look.

10. Dormant sprays

We’ve often discussed the great advantage of this very targeted spray for use on your orchards, berries, nuts and fine woody ornamentals.

You should only spray before leaves or buds are popping out.

For many trees, leaves and buds are just a few weeks or less away, so use a dormant oil spray now and 7 to 10 days later.

11. Be edgy

Before the grass rhizomes penetrate all other areas, go around your landscape areas and flower beds to give a nice edge to everything, saving hours of work this summer.

12. Peas and sweet peas

This month is the perfect time to try sowing peas for a very early harvest.

Our weather here is pea-perfect, so please, sow both edible and ornamental peas.

Always soak peas overnight in water laced compost or old decomposed mulch before planting. The microbes in these products greatly improves germination.

13. Bonus round: Spread it around

We all know of someone who has been extra busy working, is elderly or has limited mobility, or has an illness that they are struggling with who could use an extra hand in their garden.

Take an hour or two and surprise them with an extra dose of kindness via some cleanup work in their main walking path or view area out their favorite window.

You’ll feel better knowing that you made someone’s day by offering your youth and vigor. The look in their eyes will be priceless.


Andrew May is an ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email (subject line: Andrew May).

The absolutely dreaded artillery weed is already in bloom. Getting the first generation will save you thousands of weeds in August. (Andrew May/Peninsula Daily News)

The absolutely dreaded artillery weed is already in bloom. Getting the first generation will save you thousands of weeds in August. (Andrew May/Peninsula Daily News)

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