Northern & Central Midwest

March, 2006
Regional Report

Start Garden Cleanup

As the soil begins to dry out and you can begin to get into the yard and garden, start your cleanup. Remove winter debris, cut back perennials, prune out broken branches on trees and shrubs, and begin to remove any protection to allow quick green-up as the days warm.

Sample Your Soil

As soon as you can get a trowel into the soil, stick your soil thermometer in. When the soil temperature reaches 50 degrees F, take samples for a soil test. Take samples from several different locations and mix them together. Take or send about 2 cups to a soil testing lab. See your Extension office for details.

Wait for Soil to Dry Before Tilling

Don't be too eager to start working garden soil. It must be dried out to the point where a clump squeezed in your hand easily breaks apart, or you will compact the soil and damage its structure with tilling and digging. This kind of damage is very hard to repair.

Prune Fruit Trees

Early March is the time to prune fruit trees. Pick a dry day before the buds begin to swell. Prune out any suckers, watersprouts, diseased or broken branches. Remove branches in the center to allow in more air and light. Finally, reduce the length of the fruiting branches to shape the trees.

Fertilize Trees and Shrubs

Spread fertilizer, composted manure, or compost around trees and shrubs if not done last year. You can spread it on snow if necessary. It's best to get it on the ground before new growth begins. If the soil is dry, be sure to water it in well.

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