Upper South

March, 2013
Regional Report

Prune and Tend Fruit Plants

Fruit trees, grape vines, blueberries, and all the various bramble fruits need to be pruned before they start growing again this spring. For trees, take out any dead or winter-damaged wood, suckers, and crossing branches, then thin the interior. When temperatures are above 45 degrees F, spray with horticultural oil to control overwintering pests. With grapes, remove at least three-quarters of last season's growth, leaving several buds on each remaining piece. Everbearing brambles can be cut to several inches high for one large crop, or, as with standard-bearing types, remove canes that fruited last season and trim the side branches of remaining canes to 12 inches. Fertilize all fruit plants now as well, and provide support to vines and brambles as needed.

Trim Ornamental Grasses and Clematis

Both ornamental grasses and clematis are among the earliest garden plants to start growing in spring, so it's important that these are among the first of the plants tended this month. Cut grasses to a few inches above ground level. For clematis types that bloom on new growth, clip stems at one foot above the soil, then remove the remaining tangled, dried growth and add to the compost pile. For repeat-blooming clematis, remove any dead growth above buds that are swelling.

Plant Early Vegetables in the Garden

Often, there is a warm, dry period in early March. Take advantage of this time to set out transplants or sow seeds of cool-season vegetables, such as cabbage, broccoli, radishes, bok choy, lettuce, arugula, or other greens. To determine if your soil is dry enough to work, pick up a handful and squeeze. If moisture comes out, the soil is too wet, but if it forms a ball that breaks apart when poked with your finger, then go ahead. To ensure success with early vegetables, consider planting in a cold frame or install a low tunnel system covered with fabric or plastic.

Get the Garden Ready for Spring

Didn't finish cleaning the garden last fall? Take advantage of any pleasant early spring days by cutting the tops back on perennials. Don't pull on the dead tops, as you might loosen the roots. Depending on the weather forecast for your area, you can begin removing winter mulch or other protection. Again, weather permitting, you can transplant or divide many of the perennials. Remove broken tree or shrub branches, but don't do any major pruning on spring-flowering shrubs and trees, or you'll have fewer flowers this spring. Of course, it should go without saying, that any time is a good time to pull weeds in your beds and borders.

Get Equpment and Supplies Ready

Even if you were proactive and did maintenance on power equipment last fall, it still makes sense to test to make sure everything starts and works properly, then repair as needed. Check your safety equipment inventory as well. Now, go through your hand tools, such as pruning shears, loppers, shovels, spading forks, weeders, and gloves. What needs repair or replacement? Or, what would be a good addition to your gardening arsenal? Next, go through supplies, such as fertilizer, pots, and potting soils. Make lists so that you know what you specifically need when shopping.

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