Northern & Central Midwest

March, 2001
Regional Report

Prepare Garden Soil


Prepare the soil in the vegetable garden and annual planting beds. When the soil has thawed and dried out somewhat, turn it over, incorporating compost, composted manure, green manure crops, or fertilizer. Don't dig when the soil is too wet or it will become compacted and lose its texture.

Prepare Strawberry Beds


Before your new strawberry plants arrive, dig several inches of compost or composted manure into the soil and smooth it for planting. Decide on the planting system you'll use for your berries before you prepare your whole area. How they're planted (in rows, double rows, staggered...) determines how much space you'll need.

Start Warm-Season Crops


Now is the time to start warm-season crops indoors under lights. Mid-March is the best time to start eggplants, basil, and marigolds in most of USDA Zone 5. Wait until the end of the month to start tomatoes and peppers. Be sure to use clean seed-starting mix and pots.


Time to Mulch


When the ground has thawed, spread organic mulch such as shredded bark under and around shrubs and trees, preferably immediately after a period of heavy rain. Organic mulch is best, since it feeds the plants as it decomposes, prevents soil erosion, reduces weed problems, regulates soil temperatures, and looks great.


Check Perennials for Heaving


Check perennials that might be heaving out of the ground due to the freeze-thaw cycles of winter. Gently firm them back into the soil with your hands. Don't be tempted to step on the soil around them - that will compact the soil and may damage their tender roots. To prevent heaving next year, add a 3-4-inch layer of mulch.


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