By Chris Stecker, Alamance County Cooperative Extension Horticulture Technician
1) Apply pre-emergence crabgrass preventer to your lawn before March 15th. Keep in mind that most crabgrass preventers should not be used on recently seeded or over seeded lawns. Read the label carefully before application.
2) Prune butterfly bushes to about eighteen inches. Hardy lantana and salvias may be pruned now, too. Cut old growth of these plants close to the ground.
3) Finish pruning roses early this month. Reduce hybrid tea roses to 24 inches, prune to an outside bud and remove dead wood. Begin your rose spray program as soon as first leaves appear. Alternatively, plant some of the tough shrub roses that require little, if any, spraying.
4) Fertilize pecan trees at the rate of 4 pounds of 10-10-10 per inch in diameter of trunk. Spread the fertilizer under the limbs of the tree to the full extent of the drip line.
5) Sow seeds of beets, lettuce, peas and turnips. Plant cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, head lettuce and onions.
6) If your cool-season vegetable garden usually succumbs to unseasonable heat, try gardening in containers. Pots can easily be moved to a more sheltered spot if unusual heat – or cold – threatens. To be sure container soil stays evenly moist, so use a moisture-retentive medium and check frequently.
7) Prune evergreen shrubs now. For the best result, cut back the longest twigs to a joint. This will maintain a more natural look and growth habit than shearing. Encourage old boxwoods to put on new interior leaves by thinning to allow sunlight to reach the center of the shrub.
8) Cut back old foliage of liriope, pampas and other ornamental grasses as close as possible to the ground without damaging new growth tips.
9) Remove spent flowers from spring bulbs but leave the foliage to replenish the bulb for next year. Don’t braid or otherwise damage the leaves, but allow them to die down naturally. Planting other annuals and perennials among the bulbs will help disguise unsightly foliage.
10) As new leaves of roses and other plants emerge, expect an infestation of aphids. These tiny insects have sucking mouth parts that pierce the leaf tissue and may cause unsightly, though not usually life-threatening, damage. A sharp stream from the garden hose should dispatch these critters without pesticide concerns.
March weather statistics for Burlington and Alamance County:
Average daily high: 61 degrees
Average daily low: 38 degrees
Average rainfall: 4.07 inches