March Garden Tasks 2016

Meyer Lemons ripe on the tree

February was a confusing month for Bay Area humans and plants… we got very little rain and had warm summery days. This month the El Nino rains are supposed to pick back up. I hope so! I need to catch up on my garden magazines and my back is ready for a break from weeding and pruning.

Cerinthe flowers

If it doesn’t rain in the next couple of weeks I suggest turning on the irrigation. Once or twice a month is good for now.

In the ornamental garden:

  • Prune dormant and deciduous plants before they leaf out.
  • Prune Azaleas after they finish blooming: remove dead, touching and crossing branches. Prune for a nice shape as well. Remove old blossoms for a neater appearance.
  • Cut back ornamental grasses. It’s a good time now since new growth should be appearing soon. Typically you can cut grasses back to about 6 to 12” tall (depending on size of plant) with pruners or shears. Shears work great with larger grasses. With some of the smaller grasses you can also just use your hand rake and comb the foliage… this will remove some of the old growth and then grass will not look like it just got a bad haircut.
  • Toward the middle of March, cut off frost-damaged growth from plants. Cut back to green growth.
  • Pull up weeds before they flower and set seed!!!
  • Look for snails and slugs in shady spaces under plants, rocks and other nooks and crannies. Hand-picking can help; sprinkling Sluggo is also a great organic solution.
  • Pick up old Camellia flowers off the soil surface… it prevents Camellia Bud Blight and it just looks better.
  • Manage Daffodils, Paperwhites and other winter-blooming bulbs: As flowers wither, it’s best to let the foliage die back naturally…this allows nutrients in leaves to return back to the bulb for next year’s flowers. If bulbs are front and center in your garden, consider planting annuals in front to hide yellowing leaves.
  • There’s still time to get winter planting done, and with the danger of frost mostly passed, your new additions will get off to a great start.


Bearded Iris flower

In the edible garden:

  • Prune fruit trees, cane berries and grapes. Prune for light and air circulation…important for fruit ripening and disease prevention. You can also make large, structural cuts now if needed. Clean up old leaves and weeds underneath plants.
  • Add a thick layer of mulch under fruit trees to keep moisture in soil and suppress weeds. Spreading worm compost under Apple trees will help prevent Coddling Moth this year.
  • Fertilize citrus with high-nitrogen and iron food. This is especially important to prevent chlorosis (yellowing leaves).
  • Sow tomato and other vegetable seeds indoors. Kale, Broccoli, Lettuce, Spinach, etc. can be direct-sown or planted as seedlings from nurseries.

- ebfriend