Written by Susan B.
March is a busy time for Southern California gardeners. It is a time to replace plants, start seeds, prepare garden beds for planting, weed, mulch, fertilize, and control aphids before they become problematic. What you do now will minimize the amount of maintenance you have to do during the heat of the summer and the coldest months of next winter.
Inspect for Snails and Slugs
Snails and slugs proliferate wherever there is excess moisture. Winter rains invite them into our gardens, and they’ll stick around, wreaking havoc on your plants unless you find them and remove them. Snails attach themselves to plant leaves, stems, containers, and planters. Take a walk through your garden with a bucket of soapy water so you can drop the snails and slugs in it as you find them.
Inspect Plant Leaves for Aphids
Aphids are tiny green creatures that suck on new plant growth. They excrete a sticky, sugary substance that attracts ants. If you find the aphids soon enough, you can get rid of them quickly when you mist the leaves with organic insecticidal soap. Blast the leaves with water using a garden hose to wash away any sticky honeydew that aphids deposit on the plant leaves.
If you haven’t planted in your growing beds before, you’ll want to test the soil first. A soil test will help you know what to add to it to amend it as you till it. If you have poor quality soil, add a 4-to-6-inch layer of mulch or compost to the bed before you till it. Then rake the soil to help ensure that it is spread evenly over the bed’s surface. Water thoroughly and let the bed rest for a week before you start planting.
Planting – Bulbs, and Flowers
Starting in March, plant bulbs, corms, and tubers, including calla and canna lilies, dahlias, and gladioli. Also, fill your garden beds with flowers that offer warm-season color. Fill your containers, planters, pots, and windowboxes with warm-season colorful annuals.
Plant and Replant Your Vegetable Garden
Plant your culinary herbs and parsley. March is the time to plant artichokes, green beans, potatoes, and tomatoes. You can also get a head-start on your cool-season vegetables, including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and spinach.
Mulch Plant and Flower Beds
Cover all of your garden beds with a 3-inch layer of mulch, compost, manure, shredded bark, or no-weed straw. If you want to apply mulch around trees to keep moisture in the soil, keep the mulch a minimum of 5-inches away from the tree trunk. Maintain a 2-4-inch layer of mulch around the perimeter of trees. Mulching garden beds effectively suppresses weed growth, maintains soil moisture, and adds organic matter to the soil below the surface through the decomposition process.
Start to feed your roses as soon as their new growth emerges. Use a high-nitrogen fertilizer. For your other flowering shrubs and plants, start fertilizing them as soon as they stop blooming. Feed these with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer as well.
Remove Dead and Lackluster-Looking Plants
Dig up plants that are obviously dead. Remove plants that haven’t performed well so you can replace them with new low-maintenance and easy-to-grow plants. Dead plants and poor performers use up garden space that you could otherwise use for things known to do well in our area.
If there are sloped areas on your property, plant groundcovers to protect the ground from inevitable erosion with winter rains. Avoid planting California native ground covers during March and April, however. After you plant groundcovers, apply a heavy layer of mulch between plants. The mulch will improve the soil quality over time, but mulch reduces weed growth and lessens the need for frequent irrigation in the short run.
Plant Nectar-Rich Plants to Attract Beneficial Insects and Pollinators
A pollinator garden serves many purposes. Roughly 80% of the food crops grown around the world require pollination. When you plant nectar-rich flowering plants or food crops, you create an environment that encourages beneficial insects to hang around and to deter destructive insects and pests. You will also lure bees (one of the most important pollinators there is) to dine on your garden’s offerings. Hummingbirds are also pollinators, and besides the nectar they sip from your flowers or feeders, they also eat small insects. When you provide an environment that appeals to hummingbirds, you can use them to eat bugs that might otherwise harm your flowers or plants.
Don’t Forget to Mow Your Lawn
Mow your cool season grasses (bluegrass, fescue, and ryegrass) to a height of two-inches during cool weather. When temperatures rise to the 90’s, adjust the height of your mower to three inches. Three warm-season grasses including Bermuda, St. Augustine, and Zoysia are exceptions because they need to continue to be mowed to a height of 2-inches throughout the growing season.
Continue to Keep Weeds Away
We cannot deny it. Weeding is one of the most “unglamorous” garden chores you’ll ever have to do. It’s easy to let your guard down and forget about this drudgerous chore. You won’t like what you find, though. If you don’t want to spend hours hand-beeding garden beds, make sure you keep your beds well-mulched. The mulch you apply early in the season will break down, and if you walk around in your garden beds, you’ll compact the mulch. Keep layering mulch or compost on your garden beds throughout the growing season. A heavy layer will help to suppress weed growth, but it will also help keep moisture in the ground longer.
March is arguably one of the most active months for garden maintenance. Don’t let the seemingly massive list of garden to-dos overwhelm you. If you don’t have time to spend hours tackling numerous chores at once, set aside a bit of time every day to accomplish one thing at a time. The time you spend in your garden can provide you with a valuable way to decompress and relieve some of the day’s stress. When you need flowering plants, starter vegetable or herb plants, or supplies like mulch and fertilizer, you can stop by one of our stores. You can also call ahead to arrange curbside pickup. Our garden experts are always available to share helpful hints, offer solutions to common problems, or recommend products that are safe to use around pets and children.
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