March In The Garden
March is a month that is totally devoted to green! St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner, celebrating the Emerald Isle and the patron saint who introduced Christianity to Ireland. In Chicago, they dye the entire Chicago River green (don’t worry – it's environmentally friendly) and most bars in the world sell green beer. The Shamrock (three leaf clover) is the unofficial national flower of Ireland. To find a four leaf clover amongst a sea of three leaf greenery brings that person luck, faith, hope and love. It is a day when the generous Irish people like to share their nation with the rest of the world. We are all Irish on St. Patrick’s Day!
Gardeners also love the color green and March is the month that marks the beginning of the outdoor gardening season. It also is a time of transition between winter and spring. Be aware new gardeners - March in Saskatoon usually jams all four seasons into 31 days. I’m not joking!
“The first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another. The difference between them is sometimes as great as a month”. - Henry Vandyke
Don’t be too eager to rush out into the garden! Here are a few garden related indoor activities you can do while waiting for that first spring day.
Many successful gardeners keep a gardening journal. If writing is not your thing, think about starting a photo journal. Nowadays, all photos are dated and you can add additional text to your pictures.
Plan ahead for any new perennials, trees/shrubs and hard landscaping that you want to add to your garden. Create a rough map of your property, drawing in all the structures, veggie garden, perennial/annual flower beds and existing trees and shrubs. It does not have to be a work of art! Make a few copies. Stand inside your home and look out onto the front and back yards with fresh eyes. Be aware of sight lines from the inside of your home to the garden. What will you be looking at in the years you spend in this home. You should be enjoying the view! Above all else, before you begin a garden project, call Sask 1st call. This is a free service that marks utility easements and line locations front and back. If planting trees, be aware of overhead power lines. Contact the City of Saskatoon for any property bylaws and information you should be aware of. Use one of your copies to mark all utility lines (above and below). A plan will give you a good start and a goal. You will have to make changes along the way but be flexible; open to new ideas and new plants when you reach each stage of the project. You can also gain inspiration by visiting your local library or treating yourself to new books or magazines on landscape design.
Mid-March is a great time for pruning deciduous trees and shrubs before they bud and leaf out. It is easier to see what needs to be pruned out/back when leaves are not present. At this time of year insects and disease have not yet appeared so the cuts will be able to heal quickly once the weather gets a bit warmer. Prune out dead, diseased, broken and crossed branches. Some shrubs may need thinning out as well.
A general rule of thumb is not to prune spring flowering shrubs until right after they have bloomed. These include Lilacs, Forsythia, Double Flowering Plum, Flowering Almond, Purple Leaf Sandcherry, early blooming Spirea and Nanking Cherry.
Summer flowering shrubs should be pruned in early spring ( March) before the new growth begins. Shrub and Tea Roses, Pink Flowering Spirea, Potentilla, Viburnum, Hydrangea arborescens varieties and Elders. If your shrubs are healthy, just prune to shape, not taking off more than 1/3 the volume of the plant.
Shrubs grown for their foliage can also be pruned in March. Cotoneasters, Ninebark, Barberry, Alpine Currant, Buffaloberry, Dogwood, and Honeysuckle (shrub varieties) just to name a few.
In late March – early April, spray fruit trees with dormant oil before the buds break. The liquid mist suffocates overwintering insects and their eggs, plus any lurking diseases. If you prune before spraying the dormant oil, this will somewhat protect any open cuts as well.
And remember there is a yearly pruning ban on Elm trees in Saskatoon from April 1 to August 31. Birches and maples should be pruned in July to avoid excess sap flow in spring.
In early March, geraniums can come out of cold storage. Clean off any withered yellow leaves, dead or dying stems and prune back brown/black roots. You may also need to cut the main stalks back to outward facing buds. This will encourage future plant bushiness. Soak only the root balls in warm water overnight. Let them dry thoroughly the next morning and lightly dust the root ball with #2 rooting hormone powder. Repot each geranium into a new pot, filled with fresh moistened soil. Place in a sunny window and water again around the end of the month.
Plan some of your planting dates around the average last frost date in Saskatoon, (approximately May 15) and the phases of the moon! I have never tried this myself but am intrigued! Many gardeners swear by this method of planting. Scientists have proven that lunar cycles and moonlight affect the flow of water in a plant and plant growth. Ancient civilizations all over the world used the lunar cycles for farming. Perhaps this topic will show up in next month’s blog!
And last, but certainly not least, March is the month for starting many vegetable and flower seeds. Starting seeds inside is not absolutely necessary to have a great garden but there are many benefits in doing so. Please see my February 3, 2022 Floral Acres DIY Blog called ‘Garden Jargon for Beginners: Starting Seeds’ for more information on this fun project.
Here are a few seeds you can start in March!
From March 1 to 15
Eggplants, Kale, Tomatoes, Cabbage,
Rudbeckia and Shasta Daisies (perennials)
Snapdragons and Petunias (annuals)
March 15 - 31
Broccoli, Cauliflower, Asian Edible Greens,
Marigolds, Cosmos, Celosia, Strawflowers, Celosia (annuals)
The following are best direct seeded into the garden in spring.
Carrots, Beet, Corn, Turnips, Peas, Beans, Potatoes and Spinach.
Amaranthus, Godetia, Lavatera, Nastursiums, Morning Glories, Sweet Peas, Larkspur and Bachelor’s Buttons and Calendula (annuals)
FYI - Since 2015 there have been three positive cases of Dutch Elm Disease (DED) in Saskatoon. This disease is carried by the Native, European, and Banded Elm Bark Beetles. All the affected trees were removed and properly disposed of by the City Urban Forestry Dept. This city department monitors for many insect pests and diseases continuously in spring and summer. Help our elm trees and the Forestry Department out by not bringing in any firewood from out of province.
There have been seeds discovered in the ice in Siberia that are 32,000 years old and they have been successfully germinated! These seeds have turned out to be a flowering plant call a narrow-leafed campion. Truly amazing!
Keep an eye on that weather and Erin Go Bragh!