April Showers The saying goes, April Showers, Bring May Flowers, but I have to say…
Early Spring Arrival
March is a swing month in the garden in the mid-Atlantic. It can be cold and rainy (snowy!), or we can have beautiful early spring weather. In the case of the latter, a couple of things happen. Garden center staff run around putting products on the shelves, muttering, “we aren’t ready, we aren’t ready.” Gardeners with spring fever flood into the garden center on the first nice Saturday looking for plants. People new to gardening are especially liable to be ahead of the season, looking for tomato plants and peppers. Enjoy the early spring weather, but the reality is that there will be more cold nights. It only takes one or two to turn your sensitive plants to mush. So, what should you be looking for now (early March)? First, Stephanie has her “March Garden Checklist” Calendar, and that is a handy reference. Thinking in terms of the old Behnke Departments: Organization at other Garden Centers will be similar.
Garden Shop Filled With Everything You Need
Garden Shop is still the king in early March. You should be buying seed, lawn supplies, tools, fertilizers. March is a time to be cleaning up the garden, as long as the soil isn’t muddy. (Walking on/digging in wet soil compresses it, and it isn’t good for your soil, reducing its ability to drain.) Cut down overwintered perennials to make way for new growth. Apply deer repellents to your azaleas and anything else you have seen the deer feeding on. No reason not to keep the bird feeders going—my goldfinch feeder with Nyger seed is still going strong. If you plan on mulching later, no reason not to buy it now and store it in a dry place to apply once the soil warms up.
What Arrives In The Early Spring In Woody Plants (Trees and Shrubs)
Woody Plants: should find fruit trees at this point and other deciduous trees. Some needle-bearing evergreens. Early blooming shrubs like forsythia and winter jasmine are likely to be in stock, and PJM Rhododendron is an early bloomer. Deliveries of trees and shrubs are rolling in frequently in March, so if the garden center doesn’t have what you are looking for this weekend, it may be here the next. If you want hydrangeas, you should probably wait a few weeks as the foliage tends to emerge early in over-wintering greenhouses, and they often suffer cold damage at this time of the year.
Perennials Available In March For Your Garden
Perennials: there isn’t much available this early. In a normal season in the DC region (using Behnke’s former garden centers as examples), it’s around the last week in March when availability really picks up. You should find hellebores, sedum, euphorbias, heuchera, hens and chicks, dianthus, achillea, catmint, and maybe some forced bulbs now. And some of what you find will be nubs above the soil and not showy. Full pots of perennials in heavy foliage or bloom have most likely been overwintered in cool greenhouses. You will need to keep an eye on them if frost is in the forecast and be prepared to cover them for the night with something to prevent contact with the night sky: a blanket or newspaper, burlap, or a cardboard box are possibilities.
Annuals For Early Spring Gardens
Annuals: pansies are your best bet. You may also find some other cool tolerant annuals like dianthus or wallflowers.
Vegetables And Herbs For March
Vegetables and Herbs Watch for cool-season vegetables to be available for a few weeks this month—cabbage, kale, collards, broccoli, lettuce. They should be planted soon. Warm-season vegetables should be planted after the last frost date. Start looking at the long-term forecast at the end of April. You may be able to plant then, although you don’t gain much by being early. Mother’s Day is a good rule of thumb. Heat lovers like peppers and basil, best to wait another couple of weeks after that. If planting by seed, follow the planting instructions on the package. Radishes and peas go in early, beans go in when the soil is warm.
Whimsical Garden Décor
There is always something in season and available at Beyond Behnke’s online store.
Houseplants Everyday All Year Round
Houseplants: tropical foliage is great any time of the year, and the selection is terrific in March. But don’t plan on putting plants outdoors for a couple of months, unless it’s just to set them out for a few hours on a nice day (in the ’60s or above) or to wash the dust off the leaves. Remember that if you do this, put them in the shade to prevent sunburn.