Each month and season brings a set of checklists to click through on the farm; these can be modified for residential gardens, patio gardens or even stored away for garden and landscape dreamers. Below is a helpful list of tasks that I use as a guideline.
FINALIZE ANY BED CLEANING AND PREPARATION:
- see my Winter flower farm and gardening tasks list (but here is a re-cap):
- Cut back any ornamental grasses, seed heads of flowers, and unsightly mess from winter.
- Rake up any remaining leaves, check irrigation lines and amend the soil if needed (old fashioned compost is my favorite for new beds or sprinkling in existing beds; compost tea is my go-to if adding actual soil is not ideal).
- Put on your favorite podcast and pull weeds before they get out of control.
- Snap a few quick photos of your yard and gardens to have as a reference. Make note of any bare spots where you need more height or evergreen. Visit garden centers for ideas. By March, I am so ready to be outside, that many of these mundane tasks I actually find enjoyable. I’m ready for sunshine!
LANDSCAPING, PLANTING SHRUBS & TREES:
My goal is to have a complete landscape plan by the end of March, so that as soon as the weather predictions are clear through the last frost date, I can start planting. Spring is a great time to add some structure to your landscaping through trees and shrubs. The warm afternoons but still-cool evenings create an ideal environment to start both of these.
Unless I am planting into an existing bed where I need a large-sized plant to blend in with what is already growing, I always opt for a smaller sized shrub, usually a 1 or 3-gallon container. The smaller starts won’t suffer as easily from transplant shock and with well-amended soil, they will catch up to the larger shrubs within two growing seasons. (And the smaller sizes will save you so much money!)
One of the biggest problems I see with landscapes is planting shrubs that grow too large for their space. While the bushes may look nice the first season, they soon overgrow the area and become a jungle blocking the house. For most traditional landscapes, I highly suggest using dwarf-type shrubs and ornamental trees that will stay small and neat in the areas around a house.
TREES AND SHRUBS FOR CUT FLOWER GARDENS:
While smaller varieties may be best for landscape beds surrounding the house, the best shrubs for cutting are usually specimens that become quite large. These are ideally placed in areas away from the house, such as along a fence line as a backdrop for a mixed cutting garden, or as a hedgerow.
Some of my favorites are: eleagnus; abelia; lady Banks roses; privets; variegated pittosporum; loropetalum and snowball viburnum.
The most appealing and practical (when you are cutting from them) way to use these is in groupings.
- Repeat either the plants or color of plants in odd numbers. Usually, the plant tags will tell the plant’s full-grown size, but a quick google search will help with this as well.
- Place the will-be largest shrubs along the back of the bed, or in the middle, if the bed will be viewed from each side.
- Stagger the plants and leave enough space between plantings. Cut flower production shrubs can be planted a little tighter than traditional landscapes, but remember to leave enough room to access the plant for cutting.
Hopefully my list of March tasks will help as you plan for your landscapes and cutting gardens. Coming up with a specific plan and taking the time this month to clean up outside and organize both your ideas and workspaces will make gardening this year so much more pleasurable.