Tasks for the March Garden

Unsplash photo by Francesco Gallarotti on Unsplash

1.  Start Seeds 

A great way to grow new varieties of plants and vegetables is to grow plants from seed. This season, I am growing several varieties of flowers under lights in my basement. This is the best way to ensure I can try new varieties that typically aren’t available at my local garden center. 

Key things to ensure success:

  1. Start your seeds at the right time (biggest mistake is starting seeds too early)
  2. Ensure your seedlings get the proper amount of light
  3. Use high-quality seed starting soil (preferably peat-free)

Starting Your Seeds at the Right Time

The first thing you need to know is the frost-free date for your area. In Michigan, that date is mid to late May.  Check out the plant maps website to get the details for your specific region. The photo below shows that the last frost date for Metro Detroit is between May 11 and May 20.  Based on that information, I will use May 15th as my last frost date to figure out when to start my seeds.

Michigan frost-free map showing the frost-free date for Metro Detroit.

Quality Seed Packages Provide the Details You Need

If you purchase seeds from a reputable grower, their seed packages will provide the information you need to be successful. I took a photograph of the back of a seed pack from Select Seeds as an example. I have purchased seed from this grower for many years and I have always received a high-quality seed.

Back of a seed pack from Select Seeds showing all the information needed to grow seeds.

 I want to point out the important information on this seed package.

Seed Harvest Date – The package date of the seed is provided at the top of the label along with an expiration date.

About the Plant – The label provides details about the plant, including the type of soil it prefers, plant type, light requirements, soil requirements, the size of the plant, and when it flowers.

When to Start Seeds – Good seed packs will tell you when to start seeds indoors. This label says to start the seeds 6-8 weeks before the last frost date. I have created an Excel spreadsheet that moves back from my May 15 frost-free date.  If the package states 6-8 weeks, I use the average. In this case 7 weeks.  That means these seeds need to be started on March 27, 2020, for my region.

Resources to check out to grow seeds indoors

Purdue University Cooperative Extension Bulletin Starting Seeds Indoors

Frost Free Date Map https://www.plantmaps.com/index.php

Burpee’s Organic Garden Coir Peat Free Mix

Burpee’s Concentrate Seed Starting Mix – I am using this product now and like it.

Susan’s 2020 Seed Starting Excel Sheet 

Garden Moxie article How to Start Plants from Seed

2. Prune Hornbeam

Pruning continues during March. Thanks to Erin, from The Impatient Gardener, I learned that I need to prune the tops off my hornbeam trees to encourage them to grow thicker. I’ll do this before the new growth starts emerging.

3. Cut Back Ornamental Grass and Perennials

I leave my perennials and ornamental grass in the garden during winter. The dying plant material provides shelter and seeds for birds. It also provides some winter interest in the garden after the flowers fade and snow covers the garden.

I’ll cut back the ornamental grass to the ground this month, and I will start cutting back perennials.

Ornamental grass left standing during Winter to add interest to the garden.

4.  Rake Up Dead Leaves and Twigs

The month of March is time to start your spring clean-up. Throughout this month, I will be raking and sweeping as necessary to clean up the flower borders and turf.  This task will continue non-stop throughout the rest of the growing season.

5.  Plant Spring Window Boxes

This will be the first season I attempt to plant spring-inspired window boxes. I typically keep my winter window boxes in place until I plant for summer. But this year I am going to try to find hellebores, heather, and pussy willow twigs to create spring-inspired window boxes.

Once the hellebores stop blooming, I will transplant them into the shade border and replace them with my summer planting scheme.

Hellebores photo courtesy Wiki Commons user Theactivistuk

6.  Finish Up Some DIY Projects

  • Build Flower Press
  • Plant Turf Grass to use for Easter decorations
  • Dig Up Snowdrops and plant them in a moss-covered container
  • Finalize the design of the Woodland border under Red Bud trees and the Decorative Twig garden 
  • Secure Deer fencing before tulips start growing

There you have it. My top 6 tasks to do this March. You can check out my February garden to-do list here. Happy Gardening!

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