March brings the first day of spring and the start of new beginnings. Hope, blessings and good health are waiting for us here. What a blessed month. Our beloved Saint Patrick and the color of green are close at hand!
Daylight savings is on the March calendar. Englishman William Willett led the first campaign to implement daylight saving time. While on an early-morning horseback ride around the outskirts of London in 1905, Willett had an epiphany that the UK should move its clocks forward by 80 minutes from April-October so that people could enjoy more sunlight. He published the 1907 brochure “The Waste of Daylight” and spent much of his personal fortune pushing for the adoption of “summer time.” Year after year, however, the British Parliament stymied the measure, and Willett died in 1915 at age 58 without ever seeing his idea come to fruition.
Here at home, in the garden, March on the calendar brings many things for us to do.
Keep in mind our constant fall/winter fluctuating temperatures. Temperatures plummet from 58 degrees one day to 12 degrees the next. Weather changes so rapidly that deciduous trees may not have transitioned normally in the two-stage process of dormancy and chilling.
As we move from winter into spring the lingering effects of the dramatic cold snap and freeze damage will become apparent. Signs of damage can be black, shriveled shoots or buds. Prune dead twigs and branches and remember not to fertilize.
Some conifers showed damage immediately after the cold snap. If your trees were affected, they will show signs of scorching with needle tips that turned white, gray, silver or straw-colored. The freeze-burned needles will not green up but over time new needles will mask the damaged ones.
Other garden chores include; pruning clematis jackmanii in early March before the plant comes out of dormancy. This cultivar of clematis blooms on new wood every year and if left alone it will become spindly with decreased blooms. Cut stems back to 9” to 12” above ground with a clean straight cut. Prune to just above two strong buds. In the following weeks as new growth appears, apply a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer and train the new stems around a support.
As soon as the ground can be worked, till in 1” to 2” of compost or aged manure into vegetable garden soil. If you’re going to start a new perennial garden dig out any sod or weeds and work in the same amount of compost or aged manure.
If you are interested, now is a great time to have your soil tested. Colorado State University tests your soil and sends you an in-depth (no pun intended) analysis with suggested improvements when needed. Soil kits are available on the second floor of the CSU Extension office, 17 N. Spruce St., Colorado Springs, 80905. Call for COVID hours (719) 520-7690. The kit comes with instructions on how to collect soil. The application fee for the routine test is $35.
What to plant in March: Mid-March plant peas and sweet peas, soaking the seeds overnight before planting. Fall-bearing raspberries can be planted now. Some varieties are, Heritage, Fall Gold and Polana. Small bare root trees and shrubs as well as bare root roses can be planted from mid-March until late spring. Try to choose a time when we have predictions of three or four mild and pleasant days. To give the plants a good start, soak the roots overnight in a bucket of water. Cool season vegetables, radishes, spinach, arugula, lettuce and onions can go into the prepared garden bed toward the end of the month.
For your lawn this is the time to core aerate. Do it yourself or have it done by a qualified lawn service. Make sure the soil is moist and strive for 3” plugs. Leave plugs on the lawn, as they add organic matter to our starved Colorado soil and will quickly dissipate.
Don’t forget to sharpen the lawnmower blade and replace motor oil!
“May the strength of God pilot us, may the wisdom of God instruct us, may the hand of God protect us, may the word of God direct us. Be always ours this day and forever more.” — Saint Patrick
(Kerry Peetz is a master gardener and a member of Sacred Heart Parish in Colorado Springs.)