March Tips and Tasks
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On the Lawn
Our lawns are starting to green up. You will want to avoid herbicide applications on lawns during this transitional phase to avoid damage to the turf. If you haven’t already applied your herbicides, wait until the lawn has been mown three or four times before application. Bring weed samples to the plant clinic for identification and specific herbicide recommendations. While you are here, request a lawn maintenance calendar for your grass type or access online here: https://www.turffiles.ncsu.edu/publications/.
If your grass is coming out of dormancy with dead areas, you may have a problem such as large patch (a fungal disease), ground pearls (a soil dwelling insect) or winter kill. Call or stop by the office and we can help determine what is causing the problem.
In the Flower Garden
Spring blooming bulbs should be fertilized just as the new growth emerges. If your bulbs have already flowered, wait until November to fertilize. Follow your soil sample results or use a complete fertilizer such as 10-10-10. Summer flowering bulbs can be fertilized when the shoots emerge.
Fertilize trees and shrubs before active growth begins (before mid-March). Fertilize based on your soil test report. For more information about fertilizing trees and shrubs, stop by the office and pick up a copy of “A Gardener’s Guide to Fertilizing Trees and Shrubs” or find it online here: https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/a-gardeners-guide-to-fertilizing-trees-and-shrubs. Fertilize perennials and annuals in April. Do not fertilize warm season grasses yet. Wait until May or early June for best results.
Apply a fresh layer of mulch to ornamental beds to suppress summer annual weed seeds now. Make sure mulch is not deeper than 3-4 inches total. Using an organic mulch such as pine straw, pine bark or shredded hardwood will improve the soil and add plant nutrients over time.
March is an excellent time to relocate plants or transplant container grown plants. Fall blooming perennials can be divided now. (Divide spring blooming perennials in the fall.) Keep an eye on new plants and replanted divisions through the spring and summer and provide adequate water to make sure they establish well.
In the Vegetable Garden
Many cool season spring vegetable crops can be planted now. Early March is a good time to transplant broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage plants. Asparagus beds should be established by the end of March. Kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, radish, turnips, and spinach can be started from seed through the beginning of April. Potatoes can be planted until the beginning of May.
Remember to wait until after the last frost to plant warm season crops like tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and peppers. While the weather has been warm this year, the last frost in Onslow County is usually the second week in April. However, this is just an average – in any given year the last frost may be earlier or later. Plan to plant tender crops after April 20. If you plant earlier, be prepared to protect these crops from a late frost, if necessary. Heat-loving crops like okra, eggplant, sweet potato and watermelons will do better if you wait an extra couple of weeks for the soil and air temperatures to warm.
Remember to provide adequate fertility during the growing season. Fertilize based on your soil sample results. Your sample report will tell you the ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium that your soil sample report indicates your vegetables need. This ratio is indicated by the three numbers on the front of the bag of fertilizer (10-10-10 or 15-0-14, etc.). You will want to find the correct fertilizer ratio for your soil conditions.
Fertilizers are available in multiple forms as well. Each form performs differently in the garden. Granular fertilizers are small pellets that you add to the soil and the nutrients are released when water dissolves the pellets. Granular fertilizers usually need to be applied 2-3 times during the crop’s growing cycle.
Slow release fertilizers may be organic fertilizers or fertilizers encased in a special coating that ensures that the nutrients are released gradually over a period of time. Slow release fertilizers are a great option in containers and on sandy soils. Read the label, most slow release formulations will feed for 2-3 months. On many crops, slow release fertilizers only need to be applied once during the growing season. Long season crops may need a second application after 2-3 months.
Soluble fertilizers (liquids or granules that are dissolved in water before application), leach out of the soil very quickly. Soluble fertilizers are useful in early spring when cool soils limit nutrient uptake but have to be reapplied frequently – often every 1-2 weeks – so they are not the best option for providing fertility throughout the growing season.
Learn more about fertilizing vegetable gardens here: http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/plants/vegetables/gardening/hgic1254.html