The first day of spring will arrive on March 20 at 4:58 p.m. From a gardening perspective, the exact timing of “spring” is less precise.
We should remember that arrival of the spring season along the Texas Gulf Coast tends to have a bumpy landing. As I prepare this column, it’s rather chilly outside and spring seems to be a distant hope as winter is not yet ready to give spring a chance. Mother Nature has been known to deliver a surprise cold snap during this time of year.
Review the following gardening checklist for things to do as the spring season arrives.
Copper plants, ageratum and ornamental amaranth and other annuals can be set out.
FERTILIZE LANDSCAPE TREES AND SHRUBS
March is an excellent time to fertilize established landscape trees and shrubs as they come out of their winter dormancy period and put out new growth. It is not necessary to punch holes in the ground to fertilize trees or shrubs or to use fertilizer spikes. Surface application of a granular fertilizer is quite satisfactory and an even better practice.
Many types of vegetables can usually be established in the garden during March including transplants of tomatoes and peppers as well as direct-seeding of corn, cucumbers, southern peas and many other vegetables.
Be prepared to provide cold weather protection as needed. It is still too early to plant okra as okra does not tolerate cool spells. Wait until mid-April before planting okra seeds.
Yes, most area St. Augustine lawns are dull brown in color because of cool weather conditions over the past few months. However, do not fertilize St. Augustine lawns now in the hope of making it green up faster. St. Augustine lawns should not be fertilized this time of year until after the grass starts to actively grow; otherwise, if you fertilize now you will be benefitting winter weeds and some of the nitrogen will be lost before lawn growth starts.
Late March is an ideal time to set out hanging baskets. The variety of plants that can be used is limited only by your imagination. Suitable plants for hanging baskets include portulaca, ivy, geraniums, airplane plant, bougainvillea, English ivy, begonias, and a host of others.
WEED KILLERS AND TREES
Many landscape trees and shrubs are damaged or killed each year by the careless application of weed killers to lawns, including those found in mixes of weed killers and fertilizers (commonly called “weed & feed”). Always read and follow all label directions very carefully including application near the drip line of landscape trees and shrubs.