March 2012 Gardening Calendar
The retail nurseries already are offering tomato plants. The safest time to plant tomatoes is after April 1. If you see your favorite varieties on sale, by all means purchase them but consider potting them up until April.
To pot tomatoes find a one gallon container, the black plastic ones work well, and fill it with potting soil. Plant the transplants and then spread two tablespoons of Osmocote or a similar slow release lawn fertilizer over the surface of the soil. Next, find a sunny spot out of the wind to place the potted-up tomatoes. In such a location the tomatoes will grow at a maximum rate until the garden soil warms up. Even in the sheltered location the plants are threatened by cold spells. If temperatures below 40ºF are forecast, move the plants inside. The idea is to avoid hardening off where the plant buckles down for cold weather survival rather than keeps growing at a high rate.
In addition to the new Rodeo tomato BHN602, look for Tycoon, Sun Pride, 444, Solar Fire, Phoenix, and Celebrity tomatoes. There will also be a small number of Surefire, Merced, and Heatwave tomatoes on the market.
It is too early to fertilize your lawn but March is a good time to apply a pre-emergent herbicide such as Crabgrass Preventer 2 or High Yield Weed and Grass Stopper to prevent germination of crabgrass and sand burs.
The live oak leaves fall in February or March. Use them for mulch or just let them decompose on your lawn. Rolling the lawn mower over them chops them up and they decompose faster. The leaves contribute nutrients and organic material to the lawn. Mowing also helps keep the winter weeds from producing seeds.
Prune your roses in early March if you did not do it in February. Remove dead wood, open-up the middle and reduce hybrid T roses to about 36 inches tall. For diagrams and more detailed instructions visit “www.plantanswers.com” It is also time to begin regular irrigation and pesticide sprays on roses and fruit trees.
For roses use acephate for insects and triforine (funginex) for fungus. Fruit trees benefit by a weekly spray of carbaryl for insects and captan triforine (funginex) for fungus. Read and follow the label instructions. Organic gardeners can try sulfur products, neem oil, and spinosad.
In the flower garden snapdragons, lackspur, pansies, cyclamen, primula, and petunias should be going strong. Apply another dose of slug and snail bait to protect the low growing primula and pansies. The cold weather annuals should make a good show through March and April but zinnias could also be planted this month.
In the vegetable garden the carrots, beets, rutabaga, and turnips should be ready to harvest. They store well in the ground so harvest them as you need them. March is also a great month for greens. If they get ahead of you don’t hesitate to remove some of the overly mature leaves. The pruning will encourage growth of new fresh leaves. Fertilize the greens and onions at the beginning and the end of the month.
The same advice works for broccoli. Remove blooming-heads so that the plants will produce new side shoots.
Potatoes should be emerging from the planting trench, fill-up the trench as the stems grow without completely covering them.
Sweet corn, green beans, and summer squash can be planted by seed this month.
Migrating black-chinned and ruby-throated hummingbirds show up this month. Watch for them on the cross-vine or Texas gold columbines that will be blooming. You may even see them on the bluebonnets or other wild flowers.
If you have a hummingbird feeder fill it with a sugar water solution of four parts water to one part sugar. I use red food coloring but it may not be necessary.
It is time to make sure your lawn care equipment is ready for action. Change out the gasoline and oil and sharpen the mower blade. Gasoline that has set all winter’ breaks down and clogs up the carburetor.
It is also important to complete maintenance work on the irrigation system. A malfunctioning irrigation system can reduce the performance of your lawn plus cost you big bucks in water waste. Make an appointment for your irrigation contractor to check the uniformity of application, change out the rain sensor, and to find and repair all leaks.
Another important maintenance activity is to apply boiled linseed oil to the wood handles for your rakes and shovels. Without this treatment each year it does not take long for the handles to crack and eventually disintegrate.