March 2014 Gardening Calendar
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It has been a cold winter and there should be plenty of freeze-killed branches and stems to prune in March. Prune the cold-sensitive, root-hardy plants at ground level. In that list are lantana, duranta, poinciana, esperanza, firebush and the summer (blue) salvias. Citrus will be tougher to prune. Be patient so you can see where the freeze-killed line is on branches. Eventually cut below it. Don’t be surprised, however, if some of the stems and new foliage that emerges in March and April wilts in May and June due to lingering freeze damage.
If any of the citrus defoliated this winter, the plants will not bear fruit the next growing season. Some plants, particularly lemons and limes, may lose their entire top. If the roots survived, the plant will send up new shoots. If the plant is in its own roots, the top will grow and be ready to produce some fruit next year. If it is a grafted plant, the shoots will be of sour orange or some other thorny, sour fruited variety. Encourage the former and discard the thorny rootstock.
Some live oaks dropped their leaves in February, but some may wait until this month. The leaves are valuable. Use live oak leaves as mulch in the garden. They are the best material for paths or between rows in the garden because of their small size and sturdy structure.
Live oak leaves also make good material for the compost pile. The easiest way to recycle them is to just mow them where they lie on the lawn and let them decompose to enrich the landscape.
It is too early to fertilize the lawn but early March is a good time to aerate and top dress with compost. Rent an aerator that cuts plugs from the sod and lays them on the surface. Spread one-half inch of compost after aeration, and the organic material will filter into the channels to enrich the soil around the roots. One cubic yard of compost will cover about 648 square feet of lawn at one-half inch deep.
Early in the month is a good time to apply a per-emergent herbicide to prevent sand burs and crabgrass. Amaze and XL work well. For the best control, make another application at the end of May.
With the live oak trees bare for a few days, we notice the ball moss. The epiphyte (air plant) grows on dead or dying branches in the interior of the tree where humidity is high. The ball moss is not a parasite and is not hurting the tree, but if you don’t like how it looks, it can be killed with a Kocide (copper) spray.
In addition to tree branches, ball moss grows on utility lines if they are sheltered from the wind. The branches are dying because they are shaded and will decline whether the ball moss is there or not.
Expect your cool weather annuals to bloom well in March. If some were killed by the cold weather, zinnias and cosmos can be planted in full sun. Use begonias or coleus for color in the shade.
In the vegetable garden, plant green beans, summer squash, radishes and sweet corn this month. Greens, beets, carrots, turnips, onions and broccoli should keep producing. Harvest them as you need them.
Watch for hummingbirds on cross vines and columbines this month. Their bloom period coincides with the arrival of the spring migrants.
Begin the spray program on fruit trees when half to three-quarters of the petals have fallen. Use Captan for fungus and malathion or Sevin for insects. Organic gardeners can try neem oil, sulfur and Spinosad.
Calvin Finch PhD is a Horticulturist and Director with Texas A&M Water Conservation and Technology Center.