March Garden Tips
Spring has arrived, even though it will most likely rain this month and snow may dust the mountains. So much is in bloom, or is soon to be. Continue to plant just about anything - from seeds to citrus -and there's no shortage of chores, from weeding to fertilizing.
Most plants do their growing in spring, so fertilizing now - especially if it's the only time you do - can make a huge difference. The kind of fertilizer used isn't that important. As one experienced nurseryman put it, "Most fertilizers work, but they don't work sitting in the garage." However, make sure you need to fertilize - many garden soils already have more than enough fertilizer.
Aging Boxwood hedges can be a tricky entity to maintain at a property due to their role as rigid, formal plants to be kept green all year. One of the ways plants keep healthy is that they grow new growth and the old growth falls away. Once the boxwoods have reached their optimum size we have to let them grow a little and then cut them back to where they were. If we leave no new or very little new growth all we see after trimming is the old growth. That is why they look yellow especially after pruning. Also the constant shearing of the plant creates a condition were all the leaves to grow on the outside of the plant and not on the inside. To minimize this effect the timing of trimming is very important and it should be noted some down time for recovery is inevitable. What has prompted this note is that we, as the professional, failed to explain this when we were instructed to hold off on trimming at the beginning of spring. By performing a hard trim at the end of winter we are able to strongly control the shape of the plants and allow sunlight to penetrate the outer perimeter creating healthy, natural growth on the inside. (please observe where there are holes in the boxwood the new vigorous dark green growth coming from inside the plant). The reason for the timing is that there is vigorous foliage growth in spring creating minimal downtime.
Lantana (right) responds to heavy pruning well. Take the opportunity to prune your lantana down by as much as to within 6-12 inches of ground level. Leaves will re-emerge in spring. Lantana isn't harmed at all by such a drastic pruning, and the result will be more compact lantana shrubs. Another benefit of pruning hard now is that the plants have time to grow and you will avoid pruning off much of the flowers.
Avocados should be fed in early spring and again in midsummer. On Mature trees, apply around 2.5 lbs of ammonium sulfate around the drip zone. Water in well.
Citrus trees should be fed in early spring (1 of 4 annual feedings) Mature trees should get around .4 lbs for actual nitrogen per tree per feeding.
DEADHEADING TO EXTEND BLOOMING AND ANNUAL FLOWER LIFE: Dead heading is removing the spent or dead flowers from the plant. In simple terms most plants produce flowers to produce seeds to reproduce. If the flower is removed before the seed has been dropped from the plant the plant will usually keep trying to reproduce. This in turn means the plant will probably produce more flowers for a longer period of time.
Many annuals (plants that live for one season only) will die if they are not deadheaded. But if they are deadheaded they will continue to produce flowers for an extended time.
Garden View Maintenance crews do this on a weekly basis.
Breaking off the flower where the stem meets the stalk is the way to successfully deadhead Long-stem flowers, such as this daylily, that grows in a succession of blooms on a single stalk. Pull down gently on the spent flower until it cleanly snaps off. Breaking off faded daylilies will add to the plant's appearance if not the overall flower productivity. Other flowers to break off include iris, Gladiola, and Kangaroo Paw.
Pruning in March
Kangaroo Paw - Anigozanthos cut flowers to ground to prolong bloom (after you have deadheaded approximately half the flowers on the stalk)
Don't trim Photinias now because the red leaf is attractive
Mexican Feather Grass - Nassella tenuissima
Shearing plants back in spring before new growth begins gives a tidier look. If reseeding is a concern, and or you do not like the look of the seed heads delay the shearing operation until after the flowerscapes have emerged.
Prune Magnolias after they finish flowering, they are slow to callus over so don't trim any more than needed to keep the shape and health.
According to the American Camilla Society mature Camellias respond well pruning and old overgrown Camellias should be pruned severely (see American Camellia Society article). The Best time to prune is after bloom but Camellias will respond well to pruning any time of year. Late pruning will potentially reduce flower production though.
Garden View crews have found that Camellias respond well to inside out pruning (see Garden View article on inside out pruning) by opening up the plant new growth emerges inside of the plant. It appears blooms are larger and last longer also if the pruning is not to severe.
Cupheas should be cut back now to get shape and maximum bloom.
Cuphea micropetella - Pinch tips for a bushier, more compact form. Older plants can be rejuvenated with a late winter or early spring heavier pruning.
Trim branches of hanging kinds back to the sides of the containers. With upright kinds, prune off a little less growth than grew the previous year so that two eyes (where leaves are attached) remain.
Frost Damaged Plants
Trim Frost Damaged Plants: If you have plants that were damaged by frost you should not have pruned the frost damaged part of the plant until last chance of frost has passed. Now is the time to prune them and other plants that you were waiting for the chance of frost to pass.
this is a good time to prune Hibiscus. Also, do not put much fertilizer on Hibiscus, Garden View gardeners have noticed that vigorously growing hibiscus is much more likely to get whitefly problems.
Cut back Blue Hibiscus (Alyogyne huegelii) progressively from now until fall.
Don't prune hydrangeas. Pruning Bigleaf hydrangea in the spring or even late fall, after the buds have been set, will remove the flower buds and any chance of getting flowers that season. Remove dead flowers only.
Don't prune Rock Rose, Cistus, in spring so that you don't cut out the blooms. Don't prune this very water wise plant hard; light pinch or cut out old stems or give light overall pruning in summer after bloom.
Brunfelsia - Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow plants have an abundant bloom in spring, The name comes from the flowers that change color over a three day period. Trim in early spring and periodically to keep compact. Likes regular feeding throughout the year.
Do not prune Calliandra this month or you will cut off its blooms (prune in May and enjoy another round of blooms in fall).
Buddleia Butterfly Bush
Pruning generally not needed, but may be trimmed in early spring. Fragrant flowers. Blooms continuously without pruning or deadheading. Deer resistant. Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.
Easy Maintenance Notes: Little needed. Does not require deadheading. Cut back to 12" in early spring if desired. Plant in well-drained soil and full sun.
Cut Perovskia (Russian Sage)nearly to ground in spring before new growth starts. This water wise plant flowers extensively in summer.
Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia)
This beautiful low maintenance plant responds well to frequent feeding.
Red Bird of Paradise & Mexican Bird of Paradise
(Caesalpinia pulcherrima - right) – not to be mistaken with the common bird of Paradise (Strelitzia). Prune to ground in early spring to make a more compact mound.
Prune Bush Germander (Teucrium fruticans) in late winter before spring.
Cut back Festuca glauca (Blue or Grey Fescue - right) now.
Ground Covers respond well to trimming of old or dead growth now, pruning should stimulate new growth.
Prune Citrus now before they bloom.
Chondropetalum elephantinum - "Cape Rush" - Follow a regular watering schedule during the first growing season to establish a deep, extensive root system. For a neat appearance, remove old foliage before new leaves emerge. Divide clumps every 2 to 3 years in early spring.
Most insects like the soft new growth that comes in spring. Look for aphids and other insects. Quick elimination of insects reduces the amount of insecticide needed to stop quickly reproducing insects.
Garden View maintenance crews have their eyes out for Psyllid on Eugenia’s looks like pimples on the new leaves (the insect can be viewed on the underside of the leaf), We are also on the lookout for aphids on new growth of Roses and on most tender new flush growth on most vigorously growing plants.
If conditions are dry and the plants have been allowed to dry out. spider mites may well be starting to take hold. Control them by giving affected plants a strong daily blast with the hose or a shot of pesticide, being sure to get underneath the leaves. This has the nice side effect of also reducing aphid populations.
Snails & Slugs Alert:
Carefully guard tender new plantings from snails and slugs, which become more active as the weather warms. Don't wait a day to put down bait or deterrents. Reapply every ten days as needed. The sooner you eliminate the snails the less they reproduce, meaning less bait is needed. Often Garden View maintenance crews will be proactive and put snail bait down when they know snails are going to show up, such as when planting new annual color.
Be aware of where you are putting the baits and the type of snail bait you use. Keep snail bait away from areas that are easily accessible to pets and animals and / or use baits that are not easily ingested or are not toxic to animals. Garden View does not recommend using the large pelletized types of snail bait (it looks like rabbit food). These break down when watered and are more easily consumed by pests.
Avoid overwatering your garden and use direct watering methods where you can. Snails and slugs are attracted to moist areas so if your garden bed is relatively dry on the surface between the plants, this will help discourage activity. As snails and slugs are most active at night. Try to water in the mornings so the top layer of soil has a chance to dry out.
Snails and slugs love beer. Some people use beer traps which is just a shallow dish with beer poured in, but an interesting variation on this is to spray beer on weeds so the snails eat those instead of your plants. If Garden View is doing your maintenance sorry there should be no weeds for the snails to feed on! So just chug down a beer yourself and appreciate your beautifully maintained garden.
Water rationing may be a fact of life by July. Start to conserve water now by only watering when your soil is dry on the surface. Deep water to force roots downward where soil typically is moister. Place several inches of mulch around your plants, shrubs and trees to hold in moisture and lengthen the time between watering.
Many types of mulch make it hard to clean up fallen leaves. It is best to use mulches in areas where this is not an issue.
Turn Hydrangeas Blue
Apply aluminum sulfate (found at nurseries) to acidify soil and turn flower bracts blue. Remember, though, not all hydrangeas do - some are naturally pink or white.
Keep cool season grass (bluegrass, ryegrasses, and fescues) blades at about two inches high. Increase to three inches in summer. As the weather warms, mow regularly to keep weeds in check and to promote thicker lawns. Warm season grass (Bermuda and St. Augustine) should be cut at a steady two-inch level throughout spring and summer.
This is perhaps the best month of the year to plant. There are kinds to brighten every season, so put in a variety so that something is always coming into flower. Don't forget those grown for their foliage, such as lamb's ears and Helichrysum 'Limelight'. Spring-blooming perennials: alstroemeria, armeria, bearded iris, brachyscome, various campanula, columbine, coral bells, true geraniums, lion's tail, nicotiana and veronica. Summer-garden perennials: agapanthus, coreopsis, daylily, gaillardia, penstemon, various salvias, Shasta daisy, Tulbaghia, Verbena bonariensis and V. rigida, and yarrow. Flowers for late summer and fall: chrysanthemum, gayfeather (Liatris), helianthus, Japanese anemone, physostegia and Tagetes ludda.
Because camellias and azaleas are now in full bloom (and their flowers' exact colors can be seen), now is a good time to shop and plant. Amend the soil with organic matter, and plant so the top of the root ball is an inch higher than the surrounding ground. If the crown gets buried, the plant will die.
Hardy water-lily tubers need to be shortened and repotted while dormant. Most other aquatics need dividing and repotting, too, since they grow so fast. For lilies and other aquatics, use ordinary clay soil, never potting mix.
Vegetables to Plant
You can plant a wide variety of cool-season and warm-season crops. Select from beet, cabbage, carrot, chayote, corn, endive, kale, leaf lettuce (and European salad greens such as arugula and the savory mixes called mesclun), New Zealand spinach, onion, pea, potato, radish, sunflower, Swiss chard and the early varieties of tomato, such as 'Early Girl'. Wait until April or May to plant other varieties of tomatoes.