Garden Chores for March
In This Issue
Concerns about the health of our planet is a big topic, and rightly so. It’s always uplifting when I hear about people working together to make things right. There are many organizations, businesses and educational institutions that combine their resources, both financially and intellectually, to develop solutions and to educate as they advocate for a healthy planet.
I taught Organic Master Gardener at Langara and Douglas College, for many years. The course was developed by Heide Hermary. She had her masters in sustainable agriculture and subsequently created Gaia College. It offers many courses in organic horticulture. My students were eager to learn but they admitted they didn’t have much hope for the future when they first signed up. I reminded them they were not alone. There are thousands of students, past and present, that eagerly continue to spread their knowledge.
I’m a big fan of West Coast Seeds for their contribution to sustainable gardening and agriculture. Located in Ladner, BC., they do more than sell seeds; they care about the planet, community, sustainability and promote regenerative farming. They are ‘standing up for the environment’ as Aaron Saks, the president of has thoughtfully written in this year’s edition.
It’s encouraging to see other advocates for sustainable agriculture including ECO Canada and Union of Concerned Scientists.
My research on environmental organizations turned up some other winners.
Union of Concerned Scientists analyze data to develop effective solutions regarding clean energy, global warming and food production.
The Sierra Club Foundation advocate and lobby to veer away from fossil fuels and to preserve wild spaces from development.
Earthjustice fight against the big money of corporations that gobble up the land with no care about the environment.
“Because the earth needs a good lawyer”.
Friends of the Earth are a “bold and fearless voice for justice and the planet”. They have campaigned against neonicotinoid, and they fight against the devastation of palm oil production.
The Environmental Working Group works against unsustainable agriculture, corporate accountability and educates against the use of toxic chemicals.
The Natural Resources Defense Council packs a punch with hundreds of lawyers, scientists and experts with more than 1.4 million members. They are defenders of our air, water, communities and undeveloped spaces. They are advocate for the healthy farm bill and climate action.
Ocean Conservancy works and advocates to restore the oceans and to protect them from oil spills, acidification and pollution.
The Nature Conservancy work to protect the ocean, fresh water and land, climate change, build healthy cities whilst prioritizing food and water sustainability.
The Ocean Cleanup aims to remove 90% of the plastic floating in the ocean. They aspire to work with the sources of the plastic pollution so they can put themselves out of business.
The Society Promoting Environmental Conservation (SPEC) is Vancouver, BC based non-profit organization that works with industry, government agencies and citizens to reduce waste & carbon emissions, to build sustainable food systems, to promote renewable energy and sustainable transportation.
That’s just a few of the many environmental advocates out there that provide hope for the future. Check out their websites above and contribute your time and donate if you are willing and able.
Location: Credo Christian High School 21846 52 Ave Langley.
Lawn Care: Learn the secrets of a healthy lawn, correct maintenance, how to install new lawns and repair sad ones, even those that are devastated by grubs. Saturday, Mar 4, 9:30 am to 12:00 pm, $29.99. To register click on Lawns.
Preparing for Spring: Learn what to do in the garden: planting, organic pest control, tree care and other gardening techniques and methods will be covered. Saturday, Mar 4 2023, 1:00 pm to 3:30 pm. $29.99. To register click on Spring.
Grow Your Own Food: From sowing seeds indoors to planting in the garden, learn how to grow healthy and productive crops without the use of synthetic products.Saturday, Mar 11, 9:30 am to 3:30 pm, $59.99. To register click on Grow Food.
Wanted: Seasonal Labourer
The District of North Vancouver has a position for a temporary, full-time, seasonal labourer for the District Parks, including sports fields, trails, landscape maintenance as well as other duties. It is designated one of BC’s Top Employers for 4 years. This union positions offers $29.71 per hour based on a 40 hour work week. For more information click on Parks Seasonal Labourer.
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South Delta Garden Club 2023 Garden Tour
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Visit the Gardener's School Stage for talks on garden related topics from the pro's. Amanda's topics are Easy Lawn Care, Sunday, March 19
@ 2:00 pm and
Mistakes Gardener's Make @ 4:00 pm.
The BC Home & Garden Show March 16 to March 19 at BC Place Stadium. Click on the pic for the Gardener's School Stage schedule.
Naughty rabbits (or maybe it was squirrels) have been nibbling away at these tulip leaves. There are numerous ways to ward off the many critters that love a fresh tulip leaf salad. Repellents work well but must be reapplied after rain. Critters either don’t like the smell or they smell like their predators. Other options include scattering dog fur or human hair around the emerging tulips. Hot pepper-based sprays and red pepper powder sprinkled are also effective. Gentler deterrents include dusting the leaves with talcum or baby powder.
Instead of planting tulips by themselves in the fall, interplant them with daffodils, alliums and other bulbs. Include them in evergreen ground covers to hide them from the critters.
March Garden Stars
March PLANT COMBO
Spring flowering bulbs grow among early flowering perennials in this partly shaded garden. Bright yellow daffodils (Narcissus) rise above the pyramidal shaped purple grape hyacinths (Muscari armeniacum). The purple and pink flowers with the dotted leaves a lungwort (Pulmonaria) sit among the white dotted leaves. Nestled in behind them are the soft pink flowers of a 'Sue Jervis' primrose, Primula vulgaris 'Sue Jervis' . All these plants require good drainage and a partially sunny to a full sun location in the garden.
Sowing Seeds Inside & Out
It’s so rewarding growing plants from seeds. Not only do you save money on your grocery bill; it’s very empowering. I know it’s discouraging when seeds don’t germinate, or they germinate then promptly die, or they are all spindly and sickly. The more experience you have in growing plants from seed, the more you learn and the more success you will have.
Read and follow the back of seed packages for planting instructions, when to plant and how to plant. Don’t forget to add labels. To grow seeds indoors, you’ll need grow lights on a timer. To sow seeds outdoors, the soil must be workable and not a soggy mess, and it should have warmed up to 10 °C (50°F). To learn more about growing seeds indoors click here. For sowing seeds outdoors, click here.
It’s so disheartening when seedlings wither and die overnight. A fungus called Damping Off is responsible. Use room temperature or tepid water instead of cold when watering as it promotes this disease. To prevent damping off, water with a solution of chamomile tree or hydrogen peroxide. Chamomile tea contains anti-fungal properties, whilst hydrogen peroxide oxygenates soil, and kills bacteria and fungi.
Chamomile tea: Steep a bag of chamomile tea in four cups of boiling water allow to cool. Mist seedlings daily.
Hydrogen peroxide: Water seedlings with a mix of 1 tsp. of hydrogen peroxide to 2 cups of water. For more tips, tricks and techniques click here.
Protecting Outdoor Seeds
It’s a veritable jungle out there as there are many predators that feast on seeds and seedlings.
Birds: Cover with a cloche or a spun-bonded polyester floating row cover. (Clear plastic doesn’t allow air and water to filter through, unlike the fabric.) To learn more about cloches click here. Alternately, lay chicken wire or bird netting over the bed. To scare them away use Mylar balloons or shiny tape.
Soil Insects: Use organic solutions that don't contaminate soil or crops. Diatomaceous earth is made from fossilized remains of tiny aquatic organisms called diatoms. Composed of silica, it dehydrates insects and it’s sharp. Reapply after rain or irrigation and follow all precautions – wear gloves and don’t breathe it in.
Cutworms: When seedlings disappear overnight, cutworms are usually the culprit. To prevent them sprinkle, diatomaceous earth or crushed eggshells on top of the soil where seeds were sown, and around the stems of transplants. Reapply after rain. When planting transplants (starter plants), place a toothpick on each side of the stem or wrap a small strip of newspaper around its stem. It’s finicky, but it does work.
Slugs & Snails: From beer, organic slug bait, copper, diatomaceous earth, there are many methods of controlling mollusks. Click here for more.
Wireworms: Discard these shiny and bright orange worms that feed on plant roots including lawns. Use diatomaceous earth or place a cut potato on soil to gather and destroy them. When removing lawns to make a garden bed, wait a week to plant so the wireworms go elsewhere for food.
Early spring is a good time to plant due to the cool temperatures and spring rains. Sticking a plant in the ground and hoping it will grow is a common planting method that is often not successful. Although it isn’t rocket science, there is a right way and many incorrect ways of planting trees and shrubs. For more detailed info check out the section on How to Plant.
Does growing veggies seem like too much work? It isn’t if you have some basic information with some tips and techniques thrown in to help you out. Maybe you don’t have enough space. It’s surprising what you can harvest from a 4-foot square piece of earth, or even planters. Planting numerous crops together (companion and interplanting) saves space. So does growing vertically. Pole beans and cucumbers are examples vining veggies. To learn more about growing food, click here.
Check the conditions of the soil before planting as sowing seeds and planting starter veggie plants too early leads to crop failures. A handful of soil should not drip when squeezed and weeds should be actively growing. Avoid shady areas as veggies need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day.
Add Lime with Brassicas: To prevent club root, a common disease of cauliflower, brussel sprouts, cabbage, broccoli and other cole crops, mix in dolomite lime according to the instructions before planting.
Onions & Shallots: It’s essential that they grow in a sunny and dry location to prevent rotting and to ensure large bulbs. If birds go after them, cover them up with netting or floating row covers.
Strawberries: Plant in a well-drained, sunny location. Mulch with a layer of straw to keep them clean, to reduce diseases and to lessen slugs and snails. Remove flowers on new plants this year as they will be healthier and more productive in subsequent years.
Rhubarb: Plant rhubarb crowns when they are still dormant in early spring. Make large holes 18" deep and 18-24" and fill with 50/50 soil and well-rotted, or composted manure. Place the crowns in the hole so the buds are ½ to 1 inch below the soil surface, no deeper. Make sure the crown is not sitting in a depression or it will rot. Wait for the second year to harvest stalks, and only remove a few at that time. To harvest, firmly hold onto a stalk, pull and twist, then cut off the foliage from the harvested stalk. Don’t eat the foliage as it is toxic.
Potatoes: Wait for the dandelions to flower to prepare taters for planting. Encourage sprouting (chitting) by placing them upright in egg cartons in a bright, frost-free location. When it comes to planting, prepare the ground by weeding and removing debris, but don’t add any lime as it promotes potato scab. To learn more about growing potatoes click here.
Asparagus: Plant asparagus crowns in well-drained location in full sun. Protect emerging asparagus spears from slugs and cutworms by laying a thick layer of crushed eggshells, copper mesh, and/or diatomaceous earth around them. Wait three years to harvest for the plants to become established.
Veggies in Planters
Give it a go as it is lots of fun and the results are often tasty. Since it is early spring and quite cold, plant peas, lettuce, chard, kale, spinach, broccoli, potatoes and other cool season crops. Containers should have drainage holes and drainage trays. Mix 3 parts potting soil to 1 to 2 parts compost. Don’t use garden soil as it contains all kinds of pathogens and weeds. Either sow seeds, or purchase starter plants from garden nurseries. To learn more about growing in containers click here.
Here, in the lower mainland of BC, our lawns have already started to grow but winter isn’t over yet. Because it is only March and temperatures may dip and snow may fall, don’t apply a high nitrogen fertilizer at this time. Nitrogen is the first number on fertilizer labels (10-5-3). However, if your lawn is yellowish and could do with some food, apply a fertilizer that contains nitrogen, but the second number is highest ( 5-10-3). The second number is phosphorus and it encourages root growth, which is essential in spring.
For mossy lawns apply Dolopril lime according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Aerate the lawn when it isn’t too soggy. An aerator takes plugs of soil out of the ground so water, and air can penetrate. For more on Spring Lawn Care click here. For more on moss click on Moss in Lawns.
Lawn Repair & New Lawns
It’s the perfect time to repair existing lawns and to install new ones. This gives the lawn plenty of time to become established before summer. Prepare the ground beforehand, don’t allow seeds or sod to dry out, and maintain your new lawn by providing adequate amount of food and water. You must water your lawn once a week during the summer, so it remains healthy. To learn more click on Lawn Reno.
Reviving The Overwintered
It’s time to revive tender plants that have suffered the indignities of living indoors over the winter. This includes geraniums (Pelargonium), fuchsias and bougainvilleas, angel trumpets and other tropical beauties.
The first step is to remove all dead, diseased, broken, yellow growth and debris on top of the soil. Remove any dead and spindly stems. Cut back remaining steps by half if they lack foliage.
Repot plants into a container one or two sizes larger if the roots have filled the pots. Use potting soil that has slow-release fertilizer added, or purchase it separately, then mix it into the soil. Once potted, water, then place in a frost-free location in front of a bright sunny window, under grow lights or outside in a heated greenhouse.
Once the danger of frost has passed prepare the plants to go outside two weeks beforehand. Gradually acclimatise them by 'hardening-off'. Just place them outside in a protective area for an hour. Increase the time and the conditions each day for two weeks. For more click here.
Dahlias, Begonias, Glads ETC.
Remove dahlias, tuberous begonias and other dormant bulbs and tubers out of storage. Throw out any diseased ones and pot up the rest using fresh potting soil with a slow-release fertilizer added. For more on tuberous begonias click here, for dahlias click here.
When to prune clematis depends on the type of clematis you have. If you don't know, leave it be as it will flower eventually either this year or the next. To learn all about pruning clematis click here.
March Garden Chores
Take a Walk: When you visit your garden, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see plants waking up as they put on their first foliage and flowers of the year. Make note of what needs to be done like weeding, removing dead and diseased growth as saving plants from slugs.
Is it Really Dead? Wait until after the danger of frost has passed before removing dead looking plants. If there are any green leaves or stems, it might just rebound as the roots must still be alive.
Cleaning up: Don’t remove all the debris in the garden as many beneficial insects, toads, frogs and other animals use it to overwinter. It’s also important to keep this organic debris as it is essential for soil and plant health. Allow nature to do its thing.
Winter Mulch: If you applied a winter mulch on tender plants last fall, remove it gradually as the season progresses, and not before the danger of frost has passed.
Protect from Frost: It's March, not May so frost is still a going concern. New growth on any plant will be damaged and early flowering plants such as camellias and dogwoods, may abort their flower buds if it drops down to minus 5 degrees Celsius (41°F). Monitor temperatures, especially at night, and protect vulnerable plants with layers of burlap, old sheets, frost blankets or other breathable fabric, where possible.
Warm Soil for Early Planting: There are a few methods to warm up the soil if you want to get a jump on spring. Place a sheet of clear or black plastic on top of soil and secure to the ground with rocks or pins. Another option is to place a floating row cover (cloches) over the soil where you want to plant. Remove any straw that was placed on veggie beds during the winter as it will keep the cold in. For a more permanent solution, consider installing raised beds as they warm quickly. If you have the option, place veggies next to the house as it offers warm and protection from the elements.
Prepare Garden Beds for Planting: When the soil is no longer dripping wet, mix in a couple of inches of compost, well-rotted manure, SeaSoil, triple mix or other organic matter into clay soils as they take longer to warm compared to loamy soils. Don’t add sand to clay soils as creates concrete. Wait a week for the soil to settle then plant. If you have fall leaves on your garden beds, you can either mix them in the soil or keep them where they are as they are a nutritional mulch worth keeping. To learn more about improving soils click here.
Make New Beds with the Lasagna Method: To place a garden bed in a lawn, there’s no need to dig up the grass. Instead, use the age-old technique of sheet mulching, which is also referred to as lasagna gardening. If you are interested in this method, click here.
Compost Bins: Activate the compost by turning the pile with a garden fork. Place the less decomposed material from the outside of the heap into the middle. Add water if dry, add torn newspaper if it’s too wet. For more on how to compost click here.
Hellebore leaf spot: Remove diseased foliage from lenten and Christmas roses (Helleborus) as soon as the foliage becomes infected and discard into the garbage.
Cover Crops & Green Manure: If you planted crimson clover, winter peas or other cover crops last fall, wait for them to start to flower, then cut them down with a line trimmer. Chop them into pieces then dig them in. Wait at least two weeks for them to decompose, then plant your veggies. This ‘green manure’ will enrich and build the soil. To learn more about cover crops click here.
Slugs & Snails: Slime trails and tattered leaves and flowers are sure signs that slugs and snails are afoot. Hunt for them at night with a flashlight and on rainy days. Pop them in a cup of salty water as you go. There are other methods for those that would prefer to be not to do such things. Click here for more techniques.
Aphids: Colonies of aphids love to suck the sap out of the lush spring foliage and flower buds. Avoid spraying them, even with soapy water, as you’ll be killing any ladybug beetles and their pupa. You can let nature take its course and allow the ladybugs to eat the aphids or squish the aphids with your fingers while hosing them off. If aphids are a constant problem in your garden, avoid using high nitrogen fertilizers (first number on fertilizer labels), which also includes nitrogen rich soil plant food and soil amendments such as manures and fish fertilizers. For more on controlling insects, click here.
Divide Perennials: Dig up and divide overcrowded shasta daisies, irises and other perennials. Either plant the extra plants in your garden or pot them up to give away or to sell.
Lawn & Garden Weeds: Go after them now before they get too happy. Use a long-handled weeder to pull up dandelions in the lawn. A wide range of different types weeding tools are available at most garden centres and home hardware stores. Kill germinating weed seeds with corn gluten. It's an organic product that contains just a bit of nitrogen.
Horsetail weed & Bindweed: They spread via underground runners. Once severed, any piece that’s left in the soil will continue to grow, so don’t dig them up! Instead, keep pulling and eventually they will give up and die. For more on how to control persistent weeds click here.
Spring Bulbs: Release any emerging bulbs that get caught up in any fall foliage so they can grow unhindered. Don’t cut off their foliage until it yellows, as it deprives them of food. It reduces flowering potential and impairs their health. Another option is to dig them up while leaves are green, being careful not to break off the foliage. Plant them somewhere less noticeable or in pots so they can die back naturally. Prevent seeds from developing on daffodils, tulips and other larger bulbs by removing spent blossoms before seed heads form.
Stake Perennials: Don’t wait to stake plants as they will be flopping over before you know it. Place stakes on delphiniums, helianthus, peonies and other top-heavy plants to secure them as they grow.
Ornamental Grasses: Cut them back to a couple of inches and do so before new growth begins. An exception to this rule is the Mexican fountain grass (Nassella (Stipa) tenuissima. Instead, just pull or rake out the dead grass out. To reduce volunteers, cut off flower heads before they go to seed.
Hellebore leaf spot: Discoloured brown ugly dead patches on the foliage of lenten roses should be removed as soon as possible to deter the disease. For more information click on Hellebores, Lenten roses.
Sheds & Greenhouses: You’ll feel so much better once you tidy, sort and clean up the shed. If you are lucky to have a greenhouse, give it a good tidy and disinfect all surfaces so it’s ready to grow.
Tools, Plant Pots etc: Clean, sharpen and disinfect pruners and plant pots with 1 part disinfectant (Pinesol, Lysol) to 2 parts water. Lubricate cleaned tools by spraying with vegetable oil such as Pam.
Birdies: Birds, including hummingbirds, are busy getting their nests ready for their offspring. They are in desperate need of food and nesting material. Inspect feeders often for mouldy seeds and to fill them up when they are getting low. Clean up any empty birdhouses and provide fresh nesting materials: dog fur, dry moss, dry grass, cattail fluff, small twigs, small bark strips, and dried leaves. Do not use human hair and anything that have been treating with chemicals. Place items in mesh bags, suet cages, berry baskets or just piled up where the birds frequent.
Unstable & Staked Trees
Newly planted trees are often staked to keep them stable while they establish their roots into the surrounding soil. Remove the stakes after two years at most. By that time, they shouldn’t wobble when shaken. If they do, they need to be replanted. Dig them up and see what the problem is. Did you remove the burlap? The pot? Did you spread their roots before planting? Is it planted at the right depth? Has it been watered adequately? To learn the correct way of planting trees click here.
Inspect trees and shrubs for any bird nests before doing any pruning. Now is a good time to cut back buddleias, rose-of-Sharon, cinquefoils (Potentilla), Japanese spireas and other summer and fall flowering plants. Wait to cut back spring flowering plants until right after they have blossomed. Cut back junipers, yews before new growth begins. Avoid pruning deciduous trees and shrubs once they have leafed out.
Pruning Trees & Shrubs: Don’t cut back all the branches from trees! Topping trees mutilates them, and they never recover. Elegant branches are replaced by ugly suckers. Suckers look like vertical upright sticks that don't branch out. Instead of topping trees, remove dead, diseased and broken branches as well as any suckers and watersprouts. If you want to shorten a tree limb, just cut it back to a side branch or remove it entirely at the trunk. For more on how to prune click on Pruning Basics 101
Pruning Roses: Remove any infected debris from the plant and the soil. Mix in a couple of inches of compost, SeaSoil or composted manure to the ground around the plant. Prune roses when forsythias flower, which is usually March in most areas of North America and the UK. For more on pruning roses click here.
Yellow daffodils combine with purple winter heath and maroon hellebores. For a numbered guide to the specific flower names and for other arrangements go to Monthly Flower Arrangements
March Plant of the month
Common Name: evergreen clematis
Botanical Name: Clematis armandii
Form: woody vigorous vine
Plant Type: woody vine, liana
Mature Size: 15 to 30 feet in length and up to 15 feet in width
Growth: fast, aggressive
Hardiness Zone: 7 to 10
Foliage: deep green glossy, compound trifoliate (3 leaflets), 3 to 6” x 1” wide, hang downwards
Flowers: fragrant, clusters, star-like, 2 to 3 inches wide, with 4 to 8 white petals, March, April
Fruit: achene, many dry seeds with a silky tail, resemble fluffy plumes
Stems: stems climb by twisting around their support, becomes woody, aggressive
Exposure: full sun to part shade
Soil: good draining soil and organically rich
Uses: screens, birds, hummingbirds & butterfly gardens, winter garden, woodland, rock walls
Propagation: division or stem cuttings
Pruning: prune after flowering, blooms on old wood
Problems: aggressive growth, sap can cause contact dermatitis
This beautiful, but vigorous woody climbing vine, is coveted for their vanilla to almond scented white flowers that are so profuse their leaves go undetected. Two to four inch star shaped blossoms bear four to 8 petals with prominent stamens in the centre. Sporadic blossoms may appear occasionally after the major flowering period in March to April. The flowers are not just pretty, they attract butterflies, bees, hummingbirds and other pollinators.
This evergreen woody vine looks good all year round with its deep green, shiny leathery trifoliate leaves. Because it’s evergreen, it makes a perfect screen when grown on a trellis. Since this vine grows quickly and is woody, provide a sturdy support. It’s best not to grow it on your house as its twining stems will grab on to anything, making it difficult to remove. Plant them independently of permanent structures such as arbours, pergolas, fences and gazebos.
To keep the plant in check cut it back once the flowers have faded. Remove all dead, spindly, diseased and broken stems. Once that is done, cut back all side shoots to a couple of buds. If it is too rambunctious, remove some stems entirely. This vine is not recommended for containers because it just gets too big and aggressive.
Problems occur when evergreen clematis are not planted in the right spot and if their soil is too dry and lacks nutrition. They need at least 6 hours of direct sun a day. Good draining organically rich moist soil is best. Mix a few inches of compost or well-rotted or composted manure into the soil. Top it off with a 3-inch layer of mulch over top of the soil around the plant but keep it a few inches away from the stem. Since evergreen clematis dislike dry soil, the mulch helps retain moisture.
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for the tropical Gardener
While working in Florida as horticultural consultant, it became apparent that there was a need for a book on tropical shrubs. There are so many wonderful shrubs to choose from, so I wrote a reference book to make the selections easier. Ornamental Tropical Shrubs includes pictures in full colour and information about the plants in point form. So if you live in the tropics and subtropics and need a reference book on tropical shrubs, or you just want to have a look-see click here.
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