As perennials in the South begin growing during March keep a close check on them for diseases. When peonies start out they make rapid growth, so keep a close check for botrytis blight and aphids, both of which can cause the buds to blight and fall off.
March on pests! Now is the time to save many long hours of trouble later on with roses. Check for any kind of dead tissue and remove it; remove old leaves and litter all are harboring places for insects or disease spores. As soon as new growth is a few inches long start spraying and dusting to control black spot.
If the protective mounds of soil around the base of the canes have not been removed they should be now. Prune back any winter killed canes. In case of a late freeze (which is entirely possible in much of our area) , do not remove the blackened canes too soon. After a few days nature will form a ring around the cane to a point where the tissues have been killed”prune to this point and new growth will then be stimulated. Paint the wounds made by this pruning to prevent bleeding. When you are certain that the danger of freezing is past put on a mulch of well-rotted cow manure to improve the quality and increase the quantity of the first crop of blooms. Keep the manure from touching the canes.
After the middle of this month it is safe to transplant seedlings of hardy annuals that were started indoors last month. By getting these started now, the plants will be well established before the hot days of late spring hit them and they will continue to bloom. Among this group are snapdragons, calendula, cornflower, alyssum, ageratum, candytuft, gypsophila, petunias and stock.
If you are not growing your own seedlings most of these can be bought in plant stores now. Try some of the new varieties. In petunias for example try some new varieties that will give good return for any space devoted to them.
Prepare the soil for planting tender annuals next month. Soil preparation is probably the most important task to insure good growth in plants. Keep the blooms picked off the pansies to encourage more blooms. A light feeding now will prolong their display of vivid colors. The annual plants are an important source of seasonal color in the garden. They pay tremendous dividends for a small investment.
Before the season gets too busy it will be wise to check up on all the garden supplies and accessories – bird baths, sundials, pergolas, or lawn chairs and get them in good repair and usable condition. Any garden ornament such as outdoor lights and small pond accessories that is needed to complete the design layout should be installed. Check on the rock garden and replace any stones or plants that were hurt by winter.
March is probably the best month to rework the rock garden. Pools and other water features should be cleaned and repaired. Late cleaning of pools will result in a loss of both fish and plant life. Their season begins earlier than the rest of the garden because the temperature is controlled by surrounding soil. The temperature in the pool reaches 62 sooner than in the rest of the garden, therefore the fish spawn early and plants begin growth early. The garden pool gives a very early source of color and activity for any gardener. The spring vegetable garden is best started during March. Irish potatoes, carrots, spinach, turnips, radishes, cabbage, chard, beets and English peas are all to be planted in March.