Although the Almanac says spring is supposed to last from March 21 to June 21, here in the South it is usually a much shorter season. A freeze may come as late as the last week in March, as it did last year, and by May summer weather has arrived. March is the time to do all those things we could not do in winter and which must be done before hot weather bears down upon us.
Dividing perennials – Even though gardening authorities tell us that late fall is a good time to divide and reset many of the perennials, most of us wait until spring. Daisies, eupatorium, golden-glow, phlox, physostegia, salvia and others which have already produced 3 or 4 inches of new growth can be divided and reset. It is these early growers which should have attention first.
While you can sometimes grow good garden chrysanthemums from plant divisions, it is much safer to start them from cuttings. When the plants have made 3 or 4 inches of new growth, take cuttings about 3 inches long and root them in the medium youve found best. I usually use coarse sand. In taking cuttings you run less risk of bringing disease into your planting than in using divisions of old plants. It is usually the base of the plant that carries disease, so, unless your cuttings were taken too low, they should be relatively disease-free.
In addition to safe pest control another point in favor of starting new plants from cuttings is that the succulent new growth is far less susceptible to pest attack than woody plant divisions. The cuttings that you take and root this month may be used as stock plants for the cuttings to be taken later on in the spring.
If you left your dahlias in the ground theyll probably be sending up new shoots this month. The clumps of tubers should be carefully lifted and separated before new growth develops.
Gladiolus planting – For you in the Southwest and mid-South the time for the main planting of gladiolus has arrived. If you are growing them for cutting, you may set the corms in a bed, spacing them 3 or 5 inches apart. When grown close together, the spikes will support each other, thus eliminating the necessity for staking.
The main obstacle in growing good gladiolus in most sections of the South is thrips. A simple preventive measure is dusting the corms before planting. Place a few dozen corms in a plastic bag along with carbaryl (Sevin) and shake the bag well. Later, after the corms have started growing, dust them again. Malathion tends to kill many of the natural enemies of aphids, its continued use may increase the number of these insects. Some of the newer remedies will check both thrips and aphids and are therefore often preferred.