The first glimpses of bare soil have a curious affect on those of us who garden. Some of us don our “Crocks” with heavy wool socks yanked up as high as they go and head for the lower realms of the garden. Others, dressed equally as appropriately, rummage through the tool shed feigning “cleaning and sorting” when they really are trying to find a good tool to remove some garden mulch from the perennial border “just to peek”. Whatever March madness overtakes us, this is truly a fun time of the year to be outside…rooting around. Naturally what activities you undertake depends on the climatic zone that you are in as well as what sort of weather ‘Mother Nature’ has blessed you with. Prairie gardeners may have to wait just a tad longer than those who dwell in the more moderate climes as coastal BC and Southern Ontario.
Having been asked countless times to offer opinion on when to get going, regarding lawns, I suggest that if you can walk on the turf without getting wet feet, it’s pretty safe. My initial go to is the perennial border and shrub beds that I so judiciously smother in dry leaves in the fall. My gardens are packed with leaves to extend the range of plants that I can grow in a zone 3b. This time of the year the first job is to remove the now sodden, pre-compost from only the toughest of perennials and those poking their noses through the mulch. Careful here as too much exuberance uncovering perennials leaves them open to either desiccation, sunburn, frost or a cruel combination of all three. Usually, I find the odd Hosta spike and of course the Bergenia are in their glory and the German Iris seemed to have a mind of their own. These perennials I don’t really worry about as they can tolerate a cold snap easily. Heuchera and Tiarella on the other hand I leave covered in leaves until the very last. Year after year my over excitement has proven to be a path to failure with these perennials, not so much from cold weather but more from sunburn. Heavier soils, like the clay in my garden, tend to push my Heuchera clumps up beyond the level of the garden leaving them very vulnerable to drought also.
In climates that afford a mild start to March, one could be scuffling around shrubs and perennials that have been mulch, simply to re-awaken the mulch cover. Many gardeners take this time to scuffle the soil as well with hopes of revealing overwintering larvae of unwelcomed insect pests like the lily beetle. Cultivating early in the year affords reasonable control of weeds as well as some insects. Additionally, just being outside and getting some exercise as you peruse the estate (as it were) is very beneficial for you. There really is nothing quite like a day in the fresh spring air to re-invigorate the soul.
March 4th, 2018