Honestly, it’s not like we gardeners need any more encouragement to get at it, but the weather certainly is a trigger. Milder conditions are usual in March however, closer to the end of the month can be pretty miserable if March arrived like a lamb. The sun is increasing in strength daily as are the hours that she is shining. This blessing coaxes even the most stubborn of buds to swell and the earliest shrubs to push blossoms. Fruit trees, in particular apples, require some attention in late March while they are still dormant. Certain insects as well as the spores of fungi can overwinter on the branches of many fruit trees, notably apples. The customary ritual is to apply a product called “dormant oil” and often it is combined with “lime sulphur”. The reasons why the combined product is so effective is that the sulphur takes care of any fungi or mold remnants and the dormant oil coats the exterior of any overwintering insects and smothers them. Caution is highly advised if you are planning to use this mixture, not that it is overly toxic to humans and wildlife, but it is the timing that is crucial. If the tree has broken dormancy, as in that the buds have broken, and leaves are apparent, the oil magnifies the sun’s rays resulting in burning the foliage. Roses are often treated similarly for a myriad of fungal and insect issues with the same red flag of caution being raised.
Roses tend to be awakening from their long winter’s dormancy with a gusto in late March. I have found that this time of the year is great for planting bare root roses and even some shrubs. Keep in mind that bare root stock is less expensive than other modes of sale and early in the season is a great time to capitalize on the bargains with more choice typically available. Novice gardeners might better stick with container grown roses and shrubs because bare root material requires much more diligence and experience to achieve success. Older established roses are often pruned in late March prior to any application of control products. Most gardeners tend not to prune enough material from their roses with the results affording a more shrub-like appearance, Hybrid Tea roses specifically. The general rule of thumb for Tea roses is to remove weakened, dead or interfering stems leaving only three (3) to five (5) healthy woody stalks. This framework is then reduced leaving again three to five buds preferably with the top-most bud on the outward side of the stem. Many rose growers attempt to keep the centre of the plant open to optimize the sunlight for the plant. Another chore in March with your roses is to apply a good healthy amount of well rotted manure to the beds. This boost of organic matter, regardless of how aromatic, is a definite treat for your roses.
Perhaps you will be tidying up the roses, pruning, shuffling and scratching and otherwise working the soil, the starter pistol has been fired… and we are off!
March 18th, 2018