Gardening in March can be tricky. The weather isn’t quite spring, but the risk of a quick cold front or a few days of running rain showers can put a damper on getting out into your yard.
On a sunny day, it’s time to prune your shrubs, except for spring-bloomers, such as yellow bells/Forsythia, azaleas, flowering quince and some varieties of viburnum and hydrangeas. Those set their buds on last year’s growth, so if you prune now, your taking away your flowery show.
Pruning is not hedging. Pruning involves removing limbs and branches at varying lengths to open the plant to more sunlight and air circulation. You’ve probably seen the results of hedging: shearing off all the branches to create a boxed- or ball-shaped plant. This is generally harmful to shrubs, because this type of trimming blocks light from the center of the plant, discourages growth close to the main trunks or stems, and encourages disease.
As you drive around this month, pay attention to the Forsythia. How many bright-yellow boxy forms do you see in people’s yards? Then see if you can spot the graceful drooping form of an un-trimmed Forsythia spreading its delicate branches.
You can prune evergreens like wax myrtles, yaupon and some hollies, juniper and yew. A rehab pruning – removing less than one-third of the growth – can be done on camellias to stimulate new growth and more prolific flowering next winter.
If you’ve not done so already, give roses a strong pruning. From knock-outs to shrub roses – yes, and even long-stemmed hybrid teas – pruning them back to leave them 12 to 18 inches above the ground is perfectly fine.
For any pruning, first remove any dead or non-productive branches. if they are diseased, discard of them properly. Selectively cut out overgrown branches to open up the centers of the trees or shrubs and allow more light to reach this part of the plants.
Once the weather warms toward the end of the month, feed your landscape. Yes, those trees and shrubs need fertilizer to thrive. The best time is when the plants are actively growing, and once they’ve been pruned fertilizer will stimulate good leaf and branch production.
The best choice is 10-10-10, available in bags from box retailers and area nurseries. It’s not expensive and provides a broad spectrum of nutrients. As a general-purpose fertilizer, it will benefit 90 percent of the plants, trees and shrubs in your landscape. You’ll find the numbers on the front of the bag; follow the instructions for proper application rates.
Upcoming events
• Check out Raptor Fest on Saturday, March 21, at Elachee Nature Center. It’s a chance to get close to some of the most magnificent birds in the country, from eagles to owls and everything in between. Area experts bring birds of prey from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for live bird shows and demonstrations. More info:
• Hall County Garden Expo, presented by the Hall County Master Gardeners and the Hall County UGA Extension, brings together dozens on plant and garden vendors on Friday, April 3, and Saturday, April 4, at Chicopee Woods Agricultural Center on Calvary Church Road. Free gardening seminars on Friday are Creating a Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary at 11 a.m.; How to Keep Rainwater Where It Falls at 1 p.m.. Saturday’s seminars are Japanese Maples and Pruning Techniques at 11 a.m., and Growing Wild Things in a Polite Neighborhood at 1 p.m.. Admission is $2 per adult. More information: