What to do in your garden in March

PLANTING

Planting seedlings: Tip from the test garden

• Camellias. Sunset climate zones 4-7, 17: Nurseries are full offlowering C. japonica varieties in 1-, 2-, and 5-gallon containers.These dependable bloomers bring lively color to areas that receivelight to medium shade. In mild-summer regions, they can also takefull sun.

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• Cool-season crops. Zones 4-7, 17: A variety ofvegetables grows well in cool soil and chilly weather. Look forseedlings at nurseries, which are often organized on sales tablesby plant type and family group: beets, spinach, and Swiss chard;cabbage and its relations (broccoli, brussels sprouts, Chinesecabbages, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, and radishes);butter, leaf, and romaine lettuces; onion family (Chinese andregular chives, elephant garlic, soft- and hard-neck garlic, leeks,onions, and shallots); bush and pole peas; and potatoes. You canalso plant bare-root asparagus, horseradish, and rhubarb, but do itearly in the month.

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• Lawns. Grass starts growing vigorously in theNorthwest this month. Take advantage of it by laying sod (grasssold in mats like carpet) or planting seed. To prepare the soil,till the top 6 to 8 inches, pick out roots and rocks, add compost,and till again. Level and compress the soil with a roller, lay thesod or rake in seed, and roll again. If rain doesn't come, waterfrequently to keep the top layer of soil moist so seeds germinateor sod roots get established. Cut back slightly once grass isgrowing strongly. To patch worn lawns, just rough up bare areaswith a rake, scatter seed, cover with a thin layer of siftedcompost, and water.

• Warm-season crops. Sow basil, cucumbers, eggplant,melons, peppers, and tomatoes now, then transplant them into thegarden in May.

MAINTENANCE

• Feed lawns. Zones 4-7: Supercharge lawn growth byapplying ½ to 1 pound nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. Youcan't go wrong with a fertilizer formulated in a 3-1-2 N-P-K ratio(3 parts nitrogen, 1 part phosphorus, 2 parts potassium).

• Propagate perennials. Dig up summer- andfall-flowering perennials, such as asters, chrysanthemums, andShasta daisies, then cut or pull apart root masses and replantindividual divisions. It's also a good time to transplant catmintseedlings. Zones 1-3: Divide plants in April. All zones: Wait untilautumn to divide spring-flowering perennials, such asprimroses.

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• Prune clematis. Zones 4-7: Cut back summer- andfall-flowering clematis to the strongest stems, then scratch infertilizer around the base of the plant. Zones 1-3: Prune afterdanger of hard frost is past. All zones: Wait to cut backspring-flowering varieties until right after bloom.

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