Northwest

What to do in your garden in March
Jill Palmer

PLANTING

Bare-root strawberries. In addition to reliable June-bearing types like 'Hood', 'Puget Reliance', and 'Rainier', this season there's a new everbearing variety called 'Sarian'; organic seed-grown plants are available from Natural Gardening Company ( www.naturalgardening.com or 707/766-9303).

Cool-season crops. Sunset climate zones 4-7: Start the spring vegetable garden with beets, cabbage family members (broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi), carrots, lettuce, mustard, peas, radishes, spinach, and Swiss chard. Set out onion family members, including chives, elephant garlic, soft- and hard-neck garlic, leeks, onions, and shallots.

Flowering deciduous shrubs. It's the best month of the year to shop for Corylopsis, flowering quince (Chaenomeles), Forsythia, and red flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum). While you're at it, check out the pussy willows (Salix species).

Flowering evergreens. Zones 4-7: Choices include favorites like Camellia japonica varieties, Daphne odora, Japanese andromeda (Pieris japonica), and early-blooming rhododendron. Lesser-known but worthy candidates are Garrya and Osmanthus x burkwoodii. Nurseries offer these in 1-, 2-, and 5-gallon containers. The best spring-flowering evergreen vine for the coastal Northwest is Clematis armandii, whose masses of large white flowers perfume the air this month.

Lawns. This is the best time of year to start new lawns and repair old ones. Till the top 6 to 8 inches of soil, level it with a roller, then lay the sod or rake in seed and roll again. Don't let it dry out until grass is growing strongly. To patch worn spots, rough up the bare areas, rake in seed, cover lightly with compost or peat moss, and water.

Warm-season crops. Indoors, start seeds of basil, cucumbers, eggplant, melons, peppers, and tomatoes. Seedlings will be ready for transplanting into the garden in mid-May.

MAINTENANCE

Control slugs. Handpick them at night and on damp days.

Divide perennials. Zones 4-7: Lift and divide crowded or older clumps of summer- and fall-flowering perennials like asters, chrysanthemums, daylilies, and Shasta daisies. In zones 1-3, divide these plants in April.

Feed lawns. Zones 4-7: Apply 1/2 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. You can't go wrong with a fertilizer formulated in a 3-1-2 N-P-K ratio (three parts nitrogen, one part phosphorus, and two parts potassium).

Prune clematis. Zones 4-7: Cut back summer- and fall-flowering clematis to the strongest stems now, then scratch fertilizer into the soil around the base of the plant. (Wait until immediately after bloom to prune spring-flowering varieties.) Zones 1-3: Prune after danger of hard frost has passed.