What to do in your garden in March

PLANTING

Set out cold-hardy color. Brighten up the garden withEnglish primroses and pansies. Before planting, harden off thesegreenhouse-grown flowers by placing them outdoors in a shady areafor a few hours a day and gradually increasing their exposure tosunlight over a week; bring them indoors at night. After planting,cover plants with an old sheet or frost blanket if freezingtemperatures are forecast.

Sow cool-season vegetables. As soon as the soil can beworked, till in several inches of compost or well-rotted manure.Then plant seeds of beets, carrots, endive, kohlrabi, lettuce andother salad greens, onions, parsnips, peas, radishes, spinach,Swiss chard, and turnips. Keep soil evenly moist and mulch with 2inches of pine needles or straw. As the plants grow taller, addmore mulch, until it is 4 to 6 inches deep. To protect crops fromfrost and insects, cover them with floating row covers. (Removecovers from peas when blossoms appear so bees can pollinatethem.)

Sow hardy annuals. Broadcast seeds of hardy annuals directlyonto bare soil, then rake lightly to cover. Among the flowers whoseseeds germinate well in cold, moist soil are annual phlox (P. drummondii), bachelor's button, calendula, Californiapoppy, clarkia, Johnny-jump-up, larkspur, love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena), moss rose, Shirley poppy, snapdragon,sweet alyssum, and wallflower. Broadcast seeds directly onto baresoil, then rake lightly to cover.

Start a strawberry patch. Good choices for the RockyMountain region include everbearing varieties such as 'FortLaramie' and 'Ogallala' and June-bearing types like 'Dunlap','Honeoye', and 'Trumpeter'. Choose a site in full sun and amend thesoil with an all-purpose fertilizer and 4 inches of compost orwell-rotted manure. Place strawberries 1 foot apart in rows or in ablock. After planting, mulch with several inches of pine needles orstraw.

MAINTENANCE

Protect plants from damping off. Seedlings started indoorsin pots are susceptible to damping off, a fungal disease thatcauses the plants to suddenly wilt and die. There is no cure, butyou can guard against the disease by starting seeds in sterilepotting mix. As soon as the seeds germinate, remove plastic wrap orany other cover that you've placed over the soil. To water, placepots in a shallow container so moisture is wicked up from thebottom. Let the soil surface dry out slightly betweenwaterings.

Relocate wayward seedlings. Bachelor's buttons, larkspur,poppies, and snapdragons often pop up where you don't want them.These seedlings are easily moved to more desirable locations. Whenplants are 2 to 3 inches tall, dig them up, roots and all, with afist-size clump of soil and replant immediately.

Transplant shrubs. Move shrubs or roses now while they aredormant. Prune large shrubs back to a manageable size, then dig upas large a rootball as is practical. Replant immediately and waterthoroughly to keep the rootball moist until new growth starts.

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