What to do in your garden in March

Jill Palmer

PLANTING

Bare-root strawberries. In addition to reliable June-bearingtypes like 'Hood', 'Puget Reliance', and 'Rainier', this seasonthere's a new everbearing variety called 'Sarian'; organicseed-grown plants are available from Natural Gardening Company (www.naturalgardening.comor 707/766-9303).

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

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

Flowering evergreens. Zones 4-7: Choices include favoriteslike 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-galloncontainers. The best spring-flowering evergreen vine for thecoastal Northwest is Clematis armandii, whose masses of large white flowersperfume the air this month.

Lawns. This is the best time of year to start new lawns andrepair old ones. Till the top 6 to 8 inches of soil, level it witha roller, then lay the sod or rake in seed and roll again. Don'tlet it dry out until grass is growing strongly. To patch wornspots, rough up the bare areas, rake in seed, cover lightly withcompost or peat moss, and water.

Warm-season crops. Indoors, start seeds of basil, cucumbers,eggplant, melons, peppers, and tomatoes. Seedlings will be readyfor 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 orolder clumps of summer- and fall-flowering perennials like asters,chrysanthemums, daylilies, and Shasta daisies. In zones 1-3, dividethese plants in April.

Feed lawns. Zones 4-7: Apply 1/2 pound of nitrogen per 1,000square feet. You can't go wrong with a fertilizer formulated in a3-1-2 N-P-K ratio (three parts nitrogen, one part phosphorus, andtwo parts potassium).

Prune clematis. Zones 4-7: Cut back summer- andfall-flowering clematis to the strongest stems now, then scratchfertilizer into the soil around the base of the plant. (Wait untilimmediately after bloom to prune spring-flowering varieties.) Zones1-3: Prune after danger of hard frost has passed.

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