It’s spring! As gardeners, we can’t wait to get out and begin planting our gardens, but in March we still have to wait for Mother Nature to give us the go ahead. This is a good time to do some planning for the gardening season ahead and start on a few early pre-season activities.
Pre-Gardening Season Work
There are a few pre-season activities that can begin in March. Winter debris can be removed from lawn and garden areas on dry days. If soil is compacted from heavy snow, compost can be added and tilled once the soil is completely dry. Damaged branches on trees and shrubs should be pruned.
You can plan to plant trees and shrubs before bud break unless spring weather is unusually wet. Be sure to plant trees no deeper than they are in the container. Research indicates that more trees suffer from being planted too deep in the hole than any other problem.
New Trees & Shrubs for 2018
Arborists have selected the Tulip Tree as the tree of the year. It is a native tree with attractive flowers and foliage offering bright yellow fall color. It, however, is a very big tree reaching a height and spread of 60-90 feet. So, this tree is best for those who have a large space yard.
New shrubs to try for this season include ‘Wee Willie’ hydrangea, ‘Candy Corn’ spirea and ‘Blue Diddley’ vitex. Always be prepared to prune spring-flowering shrubs immediately after flowering.
When forsythia begins to bloom, roses may be pruned. Tea roses and grandiflora roses can be cut back to 12” to encourage good growth. Shrub roses need only a slight pruning to remove dead wood and establish size.
New rose varieties available this year include yellow floribunda ‘Soaring Glory’ honoring the United States Air Force and pink tea ‘Dr. Jane Goodall’ designed for the famous conservationist. ‘Mauvelous’ is a new delicate pink shrub rose.
Early spring is a good time to check on your perennials. Plants that have heaved out over the winter can be gently pressed back into place. Perennials and grasses that have been left standing for winter interest should be cut back to the ground.
Spring-blooming bulbs can be divided if needed. Now and again in the fall bulbs can be fertilized with a 5-10-5 granular fertilizer.
The perennial plant of the year is ‘Millenium’ allium. Loved by butterflies and bees, ‘Millenium’ will flower in midsummer producing two-inch, round rose-purple flowers that can last as long as four weeks. A full sun to light shade location is preferred.
Even though it is too early for annual plants, here are some very interesting new annuals to consider for this year’s garden. For sun, ‘Pink Sky’ petunia, ‘Lady Godiva Orange’ pot marigold and ‘Rockin Deep Purple’ salvia are good choices. ‘Canary Wing’ begonia and ‘Starlight Dancer’ nicotiana will be entries for shade to part shade.
The All American Selections committee’s selection for annual of the year for 2018 is ‘Queen Lime Orange’ zinnia. This unique zinnia has dahlia like blooms of coral and peach on a three-foot plant and has earned praise at nationwide trials.
So, a new gardening season is beginning. The Master Gardeners look forward to sharing gardening information with you and hope that you have a great year in your 2018 garden.
Barb Lindholm – University of Illinois Extension, DeKalb County Master Gardener
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