March and April Gardening Guidelines
This article was written by Becky Garrett, Extension Master Gardener℠ Volunteer with North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.
General Yard and Garden Tasks:
- Before the grass cutting season gets underway, clean up sticks and stones in the yard so they do not become missiles when you do begin to mow.
- If you haven’t already, clean out debris and old nests from birdhouses during early March. Clean and fill birdbaths. Bird nesting will soon be in full swing. Be sure to provide plenty of birdseed and even some 3-inch-long pieces of string or yarn mixed in with the seed to help with nest-building.
- Check yard décor and hardscape. Any wobbly stepping stones? Reposition them, firming them up.
- After all danger of freezing has passed, place a rain gauge in the garden. It can help you know when plants need to be watered.
- Have you had your soils tested? The only way to know what, if anything, you need to add to your soil is to professionally test your soil. The Cooperative Extension Service in your county offers this service. Soil tests cost $4 up until April 1. (They are free from April 1 to after Thanksgiving.)
Know Your Hardiness Region:
- Check the USDA hardiness zone map for your area.
- Be aware of the typical last frost date.
- Use what you learn to guide you in planting your spring and summer gardens.
- We have had a lot of rain this winter!! Avoid working garden soil if it is too wet. Doing so can lead to compaction, which can impede root penetration and cause poor drainage. To help you decide when your soil is ready to work, try the test described in the Purdue University article found online titled “Resist the Urge to Work Wet Soil.”
- Incorporate aged compost, commercial organic soil conditioner, PermaTill (if moles or voles are a problem), or any combination of these three before planting your spring garden.
- For best results, cool-season vegetables should be planted before April. These include leafy crops, and peas. Refer to the planting calendar on the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service website.
- Sow seeds of warm-season vegetables indoors or in greenhouses. Refer to the above planting calendar to know when to transplant them to the garden.
- Are you short on garden space? Consider container gardening. Many vegetables can be grown indoors or on a patio.
- Herbs are a wonderful way to enhance all your meals, including the vegetables you will be growing in your garden. Once the danger of frost has passed, it is time to plant herbs. Plant plenty of your favorites, realizing that it takes at least twice as much fresh herbs as dried to equal the same amount of flavor in cooking.
Trees and Shrubs:
- Spring is a good time to plant shrubs, including berry-producing shrubs.
- In April, remove and replace mulch around azaleas, roses, and camellias if you think disease or insects are a problem. Disease spores and insects may have overwintered in this material.
- It is time to give attention to your fruit trees, such as pruning them and following a program to control disease and insects. Your local extension office can be a great source of information to help you with your fruit trees.
- After the flowers of spring-flowering bulbs begin to fade, cut back the stalks. However, do not cut back the foliage until it turns brown. Next year’s flowers depend on the energy the green leaves absorb from the sun.
- Forsythias can be pruned after the flowers fade. Select older, larger branches to remove, cutting them back to the ground. This allows the shrub to maintain its graceful shape and its ability to “dance in the wind.”
- Warm-season turf will soon be greening up. Regardless of what kind of grass you grow, be sure to visit the NC State Extension website called “Turffiles” for specific information to care for and improve your lawn. Performing a soil test on your lawn areas through the Cooperative Extension Service will help you know how much of what nutrients you may need to add.
Resources used in this article:
For the Birds:
Soil Testing in North Carolina:
- Soil Testing for Lawns and Gardens
- Careful Soil Sampling is the Key to Reliable Soil Test Information
Hardiness Zones and Frost Dates:
Working Wet Soil:
General Vegetable Gardening Tips and Planning Spring Gardens:
- Soil Conditioning Establishing a Successful Gardening Foundation
- Ammunition for the War on Moles and Voles
- Central North Carolina Planting Calendar for Annual Vegetables, Fruits, and Herbs
- Container Garden Planting Calendar for Edibles in the Piedmont
- Vegetable Gardening in Containers
- Herbs in Southern Gardens
- Tips for the Landscape and Garden – March
Fruits and Nuts:
Becky Garrett is an Extension Master Gardener Volunteer with North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.