This month is where nature starts to shake the worst of winter with lots of buds, flowers, and foliage emerging. (Coldest zones, we know this probably doesn't mean you!). There’s some work to be done to get the pre-spring season off to the best start–but nothing too major. Here’s how to make the most of the month.
Zone: 3 - 5
TLC Those Fruit Trees: There’s still time to prune apple (such as Honeycrisp™ Apple). As well as other fruit trees to ensure the most healthy plants, and the biggest crops. Start by removing any dead, diseased, or crossed branches before the tree breaks dormancy and starts to leaf out. While you’re there, clean up fallen leaves and other dead plant materials from around the tree’s base. This helps with overwintering pests and diseases, and can help to prevent new pests and diseases.
Give Houseplants a Haircut: Winter’s rough on houseplants such as ferns. (Think about how the dry air, forced heat,and fewer hours of daylight make you feel!) These likely grown leggy over the past few months. Pruning now, just at the start of the new season, can give them a new lease on life. Remove any dead stems or leaves. Then give the plant an overall pruning which will encourage new, more compact growth. (Maybe repot, too. Clue that you need to repot? When the water runs right out of the bottom of the pot as you are applying it.)
Zone: 6 - 8
A Rosy Outlook: With less chance of a late freeze, it's time to grab some clean, sharp pruners. Then, cut back roses. This will encourage robust new growth and more blooms. Remove dead or crossed branches and any branches thinner than a pencil. Cut back remaining stems by about 1/3 of their total length. If any branches are not producing (this can happen to older branches) cut those to the ground. Strip all remaining leaves (helps reduce diseases), water, apply a food for roses, and mulch. Remember–roses love to be pruned! (Ready for something new? Check out Grace N’ Grit™ Yellow Shrub Rose.)
Be Fruitful: Strawberries and raspberries in particular prefer an early start in your garden. If you're planting container grown specimens, now is the ideal time to get them to the ground. Or, into large decorative containers. Plant them in a sunny spot and you’ll have fruits by mid-summer. Note–if you have mature raspberries, now is also your moment to prune out some of the older brown canes. This will help to push new growth on younger ones. (This is Seascape Strawberry, an everbearing variety.)
Zone: 9 - 11
Wake Up, Gardenias!: Those shiny leafy shrubs with those romantic, fragrant flowers have been pretty much shutdown for months. (This is First Love® Gardenia (Grafted). However, they are finally showing signs of new growth. Applying an iron supplement to your plants will help them to grow rich, deep green and leafy. Refer to package directions, or consult with your local garden center. Good to know–this supplement only works well when soil is warm. Therefore applying it much earlier than this probably won't do much good. Look forward to flowers in early summer.
Color Changes Everything: In frost-free areas, it’s time to head to the garden center to load up on warm-weather annuals. Your winter pansies might still have life in them. However, get fresh annuals like SunBelievable® Brown Eyed Girl Helianthus into pots, windowboxes, and borders now. Especially when day and night temps are still moderate. This can help them to settle in and perform better with less stress. And, who doesn’t love to play with color!
If spring rains are not in the forecast remember to water as needed. Most plants need about an inch of water per week. Not sure? Now’s the time to invest in a $10 moisture meter! Best money you can spend.
Late freezes can still happen, even in more temperate zones. Have floating row covers at the ready (or old bed sheets work too). Then lay over plants especially when the night is cold and the air is still. Be sure to remove in the morning!
Finally, there is no better time for applying a fresh layer of organic compost. Make your own or buy it–doesn’t matter as long as you DO IT!