by Cathy Bylinowski, M.S., Horticulture Instructor, University of Missouri Extension
Are longer days and warming temperatures making you think about gardening? March is the beginning of the outdoor gardening season in many parts of Missouri. Here are some gardening tips from Donna Aufdenburg, MU Extension Field Specialist in Horticulture and from me, Cathy Bylinowski, MU Extension Horticulture Instructor, email@example.com.
Are you lucky enough to have an asparagus bed? March is time to clean up the asparagus bed before new spears emerge: remove weeds, the old, dead stalks of last year's growth and remove mulch that protected crowns over the winter.
For more information, see MU Extension Guide g6405 Growing Asparagus in Missouri https://extension.missouri.edu/g6405.
Cultivating wet garden soils can destroy soil composition. Delay planting if garden soil is wet. When a ball of soil crumbles easily after being squeezed together in hand, it is dry enough to be safely worked.
Plant cool season crops such as peas, lettuce, spinach, various greens, radishes, carrots, beets, kohlrabi, turnips. These crops can be directly sown into moist crumbly garden soil. Transplants of leeks and onions can be planted outdoors now, as well as onion sets (small bulbs).
Plant broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts and cauliflower transplants into the garden. For suggested planting dates, see MU Extension Guide g6201 Vegetable Planting Calendar https://extension.missouri.edu/g6201.
While some people plant potatoes on St. Patrick’s Day, the ground can still be wet and cold on March 17. Potatoes benefit from slightly warmer temperatures.
Plant potatoes in late March through late April. The ground will be a little warmer and the potatoes will start growing vigorously in a matter of weeks.
Here’s a link to an informative article on potatoes: https://extension.missouri.edu/news/st.-paddy-s-day-is-a-dud-for-planting-spuds-in-missouri-3347
More March vegetable gardening tips:
Start tomatoes indoors now for transplanting in early May. You will need a window with a clear southern exposure or shelving with fluorescent light fixtures that can be raised as seedlings grow. This will help you produce healthy and sturdy transplants.
Now is also the time to start peppers and eggplant seeds for transplanting outdoors in May. Like tomatoes, these warm weather crops need warm air and soil temperatures for success.
Monitor May temperatures and cover your transplants if the temperatures approach freezing. For more information, see MU Extension Guide g6570 Starting Plants Indoors from Seeds https://extension.missouri.edu/g6570.
Crocus, snow drops, and hyacinths will bloom soon. Daffodils and tulips will be next on your spring flowering bulb schedule. If do not have any in your garden, think about planting some next fall. They are wonderful late winter signs of spring.
If you have a partly shady area in your yard or garden, think about planting some of our beautiful spring flowering native wildflowers such as bluebells, Dutchman’s Breeches, yellow violets, or Wild Sweet William.
Leave the wild ones in the woods to enhance natural landscapes and natural communities. Purchase Missouri native wildflowers from a growing number of retail sources. Grow Native! is a program of Missouri Prairie Foundation-https://grownative.org/.
The website lists companies that sell native plants in Missouri, a list of upcoming workshops and, under the Events tab, a list of upcoming native plant sales.
More March ornamental gardening tips:
Clean up flower beds by removing all weeds and dead foliage.
Tree, shrubs and perennials may be planted as soon as they become available at local nurseries, garden centers and retail stores.
Loosen winter mulch from roses after the danger of frost has passed.
To help control iris borer and foliage diseases, clean up and destroy the old foliage before new growth begins.
Prune spring flowering shrubs such as forsythia and weigelia, after they bloom. That way you can enjoy their attractive flowers this year and give the plants time to develop flower buds for next year.
See MU Guide g6870 Pruning Ornamental Shrubs https://extension.missouri.edu/g6870
Cut back ornamental grasses. For more information, see MU Extension Guide g6661 Ornamental Grasses https://extension.missouri.edu/g6661.
If you have more gardening questions, contact the Gardeners’ Hotline, 816-833-TREE (8733) or MU Extension- Jackson County, 816-482-5850, for more information.