1. Make sure you get fruit and nut trees, grapes and other trees pruned and sprayed with dormant oil this month. Shade trees, especially maples, can be pruned later when sap flow slows down, but just prior to bud break is best for fruit.
2. Start your long-season crops indoors now. Tomatoes, sweet potatoes, peppers, egg plant, melons, and parsnips are great choices if you transplant to larger containers as they grow.
3. Direct plant cabbage, beets, broccoli, carrots, onions, perennials and other cool-season crops into cold frames.
4. Start building raised beds and larger projects that will take time and effort. Both will be at a premium later in the season.
5. Start contacting landscape contractors for scheduling your large hardscape projects.
6. Fertilize your roses with ¼ cup of alfalfa meal to encourage root production.
7. If you haven’t trimmed your ferns, ornamental grasses, red- and yellow twig dogwoods and willows, do it now before new growth starts.
8. Start flower bed cleanup for spring. Rake out old leaf litter, storm debris from this winter and any other plant matter that might harbor disease or pests. Getting the beds tidied can help reduce trouble later on.
9. Start dividing perennials as soon as the soil thaws. The earlier you can replant them, the more time they have to generate new roots and start the season strongly.
10. Trim back witch hazel, Cornelian Cherry (Dogwood trees), forsythia and other flowering shrubs/trees as soon as their flowers fade.
11. Rent a Thatcher or aerator for your lawn if it’s been awhile since doing either. This helps clean up dead grass blades, perforate any soil stratification and encourage better growth throughout this season. Spread sand or compost to help improve the soil.
12. Once grass growth starts for the season, mow it on the lowest setting. This encourages new blades to form on the rhizomes, thickening up your lawn.
13. Try sheet mulching this year to control stubborn weeds. Put a single layer of cardboard (uncolored with black ink only) or 5-10 sheets of newspaper over an area you want weed-free for the coming year. Cover with clean soil, mulch or compost and plant small things on top or wrap the cardboard/newspaper around larger items already in the landscape. This is a great way to keep the area under trees clean and weed free!
14. Get supplies ready for your hanging baskets. That way, when annuals arrive in the local nursery, all you will need is to assemble them and plant everything for quick results.
15. Divide any perennials that are sending up side shoots or new starts around the base. You can pot these up and trade them with neighbors or sell them locally.
16. Add all the new plant debris to your compost pile and faithfully turn it once a month to introduce oxygen, moisture and a balance of nitrogen-containing ingredients and carbon-based ones.
17. Till the garden plot just as soon as the soil is workable. A quick test of soil moisture is to simply squeeze a handful in your palm. If it crumbles when you open your hand, the soil is workable. If it stays in a clump, wait a few more days before venturing forth with the tiller. Otherwise, you might undo any good you accomplish by tilling. If it’s too wet, a tiller compacts the soil and it dries to brick-like consistency.
18. Prepare a location in a protected spot for items ordered from catalogs as they arrive. If you don’t have a site selected for each item and a hold dug beforehand, at least have a place to “heel them in” until you can decide where they belong. It pays to be prepared in order to assure they have the best chance of survival.
19. It’s grafting TIME! Save scions from your pruning activities and graft them onto rootstock just before bud break. Proper timing assures the best chance of success.
20. Attend any local gardening seminars, lectures or workshops available in your area to take advantage of furthering education in your gardening skills. Often, you will meet like-minded people who can share times they’ve learned for local conditions and sources for gardening supplies. Networking can be an invaluable asset.