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March into the garden for chores this month

Warmseason vegetables can be sprouted now so they will be ready to transplant at the end of March. UC REGENTS
Warmseason vegetables can be sprouted now so they will be ready to transplant at the end of March. UC REGENTS

Q: I haven’t spent much time in my garden during the winter, but now I want to get it ready for spring and summer. What garden jobs should I be doing? —Lorraine Berg,

San Luis Obispo

A: Here on the Central Coast the change of seasons is rather subtle, but there’s something special about the air in March that tells attentive gardeners that spring is coming.

Even those of us who concentrate on indoor activities during the winter feel the pull to get back into the garden at this time. This is good, because there are many important March tasks that will get our spring and summer gardens off to a great start.

It is time to inspect the garden and mend any damage done by winter storms. Repair the irrigation system and begin beating back the flourishing crop of weeds our rains have brought.

When it comes to pest management, prevention is always the best approach. Releasing ladybugs and praying mantises in the garden may help you get ahead of aphids and other insects. Snails, earwigs and ants should be targeted relentlessly.

Now is the time for inland gardeners to plant summer blooming favorites such as gladiolus, callas, cannas, dahlias, gloxinia and tuberose.

Vegetables that can be sown into the garden at this time are chard, carrots, kohlrabi and lettuces, particularly in inland areas.

In coastal areas there is still time to start some cool season varieties, such as broccoli, brussel sprouts and cabbages. Warm season varieties such as tomatoes, eggplant, summer squash and melons can be started inside now, for transplanting outdoors later.

All plants should be deadheaded as needed, and ornamental trees, azaleas, camellias and poinsettias cut back and fed. Wait to prune frost-damaged plants until buds appear, so you can determine how much tissue is actually dead. Do not cut off the leaves of faded bulb flowers until they are completely brown.

In the orchard, apples, pears and stone fruits should be thinned when the fruit is about 3/4 inches in diameter, leaving the remaining fruit 4 to 6 inches apart. Plant avocados and citrus now, and watch future articles for more information about their care.

Call the Master Gardeners for more detailed advice. Their handy Gardener’s Journal contains a schedule of gardening tasks for every month of the year.