The first day of spring is March 20th - that's only 26 days away! In WNC, March brings sunny days that can reach into the 70s (and apparently this year February also brings summer weather!), but keep in mind that temperatures can still dip below freezing, and a fluke snowstorm is not unheard of. Now is a great time to start cleaning up the yard - pruning select items, prepping beds for spring, and getting ready to plant cool-season veggies and annuals (we will have some available opening week for those of you who are eager!)
PREP YOUR GARDEN
Test Your Soil - Healthy soil is the basis of a healthy garden and the first step is getting your soil tested! Here's how you can test your soil through the NC State Extension Office. Folks often are advised to do this when moving to a new property, but it's a great idea at any point if you want more information on what you're working with!
Fertilize and Amend Based on Your Results - Your soil test will tell you the acidity of your soil as well as which nutrients you may be lacking. Based on the results of your test and what you want to grow you can amend your soil and fertilize it more accurately!
TREES & SHRUBS
Prune - Next week's blog post will cover this in depth - certain shrubs and trees do best when pruned at this time of year, as we move out of winter and before they start flushing with new growth.
CLEAN UP, TRANSPLANT, & DIVIDE
Clean up - You may be tempted to remove all old leaves and twigs that have settled in beds, but most of this organic matter (if smaller/breaking down) is a benefit for your garden and soil health. Consider instead adding a little compost and then if you don't like the look of leaves, lightly covering them with straw or pine bark for a 'tidier' look.
Divide and Transplant - Many perennials appreciate being divided after 3 or more years (if looking too dense/suffering from some mildew, flowers are getting smaller, or they're getting too big for existing space that prior growing season). Daylilies, hostas, peonies, Shasta Daisies, asters, phlox, Rudbeckia, and Chrysanthemums are examples of varieties that appreciate early spring division. Once new growth is 1-2 inches high, use a fork or shovel to chop and divide clumps. In general, perennials should be divided in the season opposite of when they flower - late season bloomers do best divided in spring, while spring and early summer bloomers are better split in early fall.
Cut Back - Plants that were left for winter interest or wildlife habitat/food including grasses and seed heads can now be cut back before new growth begins emerging. Note: grasses should not be cut any lower than 3 inches - tall grasses may benefit from 4-6" of old growth remaining to support new growth.
Mulch - Now is the time to mulch your perennial beds! We recommend top dressing with a good broken down compost, working it into the top layer of the soil a bit, then covering all with a couple inches of mulch (avoid burying crowns of mature plants/smothering stems of shrubs or trees).
COOL SEASON PLANTS
Do Your Research - Here is a WNC planting calendar for vegetables, fruits, and herbs. Greens like spinach and kale, peas, and root veggies such as radishes and carrots are some examples of cool-season veggies that can already be planted outside!
Plant - cold-tolerant annuals such as pansies, violas, and cool season veggies
Fertilize & Mulch - Now is a great time to add top dressings of compost to perennial edibles such as asparagus (before the first spears begin to emerge), and to mix in compost when planting your cool season annuals and veggies for a slow release food source. Mulch can provide a little extra protection for your early crops when we get a cold snap. Make sure to use natural mulches such as straw, pine needles or shavings, or undied bark.