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March Garden Chores

It’s the first day of Spring! In WNC, March brings sunny days that can reach into the 70s, but keep in mind that temperatures can still dip below freezing (like last night!), and a fluke snowstorm is not unheard of. Now is a great time to start cleaning up the yard, prepping beds for spring, planting cool-season veggies and annuals, and adding hardscaping elements. 


  • 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!


  • Garden Clean up – You may be tempted to remove all the old leaves and twigs that have settled in beds, but most of this organic matter is a benefit for your garden and soil health. We recommend selective clean up of leaves, leaving a thin covering over areas where new growth is emerging to serve as protection, and leaving some mounded at the base of known plants as additional protection (last night was evidence that tender new growth needs that!).  

  • You can clean up fallen limbs, small branches, and some of the leaves without raking and manicuring everything. Remember that these leaves provide homes and protection for many insects and small creatures. If moving some leaves, pile along yard edges so that the insects within can still emerge rather than running over leaves with a mower and chopping them up. And if you do uncover a chrysalis or nesting/semi-hibernating insect, reptile, or amphibian, you can gently tuck them back where they were or gently move them and recreate their environment so that they are able to continue their cycle! 

  • Try to keep leaf blowing to a minimum as insects and other creatures will obviously be disrupted.  

  • As for cutting plants back, we encourage folks to read this article by the NC Extension as they give specific guidance on certain species that are better housing for solitary bee pollinators (with hollow stems), and suggest cutting your gardens back modestly in early to late March–be aware that most nesting bees need 8-12” of growth for nesting so restrained trimming is helpful! As your plants put out their new growth, it typically covers up the old growth, plus the old stems often help support new ones in addition to providing housing for pollinators.


  • 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, but you have to do your research! Some shrubs and trees cannot be pruned at this time without sacrificing future blooms. Watch for future blog posts on proper techniques and best practices!

  • Fertilize and mulch existing trees and shrubs. 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 applying mulch directly up against tree or shrub trunks.

  • Plant fruit trees and vines as well as other container-grown shrubs and trees. Spring is a great time to find a wide variety of choices at Painters and also the perfect time to set them up for a great start–it is much easier to keep them well-watered and happy before the hotter days of summer. 


  • 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 undyed bark. Check out what’s available at Painters this season!



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