Spring weather here in the Santa Cruz Mountains can be warm and sunny one day, gray and rainy the next. Strong winds often blow last year’s crop of oak leaves all over the deck you've just swept, but none of us would live anywhere else.
Our last estimated hard frost of the season is about March 15, so it’s likely past us. Sometimes we get light frosts into April, so have frost blankets or any blanket or towel ready to protect seedlings. Even a cardboard box over frost-tender new growth will work fine.
Now that daylight saving time has started, we have more time to spend out in the garden. One simple addition that makes being outside in the evening more enjoyable is a fire pit. Search Google images to be inspired. You can install a simple metal fire pit for burning wood, or get fancy with a stone pit surrounded with gravel and stone seat walls. I guarantee you'll be happy you set aside a space for this addition to your garden.
What other to-dos are there in the garden in March?
Take advantage of the moist soil to fertilize your garden. Lawns and groundcovers are beginning their spring growth spurt, and new leaves on trees, shrubs and perennials are emerging. Spread compost, manure or organic fertilizer to help plants get off to a strong start.
Your citrus may be looking yellow from lack of nitrogen, which has leached out of the soil through the rainy season. It may also be lacking in iron. Feed trees with citrus and fruit tree fertilizer. I like to put out a granular or time-release fertilizer before a storm and let the rains water it in for me. Make sure you keep fertilizer off the foliage and crown of the plants.
Wait to feed azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons until after they bloom.
Clean up winter damage on perennials, vines and shrubs.
If you need to move any plants in the garden, now is a good time. Plants are full of growth hormones and recover quickly from transplant shock.
To increase your plantings, lift and divide black-eyed Susan, gaillardia, catmint, coreopsis, daylily, diascia, geranium, ground morning glory, lamb's ears, penstemon, Shasta daisy, society garlic and yarrow.
Also, I see my hostas are just beginning to come up; dividing them or transplanting them at this time is easy, and you don't risk ruining their gorgeous leaves later, after they unfurl.
Pull weeds regularly before they set seed. They pull out easily from moist soil. Think of weeding as free gym time.
Now that the days are getting longer and temperatures are inching up, your houseplants can be re-potted, if roots are poking out of the bottom or are matted on the surface.
Houseplants rest in the winter and don't require much fertilizing. You can resume feeding now with a balanced fertilizer.
Your plants will benefit also from leaching the accumulated salts from the soil. Take them to the sink and run room-temperature water through the soil several times.
- Jan Nelson, a landscape designer and California certified nursery professional, will answer questions about gardening in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.jannelsonlandscapedesign.com to view past columns and pictures.