March Gardening Tips
for the Willamette Valley

by Rod Smith

Former Iowa Certified Nurseryman and
Oregon Certified Nursery Professional

© 2002-2023 Rodney A. Smith
All rights reserved.


Early perennials start blooming in March. Many old and new varieties are available now. Use them as borders, in containers, or mixed with annuals.

Bare root, potted or burlapped plants can be planted now. Bare root plants need to be planted early before new growth starts. The best selection of bare root plants is found in February and March.

Peas and Sweet Peas can be planted as soon as the ground is workable.

Hardy vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, radishes and beets, can be planted from seed as soon as the soil begins to warm up. A good sign of the time for planting is when maple leaves begin to appear.

Flower and vegetable seeds can be started indoors for earlier flowers and produce. Plant seeds three to six weeks before they are to be planted outside.

Gladiolus and begonia bulbs can be planted now. For a continuous bloom of gladiolus, plant some every two weeks until mid July.


Roses should be pruned in late February or early March to remove old, unproductive and thin, weak canes. Bush types are cut to 12 to 18" tall. Shrub roses should be left about three feet tall. Climbers should be thinned if tangled.

Spring flowering shrubs, such as forsythia and lilacs, could be pruned now, but flowers will be cut off if they are pruned before they bloom. Wait until summer to prune plants that are too big because winter pruning makes them grow even faster.


Slugs will be after the first thing that comes up - your early bulbs and perennials. Protect them with slug baits. The spray on formulas or Sluggo are safer for pets. The best time to apply slug bait is when the hosta buds start poking up from the ground.


Feed bulbs with bone meal or bulb food when the leaves first push out of the ground. This spring feeding helps them bloom better next year.

All berries except established strawberries could use a good feeding with an all purpose fertilizer. Wait until after the June harvest to feed strawberries.

All trees and shrubs could use a feeding before growth begins. Use a complete, all purpose fertilizer, or specialized fertilizer for acid loving plants such as rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias. Scatter the fertilizer under and around the plant.

Lawn Care

Begin applying a complete fertilizer this month. If you have a problem with moss, use a fertilizer with moss control, then apply lime.

Set the mowing height at 1.5 to 2 inches. This reduces disease problems during wet weather. Mow when the grass reaches 2.25 or 3 inches so no more that one third of the blade is removed at one time. If the grass is wet or tall, bag the clippings so they do not bunch up and smother the grass.


Watch for areas that are thinning or yellowing in an otherwise healthy lawn. It might be Crane Fly. To check, drench a square foot of soil with warm, soapy water. If half inch long, gray brown larvae appear, treat the lawn with beneficial nematodes, Sevin or imidacloprid.

Watch for early weeds. They are easier to control when they are young. Hairy bittercress is easier to see when the small white flowers open. Be sure to pull them before the seed capsules mature or they will spit out the next crop of weed seeds as you pull them.
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