March Gardening Tip for the Texas Coastal Bend

By Kitty Angell, Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardener

Now that we are in early spring, preparing garden beds, fertilizing established plants, and caring for turf grass top the “things-to-do” list.

Top dress all garden beds with compost and/or mulch. When you are preparing planting beds, be sure to protect the soil. Do not compact the soil by walking in the beds and do not till a wet soil. If your garden beds are not raised above ground level, consider building beds at least eight inches high. Raised beds facilitate drainage and earlier planting dates. For every 100 square feet of bed area, you will need to work in at least a several inch layer of compost, mulch, or bark. Also work in 5 pounds of a balanced fertilizer.

Cut back perennials and shrubs that bloom on new wood. Continue to pinch tips of perennials to make them bushy. Prune shrubs by removing old wood and selectively shaping the plant.

Divide crowded fall-blooming perennials, but leave naturalizing bulb foliage after blooming so that the bulb stores food for next year’s bloom. Pruning of evergreen and summer flowering shrubs should be completed by early March. Prune spring blooming trees and shrubs as soon as they finish flowering.

Consider replacing disease-prone plants with native and well-adapted selections that include plants that are salt-tolerant (in some instances wind-tolerant) in our area.

Set out tomato plants as soon as possible. Vegetable seeds to plant include: bush and pole beans, arugula, butter beans, corn, cucumber, lettuce, radish, squash, turnip and mustard greens. Some should be planted early in the month, others later. Wait until late March or early April, when the soil has warmed, to set out pepper and eggplant transplants.

Plumera Rubra
Herb plants to set out are: Oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme, marjoram, lemon grass, and lemon verbena. Coreopsis and nasturtium are good flower seeds to plant in this area.

When it comes to turf grass you need to mow the lawn to clear it of any remaining tree leaves so sunlight can reach the grass. Of major importance: Do not scalp the lawn! Scalping sets back growth of the grass and exposes weed seeds to light causing them to germinate. For the first mowing, set the mower at its highest level, sharpen the blade and take off no more than one-third of the blade length at a time. The week after Easter or Mid-April is the date for fertilizing. While roses, perennials, annuals and vegetables benefit from higher fertilizer levels in early spring, hold off until the second mowing to fertilize turf grass.

St. Augustine and Bermuda grass needs to be growing vigorously before it is fertilized. Quick-release high-nitrogen fertilizer will green the lawn quickly, but will make the grass more susceptible to disease and insects. Grass that has been over stimulated with too much nitrogen has an abnormal cell growth. It forms thin cell walls and watery tissue, the perfect breeding ground for brown patch fungus. Turf grass is probably the most abused plant in the landscape. Over-watering and over-fertilizing turf grass does more harm than good. Consider using an organic fertilizer. It adds organic matter to the soil, increases microbial activity and is less likely to contaminate streams, ponds and ground water because it resists leaching.


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