Marching into spring gardening

By Pam Roy, edited by Bruce Gaudette | Feb 23, 2011

Is it spring yet?  By late February and early March, we are so ready for it to be spring.  Last week’s sunshine and blue skies were a much-appreciated preview of more cheerful weather coming our way.  

First, we must get through March.  Chances are that there may be snow on the ground while you read this column according to the weather forecasts. Then again, it may be sunny and mild, as our weather is notoriously difficult to accurately forecast.

A few hours of sunshine is all it takes to get us gardeners out in the yard.  Several months of pent-up gardening enthusiasm is ready to be let loose.  The good news is that there are many things that can be done now.

What’s a good place to start?  Weeding.  I know – that’s what I recommended last fall. Early spring is also an important time to weed and mulch to stay ahead of the explosion of weed growth just around the corner.  

Populations of prodigious growers like chickweed, pepper weed and buttercup can be mostly eliminated, greatly reducing the amount of weeds that will pop up once the temperatures rise.

This is a good month to thumb through the seed catalogs and order seed for vegetables.   Plan what you want to grow, where to plant the edibles, and decide if any new beds need to be installed or changed over from lawn.  

If you’ve planted any cover crops in existing edible beds, turn over the cover crops if the soil is not too wet to work.

Later this month, seeds can be started inside in a sunny window, or in a greenhouse.

Early March (or late February) is time to prune your roses.  Remove dead, damaged,

crossing or rubbing stems.  The older canes can also be removed.

Cut just above an outward facing bud.  This encourages outward growth, which keeps the centers open and allows good air circulation in the plant, keeping down disease.  

Ornamental grasses can also be cut back in early March.  The taller growing grasses like miscanthus can be cut back to a height of 6-10”. Shorter grasses like Japanese Forest Grass should be cut back to 2 inches above ground.  

Evergreen grasses like Stipa gigantea and Stipa arundinacea need only to have the flower stalks cut back.  Stipa tenuissima should have dead foliage removed, but not be cut back to the ground.

Blue Oat Grass does not need cutting back.  Simply reach into the middle of the plant with gloved hands and pull out the stems that have turned brown.  If they don’t easily come off, wait a few weeks and try again.

Many of the sedges (carex) are evergreen and do not need to be cut back.  Perennials can also be divided in March.

Go outside and take stock of your garden this month.  What could be added to make it fulfill your dream?  For inspiration, visit us at the Everett Home and Garden Show, March 4-6.

Pam Roy, owner of Planscapes has been a  landscape designer and horticulturist for 30 years in the Northwest.  Contact her at 425-252-9469 or

Bruce Gaudette, owner of Land Hoe!, has a degree in horticulture, is an ICPI certified installer of pavers, and is a member of the Executive Board of the state landscape association WALP.  Contact at 425-742-9417 or

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