Though it still feels like we are in the heart of winter here in Western North Carolina — there a few little hints (like blooming daffodils!) that warmth is right around the corner. Now is the time to take advantage of a little extra daylight and warmer afternoons to prepare for the busy garden season.
This list of chores is adapted from The Mountain Gardener, a newsletter put out by the Buncombe County Master Gardeners program, part of NC Extension. Each month they include a list specific to western NC.
• Have you had the mower tuned up and the blade sharpened? That grass is growing fast! Mow frequently enough to remove no more than 1/3 of the blade at a time.
• This is a good time to treat hemlock trees for Hemlock Woolly Adelgids.
• It is time to make repairs to damaged trees and shrubs.
• Plant trees and shrubs, but be cautious about digging in clay soil until it dries out a bit.
• You may find bittercress, chickweed and other winter growing weeds in the beds. Pull them now, before they go to seed.
• House plants that have gotten leggy can be cut back. Cut above a leaf node far down on the stem so the plant can regain a bushier form.
• Check house plants for insect infestations that can build up during the winter. Insecticidal soap can be useful for controlling aphids, spider mites or whiteflies. There are many recipes online for homemade insecticidal soap with safe ingredients.
• This is still a fine time to plant all fruit crops.
• Prune fruit trees, blueberries and grapes. The Buncombe County Extension office has videos available for loan on pruning grapes, blueberries and fruit trees. Also printed guides.
• If you covered the strawberry bed with straw, plan to remove it late in the month when plants begin to flower.
• Planting can begin in early March, if the soil is not too wet to prepare a seed bed. Plant green peas, kale, spinach, turnips, carrots and onions.
• In the middle of the month you can direct seed lettuce and plant potatoes.
• Transplant broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage late in the month.
• Late March is a good time to start transplants for tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. It takes about 6 week to have plants ready to set out in early May.
• Start an asparagus bed.
• Order seeds for the summer garden.
• Check garden tools and equipment. Clean, sharpen and repair everything before you need it.