What to Do in the Garden in March

If youíre a gardener who lives in USDA plant hardiness zones 3-10 in the Northern Hemisphere, this article is for you. In these moderate zones, March is typically a great month to start preparing your garden for the growing season ahead.

Not sure of your local hardiness zone? Check here to find out.

1. Pruning

March is a good time to shape and clean up many trees and shrubs before they start their spring growth.

  • Remove frost-damaged or broken branches.
  • As a rough rule of thumb, do not prune shrubs that bloom early in the spring, such as lilacs, spireas or forsythia, because you might prune off their flower buds. Wait until theyíre finished blooming to prune.
  • Thin out berry canes and vines, such as raspberries and blackberries.
  • Prune fruit trees as early as possible while theyíre still dormant. DenGarden has detailed instructions on when and how to prune fruit trees.
  • Shear cedar hedges to take off any developing cones.

Spring snowdrop flowers with snow in the forest

2. Soil Preparation

In lower hardiness zones, your soil typically thaws out sometime in March. Any effort you can put into your soil now will pay off later once the growing season gets going. This is also true in higher zones. Your soil will still benefit from a spring boost.

  • Till compost, manure or other organic matter into your vegetable and annual flower beds. If you practice the no-till method, simply add more layers of organic matter to the surface of your beds.
  • Water garden beds against your house. These are often covered by your roof overhangs and havenít received any rain or snow over winter.
  • Consider planting a cover crop that can handle lower temperatures, such as fall rye. You can till this under in a couple months for more organic matter.
  • Mulch any areas of bare soil. Try these suggestions to make the most of your mulch.


3. Planting

March nights are often frosty in most northern zones. But many perennials, trees and shrubs can still be planted as soon as the soil can be worked.

  • Check your local garden center for new spring arrivals. Ask if their plants have been hardened off or if they came directly from a greenhouse. If they came from a greenhouse, leave the pots outside during the day and take them in at night for a couple weeks to acclimatize before planting out.
  • Summer-flowering bulbs, such as lilies, crocosmia or alliums, can be planted now.
  • Hold off planting out any annual flowers or vegetables, no matter how tempting they may look in the stores. Be sure to keep any annual seedling you buy inside until after your last frost date.
  • Pot up bulbs inside that you were overwintering to give them a head start, such as tuberous begonias, dahlias or gladiolas.


4. Seeding

You can sow various seeds both inside and outside during March.

  • Start vegetables inside that need at least 6-8 weeks to mature before planting out, such as tomatoes, cabbages, cauliflower, broccoli, celery, onions and peppers.
  • Also start longer-growing annual and perennial flowers inside, like petunias, geraniums, lavender, and asters.
  • Check your annual and perennial flower seed packages to see when or if you can sow them directly outside. Many species, such as poppies, foxgloves, and wildflower seed mixes, often germinate better outside when theyíre exposed to cold nights in early spring.

Spring flower bed - primula elatior

5. Landscape Maintenance

In colder zones, most perennial and annual plants arenít growing yet. This can give you a good overview of the structure of your garden and can provide an opportunity to work on areas you canít see once your garden grows in for the summer. In warmer zones, March is also a good time for landscaping tasks because the outdoor temperatures will be cooler and easier to work in.

  • Cut down last yearís growth on any herbaceous perennials.
  • Remove burlap wraps or other winter protection around plants.
  • Rake and remove debris where itís unwanted. Although donít be in too much of a hurry around tender plants, this cover can add protection against late season frosts.
  • Put hoops, trellises and any other plant support structures in place.
  • Start hard-landscaping projects, like installing retaining walls or pathways.
  • Get containers and planters ready by putting in liners and filling with soil.
  • Make sure your composting area is ready for the year. Turn any remaining compost from last year and repair compost bins or get new ones if needed.

Spring flowers series, yellow daffodils in the field

6. Lawn

Your lawn might be recently exposed from under the melted snow, or it may be starting its spring growth. Either way, some basic maintenance steps will help get it going for the season.

  • Reseed any bare areas of ground.
  • Thatch to remove any built-up dead material in your lawn. A thatching rake does a good job on a smaller lawn, or you can get a motorized thatcher for larger spaces.
  • Aerate to reduce impacted soil. Itís often easiest to use a motorized aeration machine that will punch small holes into the ground.
  • Depending on how warm the month has been, you might be able to give your lawn its first mowing of the year.
  • Fertilize by spreading some finely screened compost or manure. If youíve aerated, the organic matter will be able to fill the new holes.

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven1 years ago


Jerome S
Jerome S1 years ago

thanks for sharing.

Carl R
Carl R1 years ago


Mona P
Mona Pietsch1 years ago


Lola P
Lola P1 years ago

Planning on having lavender in the backyard for the bees, they seem to like that the best. Thanks for the article.

Carl R
Carl R1 years ago


Gino C
Past Member 1 years ago

thank you

Marija M
Marija M1 years ago

Today I saw all of those in nature...true haeven.

Kay M
Kay M1 years ago


Joemar K
Joemar K1 years ago