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Weekly Gardening Tips for Your Area


Mar. 2013 Gardening To-Do List: Zone 4

Susan Wells
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March is about the last time you can attend to pruning duties before buds begin to swell. So check your woody plants – shrubs and trees—to make sure they are the size and shape you want them to be before warmer weather makes it inappropriate to cut them back. Don’t prune spring-flowering shrubs now, or you’ll have no blooms. Fruit trees, conifers and deciduous trees may still be shaped up, however.


Below are lists of what seeds to plant when. If you’re using seeds older than last year’s, it’s best to do a germination test to determine if they’re still viable. Some have a short shelf-life and are best bought new each spring and summer, such as lettuce, onion, parsnip, spinach. Other seeds can withstand time and storage, including beans, beets, Chinese cabbage, crucifers, cucumber, eggplant, kale, melons, peas, pepper, tomato, and squash. Check the germination rate by putting 10 seeds between two moist paper towels in a warm place. Keep the towels moist for 10 days and see how many seeds have sprouted a root. If five seeds sprout, that’s a 50 percent germination rate. For a 50 percent rate, plant twice as many seeds as you normally would to get the number of plants you need. Plant seeds in a sterilized, soil-less mix. When all the seedlings have broken the surface, put them under grow lights for 14-16 hours a day.

Image: Mark F. Levisay/Flickr

Image: Mark F. Levisay/Flickr

Cool-season plant seeds to sow directly in the garden as soon as the soil can be worked: Shelling, Snow, and Sugar Peas, Potatoes (White and Sweet), Beets, Dill, Radish, Spinach

Cool-Season plants to start now indoors under grow lights for early to mid-Spring planting: Calendula, Cilantro, Chinese cabbage (Bok Choy, Pak Choi), Broccoli, Cabbage, Brussels Sprouts, Kale, Lettuce, Onion, Spinach, Swiss Chard

Warm-season vegetables and herbs to start indoors for outdoor transplant: Basil, Celery, Eggplant, Pepper, Tomato, Melons (start these seeds six to eight weeks before last frost date of May 15)

Warm-Season vegetables and annuals to sow directly in the garden: Marigold, Nasturtium, Zinnia, Bush and Pole Beans, Asparagus, Carrots, Cucumbers, Parsnip, Scallions, Summer Squash, Winter Squash


Start seeds of zinnias, salvia, petunias, and nicotiana indoors under lights.

Don’t rush to remove mulch from perennials. The sun could heat the soil and stimulate new growth, then when a hard freeze returns, the new growth will be damaged.

You may cut back ornamental grasses to 3 or 4 inches now to make room for new growth.





Now is the time to prune back ever-bearing raspberries. This will promote fresh new growth that produces fruit more abundantly. Use pruning loppers to cut the canes at ground level.

By end of the month, there may be days nice enough to get out and prune trees and shrubs.  Don’t prune any spring flowering shrubs and trees, as the flower buds have already formed.  Also, do not prune oaks, elms or walnuts until fall. You can still prune fruit trees if their buds have not begun to swell.


As the snow melts and soils warm, winter annual weeds will resume growth. Now is the time to easily hoe or dig them out before they become well established. Weeds including downy brome grass and mustards are easy to control in late winter and early spring.

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