March 31, 2021 by IG

March 2021 Garden Journal — IG

As spring finally arrives in the Northern Hemisphere, we begin a new feature, the Monthly Garden Journal. Each month, several Garden Revival members will document the milestones in their garden, what they accomplished and what nature threw at them. Keeping track of what happens when is so important for a gardener to help plan and adjust for future growing seasons. And we hope this will help and entertain other gardeners as they read along.

I’m in the US Midwest, zone 6a. We have erratic spring weather, usually with lots of rain. The average last spring frost is at the end of April, but last year, we got frosts in May. Here’s my March 2021 gardening adventure:

March 1

Let the winter sowing begin!

March 8

Oops, apparently I sowed the hardy sedum mix too densely on February 10 in what at the time seemed like a big enough Swiffer wet wipes container. I can’t believe how fast they’re growing. I’ve started to separate them and transplant an inch or two apart – that’s all the space I can offer them because there’s a small forest’s worth.

Top left and right: too many seedlings in one Swiffer tub. Bottom: 2 ft wide wire rack holding about half the transplanted baby sedums, the rest are on 4 ft big mama rack.

March 10

Seed sowing is in early stages and I’m already out of space.

And here’s big mama rack mentioned above.

March 12

There was snow on the ground for so long, it didn’t occur to me that the plants underneath the snow cover could be doing anything. I’ve been staying indoors, as I had been for a long time now and focusing on sowing seeds and watching my seedlings grow. Today I went to check if any bulbs had begun to peek out of the ground. Not only have the daffodils peeked out, they’ve budded up! When did this happen?

The viburnum and lilac buds are swelling, tulip leaves have begun to emerge, and some lazy last minute fall gardening has paid off. I had a neglected potted primula from a grocery store floral department that had been sitting outside all summer, looking rather sad. I tore it in half and planted in a shady area just as winter was approaching. The pieces are now blooming, they don’t seem to have minded my rough handling.

Clockwise from top left: the lilac is budding up, Euphorbia x martinii 'Ascot Rainbow' is a sight for sore eyes with its vibrant colors, grocery store primulas starting to bloom, daffodils have flower buds!

I had previously planted 3 anthemis plants into that bed, knowing that they wouldn’t do well in the shade, but also knowing that they needed to go in the ground if they had any chance of surviving until I created a bed with a more suitable place for them. One of the plants promptly gave up the ghost, the other two languished. The etiolated branches flopped badly and lay on the ground. That turned out to be a great thing, the branches rooted and now I have more plants to move to that future flower bed.

Rooted branches of Anthemis ‘Sauce Hollandaise’ lay among a smattering of primulas, weeds, leaf litter and an old plant tag.

I hadn’t done any flower bed cleanup in the fall for a couple reasons, like wanting to leave seed heads up for birds over winter, wanting some cover for the roots on the coldest winter nights, and just feeling generally unmotivated to garden as the weather got colder and daylight more fleeting. Time to get to work!

The wild onions are a total menace. I cleared the area of them last year by pulling them out. I knew that wasn’t going to stop them long term and, as expected, they came back this year in full force. I might just ignore them for a while and then dig deep and replace the top foot of soil in that area.

I planted quite a few containers with bulbs in the fall and overwintered them in the garage and unheated sunroom, watering occasionally. Some have been showing growth, others I’m concerned about — I see nothing coming up. I’ve pulled about half the pots out into the elements now. Hope they like the sunlight. Also, hope the remaining frosts don’t hurt them.

Winter sown milk jugs doing their thing and bulbs coming up in pots.

March 21

This past week, I’d been hardening off the violas I sowed on February 9. The ten day forecast shows no frost so I pulled them out of their cells and replanted into outdoor containers. Last year I didn’t leave them in the cell packs as long, and did an intermediate step of potting them up. It wasn’t worth the trouble and took up more valuable space under the grow lights. The two inch cells are big enough for the tiny plants to get to flowering stage and they will bulk up once planted outside. Now I just hope they get settled before the frosts come back.

The strawberry and foxglove seedlings, which thus far have been very slow growing, seem to have had a growth spurt this week.

March 23

The double hellebores are incredibly floriferous this year, they produce more flowers every spring than the spring before. The single variety, which came with no cultivar label is as lovely as always, a very consistent performer.

Clockwise from left: ‘Golden Lotus,’ ‘Flower Girl’ and ‘Sparkling Diamond’ helleborus.
Unknown hellebore.

March 27

The past few days were windy and rainy but warm. I peeked out to make sure my containers hadn’t tipped over, but otherwise stayed inside sowing seeds. I ventured outside today, foolishly not expecting anything to have changed in the garden. Have I learned nothing this month? The ‘Replete’ daffodils have all bloomed, the Sweet William on the North side of the house has put out a few little pink flowers, and (woah!) the lonely, poorly situated monarda is swallowing up the plants around it and is in dire need of being divided. The ‘Becky’ Shasta daisies and ‘Walker’s Low’ catmint could use a whack down the middle with a nice sharp shovel, as well — but I have no place to put them. I think my roses are past due for being cut back and I suspect the clematis are, too. I used to go by the folk wisdom to prune roses when the forsythia blooms, but we had our enormous, overgrown forsythias removed last year, leaving me to think for myself on this. I started the rose pruning today: note to self, get leather gardening gloves, ouch.

A spreading clump of monarda mingling with a spreading clump of ‘Angelique’ sedum, gobbling up tulip leaves and too close for comfort with some self seeded dianthus barbatus.
Way too much planted way too close here: tulips, daffodils, leucojum, coreopsis ‘Polaris,’ geum ‘Totally Tangerine,’ tanacetum, and three achillea ‘Terracotta.’ Everything looks cramped now and will shade each other to death once the plants grow taller. Intervention is needed (not for my plant buying, I mean to move these plants apart.)

In other garden news, my very first cowslip primula has started to bloom. Somehow this tiny three inch plant I grew from seed is making me so proud. Sure, I’ve grown other plants from seed before, but this diminutive one is so delicate looking, having survived from last year’s winter sown seedling litter, left in seed starting mix all summer, then ripped apart from its siblings and planted into the cold ground late last fall.

My very first Primula veris bloom peeking out from behind the white Primula acaulis. The pointy foliage is from Camassia quamash bulbs.

In less pleasant news — the weeds, oh the weeds! How do I even get in there to pull them without damaging the tulip leaves poking through every couple of inches? Also, my beloved ‘Incrediball’ hydrangeas are a quarter of the size they were two years ago. The canes keep dying off and the new ones are weak. However, in the seven years I’ve had my ‘Endless Summer’ hydrangea, it’s the first time the plant hasn’t died all the way back to the ground, which means I might get blooms on old wood if a frost doesn’t zap it in the next month or so.

An invasion of hairy bittercress and wild onions.

I’m now seeing tulips and hyacinths budding up and the very first blooms from the violas I sowed this year. Everything woke up so fast this month and I love it.

Clockwise from top left: Viola cornuta ‘Sorbet Antique Shades,’ narcissus ‘Replete,’ blue hyacinths in bud looking like pine cones, V. cornuta ‘Penny Denim Jump-Up.’
Top: freshly transplanted sedum on March 8. Bottom: after another 20 days of growth.
March 29 winter sowing progress report.