University of Illinois Extension
Bruce Spangeberg

These articles are written to apply to the northeastern corner of Illinois. Problems and timing may not apply outside of this area.

Stateline Yard & Garden

March in the Lawn and Garden

February 26, 1998

With the mild winter and lack of snow, many people are thinking ahead to spring in the yard and garden. Even though March does arrive Sunday and Spring begins in March, use restraint when deciding to do anything out in the yard. There are a few early spring tasks, but not many.

One chore which can be done as weather allows you to get outside is pruning. Apples and other trees and shrubs can be pruned in March. For example, it's a good time for crabapples, many shade trees, and mid- to late-summer blooming shrubs. March is not the time for pruning maples, elm, birch, and early spring blooming shrubs, however.

Another chore that can be done in March is applying dormant oils to trees. Dormant oils are intended to control certain insects and related pests that overwinter on the bark, including scale, aphids, and mites. Keep in mind dormant oils do not control most other pests or any diseases. Read and follow label directions, including allowing enough time for the spray to dry before freezing temperatures occur.

Most other pesticides should not be applied in March. For example, it's too early for weed killers (herbicides). Wait until perennial weeds such as quackgrass or dandelions have resumed active growth. For preemergence herbicides, such as crabgrass preventers to be put on the lawn, it's also too early. Crabgrass will not begin germinating until much later, when soils have warmed up considerably.

Just about every year, March is the wrong time for working soils. Unless the soil has thoroughly dried out, working it in March is a big mistake. Soils worked when they are too wet may be damaged for the entire season.

Likewise, March is generally too early for fertilizing plants. Lawns should not be fertilized so early, wait until the grass resumes growing and preferably has been mowed a few times. If conditions warm quickly and the soil thaws, trees and shrubs could be fertilized, but April would be a better choice.

The bottom line on most March yard care: Wait until later!


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