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

Most Yard and Garden Work Must Wait

March 11, 1999

Although the weather bounces back and forth between spring and winter, as spring advances many people get the urge to start working out in the yard and garden. Unfortunately, it’s still too early for most activities. Plants and the soil are probably not ready.

Now 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. Much of our area has lots of clay soil, which adds to the problem.

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.

One chore that can be done as weather allows you to get outside now is pruning. Apples were discussed here a few weeks ago, and there are many other trees and shrubs that could be pruned this month. 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 before trying to control them with herbicides. It’s also suggested to wait until well into April before applying preemergence herbicides for crabgrass control in our lawn.

There may be some warm days, but the bottom line on most March yard care is to wait until later!


Click here for the full article index