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By Phyllis Both
Contributing Writer 

Sauk County Gardener


March 8, 2018

“I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden.” – Ruth Stout

Spring has sprung since the robins arrived early this year. They usually arrive around March 14. We may have an early spring this year and be able to get to our garden clean up early. I checked the frost layer and we have a long way to go before the ground thaws. Because of all the mulch I use, it will take a while longer. If you get out and about, check your perennial beds for roots heaved out from frost. Gently step down on any exposed roots and cover with mulch.

The last week in March should be a very busy week in the garden. If the ground is not frozen and is fairly dry, rake off last season’s mulch in the vegetable garden so the soil can be warmed by the sun. Remove any plant residue. It is also time to fertilize and cultivate established asparagus beds before the shoots pop-up. Add fresh kitchen scraps to your compost bin and give it a turn. The fourth week in March is time to start tomato seeds indoors. Research shows that seven-week old transplants produce earliest fruit and best overall results. You can also start peppers and broccoli.

If you plan on giving your established fruit trees a little fertilizer, wait until the buds swell. Use 1 ounce of actual nitrogen per year/age of tree. Do not exceed ½ pound per year. This is also a good time to apply fertilizer to grapes. March is also the best time to fertilize shade trees and evergreens. The rule of thumb for fertilizer on these on these trees is 16-8-8.

All of our yards have microclimates and if you’re observant you can see them this time of year. Things to look include where does the snow melt first? This could indicate that this is a warmer are on your land. You could grow zone 5 plants there and they would survive. If your garden is upland, it probably melts faster. If your garden is downhill, shady, or on the north side of the house, I would only plant very hardy zone 4B plants. Plants such as magnolias, forsythias, rhododendron, and some hydrangeas are best grown in microclimates. Look for sheltered area from the wind or put up a windbreak. The warmest areas are the south walls, fences, and slopes. I would avoid planting less hardy, early-blooming shrubs and trees in these locations because it may cause early bloom and then can be damaged by frost.

There will be a Master Gardener class held this fall if there is enough interest. Please call 608-355-3250 for details. Don’t forget the Get Ready, Get Set, Garden seminar on March 24 at the West Square Building. Find more information and a schedule at

Your questions are always welcome. Feel free to contact me at or at the Sauk County UW Extension Office at (608) 355-3250.


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