This Week In My Midwest Garden - March 23, 2012

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Mother Nature and my calendar are having a difference of opinion this year.  Although it's only the third week of March, my yard is absolutely showing signs of spring.  For me, the most reliable sign of winter's demise and Spring's debut is the return of migratory robins. This year, I saw my first robin of the season on about March 2nd. Now, three weeks later, the robins are singing, the worms are near the surface of the soil and evening temperatures have been in the 50's and even the 60's!

No matter what type of gardener you decide to become, the first thing that you need to know is what "Zone" you live in.  The USDA has put together a handy map of the entire United States and labeled it with  "Plant Hardiness Zones".  Knowing what zone you live in will tell you not only the proper time to plant but also which plants stand the best chance of survival in your area.  I live in Zone 5B.
You can find the USDA map here
 The next thing that I'd like you to be aware of is that I tend to do things earlier than what the USDA recommends for my area.  This in no way means that I am advocating that you follow my schedule nor is it a comprehensive list of things to be done.  Everyone's garden is different, everyone's style is different. I do, however, hope that you can use the information that I post here as a guide to some of what should be done and an approximate order of what gets done when. 

 What I did this week in the garden: Cut down and cleaned out!
  • Cut down the remaining ornamental grasses before the new growth appears.
  • When the forsythias are covered in yellow blooms, I prune the dead wood and winter burn from shrub rose bushes on a 45 degree angle away from the center of the plant and above the buds.
  • Pruned the dead wood from the hydrangeas.
  • Cleared the winter debris from perennial beds.
    • Notes:  I compost (more on that topic later in the season). I do NOT, however, compost sticks, weeds or any plant that I have had to dig out with a shovel due to the fact that it is invasive in my garden as I tend to use the compost early and don't want to risk re-introduction of these things into other areas of my garden.
  • Applied spring time lawn fertilizer.
    • Notes: I don't use Crab Grass Preventative. If you do, now is the time to apply it.  Crab grass is an annual grass which reseeds in the Autumn. Crab Grass Preventative puts down a barrier which stops that seed from germinating. It also stops ANY grass seed from germinating so don't over seed if you use this type of application. You should also NOT core aerate your lawn after putting applying crab grass preventative.
What's in Bloom this week:
Bradford Pear
Eastern Redbud
  •  Spring Flowering Ornamentals Including:
    •  Pear trees including Callery and Bradford
    •  Magnolia including Royal Star and Saucer
    •  Cercis Canadensis - Eastern Redbud
Early Tulip
  • Early Flowering  spring perennials and bulbs including:
    • Snow Drops
    • Early Tulips
    • Daffodils
    • Crocus
    • Hellebore (Lenten Rose)

That's it for this week! Next week: Garden Tools and The "dirt" about garden soil.

Here's to sunshine, warm weather, and hopefully a little rain!