A Nod to March
Margaret Murphy, Horticulture Educator & Regional Food Coordinator serving Lyon, O’Brien, Osceola and Sioux Counties
March is one of my favorite times of year. It’s the time we begin the transition from winter to long-awaited spring. If we are lucky, March brings with it the reappearance of robins and sneak peeks at early spring bloomers. These are the flowers that bravely poke their head up out of the chilled ground to add a bit of cheer to the landscape. One of the first flowering bulbs to emerge is the common snowdrop with its dainty white flower. Another to keep an eye out for is the winter aconite that displays a buttercup-like yellow flower. Several species of crocus too can pop up through melting snow to add a splash of yellow, blue or purple color. (If you don’t have these early blooming bulbs in your landscape, consider adding them next fall.)
March also offers us the opportunity to head outdoors on those welcomed days with above freezing temperatures and spend a little time out in the landscape. For those of you missing your backyard, March is a good time to get a little spring pruning done.
If you grow summer and fall-bearing raspberries, now is a good time to prune them. Remove all weak, diseased, or damaged canes at ground level leaving the most vigorous canes. Also, prune out any cane tips that have died due to winter injury. If you’re looking for detailed information on how to prune raspberries, Iowa State University (ISU) Extension and Outreach has a handy guide that can be downloaded for free online at https://store.extension.iastate.edu/product/5733.
Grape growers too will want to head out to prune grapevines between now and early April. Prune grapevines every year to get maximum yield and to allow for adequate vegetative growth for the next season. If pruning grapevines seems like a daunting task, take a look at ISU Extension’s publication Pruning Grapevines – it will help get you started.
If you’re thinking about adding grapes to your landscape this spring, we also have a publication called Growing Grapes in the Home Garden filled with great information on what cultivars grow well in Iowa, when and where to plant, and how to care for your vines.
Many shade trees and ornamental shrubs can be pruned now as well as. For more in-depth information on pruning times and techniques, see publications Pruning Trees: Shade, Flowering, and Conifer and Pruning Ornamental Shrubs.
These listed publications are also available through your local county extension office.
While you’re outside pruning, cut a couple of young, healthy branches from a favorite spring-flowering tree or shrub. Place them in a vase for forcing blooms indoors and enjoy some early springtime color. Try it with crabapple, flowering quince, red twig dogwood, honeysuckle, forsythia, lilac, or mock orange.