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A multitude of changes in March.

March is a month of transition -- actually, numerous transitions. On a good day noontime has the feel of mid-April and 12 hours later the cold, the wind and more than a hint of snow in the air sends us a message that February is back for a revisit. However, the daylight is clearer, brighter and provides reasons to hope that winter is finely fading away.

In spite of layers of ice persisting in shady locations and mountains of plowed snow that are only slowly sinking, temperatures in the high 40 and mid-50s with a cloud-free sky and a welcome sun call homeowners into our yards ready to do -- what?

We would like to erase the sight of the rag-tag ends of winter. There is nothing attractive in the debris left by the winter season, and much work needs doing to erase the wounds of winter. Yet the ground remains frozen and where the soil isn't frozen, it's soggy and saturated. When the ground frost surrenders to thawing ground, the snow and ice will turn to water and drain away, leaving us with dry soil that can be worked.

That effort will include a vigorous raking to remove litter, a brooming of walk and drive edges to sweep the sand from the grass to allow the sand to be removed from sight. That raking or power raking is the best treatment for the snow molds that had been living under the snow and ice. There are various chemicals used to control the Typhula blight and patch, both common diseases that are common to highly maintained turf in our area. Put together cold, wet weather, prolonged snow and ice cover, and high levels of nitrogen fertilizer and you can expect to see pink and gray snow molds.

The severe raking will break up the matted molds, remove the dead grass blades and allow the sun to stimulate healing. Depending on the severity of disease damage done to the grass, over seeding with a grass seed blend will assist recovery. Should you be fertilizing at this time? No. Lightly lime but save the fertilizer until later. The grass will green on the basis of warmth and light. Allow the lawn to work its own way out of dormancy.

Prepare several containers or a section of ground to start the cold-tolerant vegetables. Garden peas, onions, cabbage, rhubarb and leeks can be started. If you feel lucky sow short rows of broccoli, lettuce and spinach. If the return of winter destroys them, you have only lost a few seeds. Planted today, perhaps St. Patrick will keep his eye on them.

Normally, we should be working our way through our pruning lists. The ornamental grasses should be cut back to about 6 inches and divided, if needed. Prune fall-flowering shrubs at this time to shape and control their development.

Wait for new growth to show (buds swell and color) before pruning buddleia, Perovskia (Russian Sage), sage and lavender. Inspect groundcover beds, roses and hostas for damage caused by the winter feeding of voles. Repair as required. Lime the clematis. Enjoy your time in the landscape, just don't overdo.
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Title Annotation:Living
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Mar 16, 2014
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