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Spring Gardening: March Garden Checklist Zones 1-3

The winter chill has yielded frozen ground, a blanket of snow, and some hibernation for many in Zones 1-3, but the hope of spring is inching forward for gardeners. Growers in these regions of the country are likely eager to see the soil and do some planting, but it’s not quite time for outdoor planting. Make the most of your March garden and put your green thumbs to good use with garden planning, tool assessment, and indoor growing opportunities.

As days become longer and the directional light starts to change, March may come in like a lion but hopefully out like a lamb and you’ll be able to get outside and plunge your hands in the dirt.

As thoughts of harvests and blooms fill your head, peruse our March Garden Checklist Zones 1-3 for valuable information on all you can do in your garden this month to ensure a robust and healthy garden this year.

gardening tools on wooden table

Visit Your Local Extension Office

  • Soil Test: Obtain a sample of your soil and bring it to your local garden extension office or nursery for a soil test before planting time arrives. Experts can help you identify the quality of your native soil and provide recommendations for amending.
  • Before going to your local extension office or nursery, brainstorm some questions ahead of time. Bring along your garden journal and as you ask gardening questions, jot down suggestions and expert advice.
  • Find out about native plants and what grows best in your region.

Spring Garden Planning

There are still many cold and rainy days ahead where you can keep working on your garden planning in Zones 1-3.  Keep your garden journal close at hand and dream of warmer days and fruitful gardens.

  • Grab some new gardening magazines and books. Scour your favorite gardening websites for ideas and tips.
  • Use your sketched-out garden design plans and dream boards to figure out where your future plants and seedlings will go.
  • Chart seed and plant varieties, making a note of their planting specifications, days to germinate and maturity, and keep notes about what worked well and what was not quite as successful. This chart will help you plan from year to year by knowing when to sow seeds, plant with optimal spacing, when you can expect blooms, and when to harvest your plantings.
  • If pests or diseases were a problem for you last season, it is a great time to research companion plants and spacing provisions to protect and boost your plants’ productivity.
  • Decide what you still need to fill unoccupied spaces in your garden beds.
  • Use your garden planting charts to guide you on what to plant and when, so you will be ready for planting when warmer temperatures roll in.
  • Construct your new raised beds, trellises, and other garden structures indoors for later placement.

Garden Tools and Supplies Assessment

Spring will be here before you know it, so it is worth repeating on our March Garden Checklist Zones 1-3 that your garden tools should be at the forefront of your mind. If you haven’t done so already, be sure that you assess your tools for sharpening and cleaning needs.  The lawnmower should receive a fluid change as well. It’s best to get all of your gardening supplies in tip-top shape so that when spring rolls in, you are fully prepared for yard and garden work, so you do not have any setbacks.

Check your tools for disrepair signs, tune-up and thoroughly clean and sanitize, sharpen blades, and oil up moving parts. These steps will give you confidence for a strong start to the garden season. It is also essential to keep your garden free from diseases that may have plagued your garden last season.

  1. Start by using steel wool or a metal grill brush to clean any debris off your garden tools.
  2. Wipe surfaces with a damp rag.
  3. Use coarse sandpaper to scuff away any signs of rust on metal surfaces.
  4. Dab vegetable oil onto a rag and wipe metal surfaces.
  5. Use a piece of sandpaper to slough away any rough or splintering spots on wooden handles.
  6. Wipe wooden handles down with a rag wet with linseed oil.

Stock Up On Supplies

Garden centers should be putting out this year’s gardening tools and supplies.  Peruse the aisles and snatch up some of the most sought out items on your list while the shelves are fully stocked.

  • If any tools were beyond repair, have gone missing, or you have longed to acquire, now is the time to do it!
  • Once you get your soil test results you can gather some of the amendments that you need to boost your soil’s performance.
  • If you haven’t shopped for seeds yet, you can be sure to have them on time by purchasing them at your local nursery or garden center-the same goes for seed starting supplies.

Spring Garden Maintenance

If you live in Zones 1, 2 or 3, you are still experiencing winter’s chill, so labor-intensive outdoor garden tasks in the backyard garden are reasonably light. The odds are high that snow insulates your garden beds as your perennials start to come out of their dormancy.

Spring Garden Pruning

Evergreen trees and shrubs can succumb to the weight of heavy snow.  Prune away winter damage before the new shoots of spring emerge. Remove any damaged branches from your plants, or you can tie the stems with twine to get them back in shape.

Dogwood with water droplets after a rain

Look for Signs of Spring

Take some time to assess what things look like outdoors. Take a walk around the yard and inhale the last few weeks of winter as you dream of the planting season.

  • If it has been a milder winter and some rain has washed away the snow from the soil, you may see some hopeful perennials popping up, or there may even be bulbs peeking through the snow! Snowdrops, daffodils, and rhubarb leaves may be emerging in some areas.  More than likely, you will have to wait a bit longer for these treasures, but the joy is in the hunt.
  • Don’t forget about the wildlife throughout the month of March. Fill up some bird feeders or hang some suet and watch the array of birds that flock to the feast. Attracting these colorful friends to the feeders will provide entertainment and joy as you await the milder days to come.
  • Avoid walking on your garden when the soil is saturated. Compressing the soil with weight will result in soil compaction, leading to a plethora of problems in the garden bed.

Indoor Gardening

Indoor planting can be a real pick me up, particularly for gardeners in colder climates who long to grow and nurture plants. Luckily, there are a plethora of unexpected ways to engage in indoor gardening.  Try some of these exciting growing opportunities that you may not have even thought of!

Growing Plants Under Grow Lights

While you won’t be able to plant outside for a little while longer, it is possible to bring your growing indoors by growing vegetables under grow lights and using warming mats.  Some quick to grow plants to get started with are lettuces, mixed greens, spinach, and herbs.  When you gain some confidence, try out more high-yielding plants.  Planting less plants with higher yields allows you to reap a plentiful harvest without taking up too much space indoors.

Starting Seeds Indoors

Before we discuss starting seeds indoors on our March Garden Checklist Zones 1-3, it is crucial to identify your growth zone’s last frost date.  This date varies with each zone and is just an estimation.  The last frost date is essential because this is how you will calculate what you can start planting indoors by counting the seed maturation days backward from the last estimated frost date so transplants will be ready for outdoor planting.

  • Zone 3 – The last frost date ranges from May 1 – 16
  • Zone 2 – The last frost date ranges from May 15 – 22
  • Zone 1 – The last frost date ranges from May 22 – June 4
Garden with wooden bench,bird feeder on the side table and stone goose in a winter landscape with snow.

Force Bulbs Indoors

You can force any bulb indoors. If you simply cannot wait until spring to see blooms, these flowers will make quite a show either planted in a pot of soil or a low dish of water and gravel or marbles.

  • Amaryllis
  • Narcissus
  • Daffodils
  • Tulips
  • Hyacinths

Force Branches Indoors

Consider pruning a few branches from some flowering shrubs and trees.  Make a clean cut and arrange the stems in a vase of clean water to force an early bloom.

These trees make great branch sources:

  • Forsythia
  • Dogwood
  • Magnolia
  • Pussy Willow
  • Flowering Fruit Trees

Propagate Succulents in Water

It can be fun to propagate succulent plants in water, and March is the perfect time to do it. Succulent plants can make a dent in your budget, as they can be quite expensive to purchase.  Creating new plants from cuttings by propagating succulents in water costs nothing, is relatively easy to do, and can be a fantastic way of growing your collection of succulent plants.  It also makes it easy to share your new plants with friends and family, spreading kindness and succulent joy.

Outdoor Planting in the March Garden

March still brings frozen ground, and temperatures are not conducive to outdoor planting in Zones 1-3. So, there is not much on the March Garden Checklist Zones 1-3 for outdoor planting.  If you are lucky enough to have access to a greenhouse or some cold frames, you may be able to try direct sowing certain cool-season crop seeds outdoors before the temperatures begin to rise in your grow zone. Use some trial and error to see what successes you have.

Winter Garden Harvest

Those in colder climates of Zones 1-3 won’t be harvesting this month unless you are growing plants indoors under grow lights.  But, not to worry, spring is only a few short weeks away.


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tools on wooden table
Snow on leaves

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