HELPING BATS AND OTHER MARCH GARDENING TIPS
Leonard Perry, UVM Horticulturist
and Charlie Nardozzi, Garden Consultant
Helping bats by installing a bat house, sowing seeds of arugula and other greens, and choosing and caring for Easter lilies, are some of the gardening activities for this month.
Bats are important to our ecosystems, particularly in catching
huge numbers of insects that damage our crops and gardens, as well
as those such as mosquitoes that carry diseases. Yet diseases and
human activities, which have killed off many or destroyed their
habitats, have made many endangered. You can help bring them back
by proper gardening practices, and by installing a bat house.
Bat houses are flattened wood boxes, open on the bottom, with
single or multiple roosting chambers. Height (12 feet or more off
the ground), location (on buildings is best, but poles can be
used), orientation (generally toward the east, away from
prevailing winds), and color (black to absorb heat in cold
climates) are all important considerations. You can learn more on
where to buy them, or how to build your own, from Bat Conservation
To get an early harvest of arugula and other greens, dig out a
large shallow container and sow some seeds. Grow them indoors
until the weather warms enough to put them outside during the day.
Keep cutting leaves from the outside of the plants to prolong the
harvest. Or you can sow seeds for a mesclun mix and cut off the
leaves when still young. They will regrow for another harvest in a
few weeks. Look for seeds to sow and grow quickly just for
When buying an Easter lily, look for a plant with flowers in
various stages of bloom from buds to open or partially opened
flowers. Foliage should be dense, rich green in color, and extend
all the way down to the soil line (a good indication of a healthy
root system). Look for a well-proportioned plant, one that is
about two times as high as the pot. You also should check the
flowers, foliage, and buds for signs of yellowing (improper
culture), insects, or disease.
At home, keep your lily away from drafts and drying heat sources
such as wood stoves or heating ducts. Bright, indirect light is
best with daytime temperatures of 60 to 65 degrees (F). Water the
plant only when the soil feels dry to the touch, but don’t
overwater. If the pot is in foil, make sure water doesn’t collect
and remain in the foil; this will keep the soil too wet.
To prolong the life of the blossoms, remove the yellow anthers
(pollen-bearing pods) found in the center of each Easter lily
flower. If you get this staining pollen on fabrics, don’t rub it
off, but remove it with sticky tape.
Probably the biggest gardening project for March is to start
transplants. Cabbage, broccoli, and other cole crops that can be
set out early in the spring, as well as slow-growing flower
varieties like verbena, pansies, and petunias, can all be started
this month. But wait until April to sow seeds for tomatoes,
peppers, eggplants, and most flower varieties that cannot be
transplanted until the danger of frost has past.
Warm days may tempt you into removing winter mulch but wait a bit
longer. We still could have snow and some very cold nights, and
plants still need protection. The freeze and thaw cycles of early
spring can damage plants that have survived a cold winter.
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