by Connie Oswald Stofko
It’s disappointing, but we all need to do what we can do to slow the spread of COVID-19.
But here is good news: Spring is arriving on March 19. The weather seems to be getting milder. And there are actually some gardening activities you can do now!
I’ll list gardening tasks I can think of. Please share your ideas by leaving a comment below!
Take a walk in your yard
Have you been in your yard since you finished raking last fall? Did anything get damaged? What plants are sprouting? Notice the birds you might not have seen in awhile. Clean up trash that has blown into your yard. Pick up sticks. You may find that you have lots of things to do.
Start a garden journal
Are your daffodils and hyacinths usually farther along by now? And those things in the corner– are they plants or weed?
Keeping observations about your garden in a journal can help you with questions like these.
See how this Cheektowaga gardener keeps track of his plants.
If your soil is thawed, you can do some weeding. The ground is probably still soft, so don’t step on it. If you do, you can compact the soil, which is bad for the plants. If you have garden beds along a driveway, sidewalk or path, pull whatever weeds you can reach.
Whoops! Don’t rake
UPDATE: I had originally suggested you could rake now, but Pamela A. Moore, Master Gardener, let me know that raking in March could harm bees.
She cites the article “Bring Back the Bees” on the US Fish and Wildlife Service website site that states: “Because most queens overwinter in small holes on or just below the ground’s surface, avoid raking, tilling or mowing your yard until April or May. If you do need to mow, do so with the mower blade set at the highest safe level.”
“In my Master Gardener class we were told to avoid raking until we ACTUALLY observed bees flying about,” Moore said. “Other sources state that there should be no raking until there have been SUSTAINED temperatures above 50 degrees. Personally, I follow the temperature guidelines combined WITH observation. That is the best way to know that you are not unintentionally disturbing the queen bees that spend the winter in small holes ON or just below the surface.
“I applaud spending time outside as we all spend more time home, but please let’s not contribute to the problem of a diminishing population of bees. Photography or observing your gardens, sketching and planning new gardens is a much better idea.”
Thanks for the information, Pamela Moore!
Get pansies and set them outside
Mischler’s Florist and Greenhouses will have pansies ready on the first day of spring, March 19.
You don’t even have to go to the garden center to buy them– Mischler’s will deliver!
You have to make a purchase of at least $30, and there is a delivery fee. Other things you can have delivered from Mischler’s are bonsai, houseplants, hanging baskets of indoor plants, succulent mini-gardens and fresh floral arrangements. See their delivery area here.
Pansies are a cool weather annual. They don’t mind cool temperatures and they can tolerate some frost.
It’s still a little early to plant them in the ground, but you can set a pot of pansies outside. If it looks like we’re going to get very cold temperatures, you can bring the pot inside.
Pre-order plants in Great Plant Sale
You can pre-order now, and the deadline to order is April 10.
Don’t put it off; some popular plants sell out early.
Re-conect your rain barrel
While there are some freezing temperatures in the extended weather forecast, it looks like there will be enough mild weather that you wouldn’t have to worry about the water in your rain barrels freezing. (If the water inside the rain barrel freezes, it expands and can crack the barrel.)
Order rain barrels, compost bins
Don’t have a rain barrel? You can order rain barrels and compost bins in the Erie County sale. It’s held in partnership with the Western New York Stormwater Coalition, the City of Buffalo and the Town of Wheatfield.
The deadline to order is May 1.
(If you buy the Earth Machine compost bin, I personally recommend you also get the rodent screen. It’s like a floor for the bin that keeps critters from digging their way into the compost.)
Start cool weather vegetables from seed
You can start seeds inside now for cool weather vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and lettuces.
It’s too early to start seeds indoors for vegetables such as tomatoes and peppers.
In this article, find out why starting your seeds too early is worse than starting them too late and get more details on cool weather vegetables.
Clean out your garage or shed
This is something you’re not going to want to do when the weather is gorgeous out, so you might as well do it now.
Get rid of things that are broken. Organize your pots and tools.
Walk around your neighborhood or in a park
You will feel less cooped up. I got a delightful surprise when I saw snowdrops in a neighbor’s front yard. (See the photo at the beginning of this article.) Delightful!
New York State will waive all park fees in state, local and county parks. Parks are open, but restrooms may be closed.
Remember to keep social distancing. You can stop and talk with people you meet, but you might want to keep a distance of three feet between you. UPDATE: Keep six feet apart. See more here.
If kids are using playground equipment, take appropriate precautions with wipes and hand sanitizer.
Read past articles
Browse through our past articles so you can:
- Plan your garden.
- Get inspiration from wonderful gardens on garden walks and Open Gardens.
- See how to deal with deer or other pests.
- Look at pretty pictures.
Share your ideas
What are your ideas for garden-related activities that we can do now?