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March is month for cole crops

Sowing cole crops, planning your vegetable garden rotation, and pruning woody plants are some of the gardening activities to plan for the month of March.

Start seeds of cole crops, including broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower indoors under lights. You'll have transplant-sized plants in about 6 weeks, ready for planting outdoors a few weeks before the average last spring frost date.

To get a jump on the herb gardening season, start seeds of basil, parsley, sage, and thyme indoors. Start seeds in flats filled with moistened seed-starting mix. Once the seeds germinate, place the plants under grow lights for 14 hours a day (timers make this easy) and keep soil moist.

As you begin planning and planting your vegetable garden beds, remember to rotate crops: Avoid planting crops in the same family in the same spot more than once every three years. Tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant are in the same family; so are squash, cucumbers, and pumpkins. Many pests and diseases overwinter in the soil, so moving plants around can disrupt their life cycles and minimize your need for pest and disease controls.

Most trees and shrubs are best pruned in late winter, after the coldest weather has passed. The exceptions are spring-flowering shrubs, such as forsythia, lilacs and azaleas, which should be pruned immediately after flowering. You can remove dead or damaged branches at any time.

Cut branches of forsythia, quince, pussy willow, and other early-flowering shrubs for forcing into early bloom. Bring the branches indoors and place in a vase of water. They should bloom in a few weeks. Once pussy willows reach their peak, remove them from the water and allow them to dry; they'll continue to look great in dried arrangements.

Plant begonia tubers in containers to get an early start. Plant them hollow-side-up in well-drained potting soil. Set them in a warm (70 degrees F) location and keep the soil moist but not soggy. Once you see growth, usually in 3 or 4 weeks, place the pots in bright, indirect light. Wait to plant outdoors until all danger of frost is past.

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