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What To Expect In Early Spring At Your Garden Center

Man looking through Winters curtain for signs of Spring
Spring Is Almost Here

Early Spring Arrival

March is a swing month in the garden in the mid-Atlantic. It can be cold and rainy (snowy!), or we can have beautiful early spring weather. In the case of the latter, a couple of things happen. Garden center staff run around putting products on the shelves, muttering, “we aren’t ready, we aren’t ready.” Gardeners with spring fever flood into the garden center on the first nice Saturday looking for plants. People new to gardening are especially liable to be ahead of the season, looking for tomato plants and peppers.  Enjoy the early spring weather, but the reality is that there will be more cold nights. It only takes one or two to turn your sensitive plants to mush. So, what should you be looking for now (early March)?  First, Stephanie has her “March Garden Checklist” Calendar, and that is a handy reference.  Thinking in terms of the old Behnke Departments: Organization at other Garden Centers will be similar.

Garden Shop Filled With Everything You Need

Garden Shop is still the king in early March. You should be buying seed, lawn supplies, tools, fertilizers. March is a time to be cleaning up the garden, as long as the soil isn’t muddy. (Walking on/digging in wet soil compresses it, and it isn’t good for your soil, reducing its ability to drain.) Cut down overwintered perennials to make way for new growth. Apply deer repellents to your azaleas and anything else you have seen the deer feeding on. No reason not to keep the bird feeders going—my goldfinch feeder with Nyger seed is still going strong. If you plan on mulching later, no reason not to buy it now and store it in a dry place to apply once the soil warms up.

What Arrives In The Early Spring In Woody Plants (Trees and Shrubs)

Woody Plants: should find fruit trees at this point and other deciduous trees. Some needle-bearing evergreens. Early blooming shrubs like forsythia and winter jasmine are likely to be in stock, and PJM Rhododendron is an early bloomer. Deliveries of trees and shrubs are rolling in frequently in March, so if the garden center doesn’t have what you are looking for this weekend, it may be here the next. If you want hydrangeas, you should probably wait a few weeks as the foliage tends to emerge early in over-wintering greenhouses, and they often suffer cold damage at this time of the year.

Perennials Available In March For Your Garden 

Perennials: there isn’t much available this early. In a normal season in the DC region (using Behnke’s former garden centers as examples), it’s around the last week in March when availability really picks up. You should find hellebores, sedum, euphorbias, heuchera, hens and chicks, dianthus, achillea, catmint, and maybe some forced bulbs now. And some of what you find will be nubs above the soil and not showy. Full pots of perennials in heavy foliage or bloom have most likely been overwintered in cool greenhouses. You will need to keep an eye on them if frost is in the forecast and be prepared to cover them for the night with something to prevent contact with the night sky: a blanket or newspaper, burlap, or a cardboard box are possibilities.

Annuals For Early Spring Gardens 

Annuals: pansies are your best bet. You may also find some other cool tolerant annuals like dianthus or wallflowers.

Vegetables And Herbs For March 

Vegetables and Herbs Watch for cool-season vegetables to be available for a few weeks this month—cabbage, kale, collards, broccoli, lettuce. They should be planted soon. Warm-season vegetables should be planted after the last frost date. Start looking at the long-term forecast at the end of April. You may be able to plant then, although you don’t gain much by being early. Mother’s Day is a good rule of thumb. Heat lovers like peppers and basil, best to wait another couple of weeks after that. If planting by seed, follow the planting instructions on the package. Radishes and peas go in early, beans go in when the soil is warm.

Whimsical Garden Décor 

There is always something in season and available at Beyond Behnke’s Online Store.

Houseplants Everyday All Year Round

Houseplants: tropical foliage is great any time of the year, and the selection is terrific in March. But don’t plan on putting plants outdoors for a couple of months, unless it’s just to set them out for a few hours on a nice day (in the ’60s or above) or to wash the dust off the leaves. Remember that if you do this, put them in the shade to prevent sunburn.

pansy pansies

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. No-one has pansies like Behnke’s. You always had the best colors, best faces, and most heavily blooming. I will miss the Beltsville nursery so much.

    1. Everyone at Behnke’s misses everyone also! And your right! The faces were great. My grandfather once wrote an ad for the Washington Post. Bring Your Smiling Faces To See Our Smiling Faces! 🙂

  2. The newsletter is beautiful , very informative and offers from “beyond Behnke’s are excellent! However, nowhere in my plant shopping lifetime has anyone come close to providing the experience of walking into Behnke’s in Burtonsville!

    There was no way to visit that facility and not leave with something spectacular, one of a kind items and receive world class customer service!

    How does a plant lover find something close to what Behnke’s Burtonsville offered?

    There is a firm in Virginia, can’t recall the name. but I guess I will have to try them. Johnson’s is nice.

    Can you share any websites or anything to come close to Behnke’s?
    Thank you for all those years and the Beyond Behnke’s Newsletter

  3. WOW! Such a nice review! Thank you so very much. I think we were very blessed to have the best of the best working for us. It was so hard to decide to close almost 2 years ago now. Where has the time gone? The garden center in Virginia, I bet, is Merrifield. Orion from our Potomac and Beltsville locations and a man that pretty much can answer any question you might have worked at one of their locations. They have a few locations. Last Spring, my goal was to visit all the different local independent garden centers and write about them. But then COVID happened, and I could not go out and about. I am hoping to go this Spring, but we will see. That said, I am not sure where you live, but there are some really wonderful places. You should try Homestead Gardens in Davidsonville. Also, check out Patuxent Nursery in Bowie. Karen, our Perennial manager, works there! I love the Meadow Farms in Burtonsville, and I heard that Anita from annuals would be working there this Spring along with Greg from Woodies. There is Gray Goose in Laytonsville, where Randy from our Garden Shop is now working. I have not been there but have heard wonderful things from customers. Let’s see, of course, there are Johnsons but have you stopped in at American Plant in Bethesda? If you want to go around the Baltimore Beltway, check out Valley View Farms in Cockeysville. My grandparents were good friends with the owners way back when. Out near my neck of the woods in Western Howard County is Sun Nurseries. This is a small garden center that grows a lot of their own plants. A little further in Mt. Airy, on Runckles Road is Snells Greenhouses. They are a grower/ retailer and always have great quality as do the others. You should be able to google these garden centers but if you stop by please tell them your friends from Behnke’s say hello.

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