Caladiums from Zhanao.

March is ready, set…garden month in Hillsborough County. We are past the last chance of frost, local area gardening festivals are occurring and we can recycle and redesign our landscape beds.

If you have not completed most of your pruning, now is a good time to shape and reduce the size of landscape plants. Don’t prune Gardenias and Azaleas until after they have bloomed. For ornamental grasses, cut the stems to 4-12 inches above the ground, depending on the size of the clump.

Recycle your landscape clippings in your compost bin. If you are raking oak leaves, compost or use them as mulch in a landscape bed.

It’s a great time to mulch. Apply two to three inches of organic mulch to landscape beds and pull the mulch away from the stems of your plants. Mulch is a great landscape addition because it adds nutrients to the soil when it decomposes, retains soil moisture, regulates soil temperature, suppresses weed growth and is much prettier than sand.

Consider taking a soil sample to determine the pH in the area you want to plant. For more about soil testing, visit http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ss494. Soil testing for pH only is done at the office for $3 per sample.

Beans, corn, southern peas, winter squash, tomatoes, watermelon, cantaloupe, pumpkin and much more can be planted in March. If you like to grow your own herbs and spices, consider basil, chives, ginger, lemon balm, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage and thyme. Bulbs provide color, form and texture. Some bulb beauties are African Lily, Amaryllis, Blackberry Lily, Caladium, Crinum, Rain Lilies, Shell Gingers and Walking Iris.

Watch for lubber grasshoppers, aphids and mites. Lubbers can be ‘pruned’ in half, picked off the plant or thrown to the ground and stepped on. Who knew gardening was this dangerous…at least for Lubbers. Insecticidal soap sprays control aphids and mites if their natural predators (lady beetles, for one) don’t. Roses should be sprayed with a fungicide to control black spot and powdery mildew diseases.

o learn about the dos and don’ts of composting, sign up for a composting workshop offered one Saturday a month at the UF IFAS Extension Hillsborough County from February through November. View calendar of events at http://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/hillsborough/upcoming-events/.

Fertilize vegetables, perennials and palms. Check the Central Florida Gardening Calendar, http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep450, which provides information on what to plant and what to do month by month.

Also, view the Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide, http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/vh021, which provides information about the site, plan, soil preparation, adjusting the soil pH, fertilizing, irrigation and drainage, pest management, nonpesticide approaches, using pesticides wisely and lists the months during which vegetables can be planted.

Call 744-5519 or visit the UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County, 5339 CR 579 in Seffner for more information. Life is too short not to garden.