Tuesday, March 3, 2009
By all appearances, nothing has changed. A quick glance over the landscape shows the same barren brown stumble we've seen for the last four months. But take a closer look and you'll find swelling buds and green spears poking out of the earth. Each day brings us closer to spring, even though snow and ice may still be in the forecast this month. And, you know, I really like March. It may be a brown teaser with balmy days interspersed with blizzards, but it also heralds a new season, a blank canvas just bursting with possibilities! For the optimistic, the visions of what could be, are often more exciting then the reality!
Here is some of the garden tasks for this month. (Remember, this is written for my zone 6, which may need adapted for where you live.)
1. Purchase seeds
If you haven't already purchased your seeds by mail order, nurseries and garden centers are setting up their seed displays. With the slowed economy, high seed sales are predicted, so buy your seeds early. I recently heard of one seed company who has already sold 30 percent more seeds this year then last year!
2. Prepare your garden soil
Beautiful, healthy dirt makes beautiful healthy plants. If you've never taken a soil test, you may consider doing one this year. A layer of compost, an application of lime, or other fertilizer in early spring may have a huge impact on your garden's productivity this year. If you plan to begin a new flower or garden bed, now is the time to till and amend the soil.
Reading about garden soil and the elements that are needed for plant growth is rather confusing to me. I still have a lot to learn about plant nutrition. But from my understanding, nearly any garden soil can be improved with added compost. Lime can also be hugely beneficial, unless you are growing acid loving plants. Especially in perennial beds, where bark mulch is added regularly, lime is needed. I know less about other fertilizers and garden amendments. I really enjoyed this article by Steve Solomon and may try his simple fertilizer recipe.
3. Draw up a garden plan
Spend a few minutes planning can save some grief later. I want to write more about crop rotation in the future. But for now, just think about what you planted last year and remember to plant the same vegetable in a different area of the garden this year. This will help halt the spread of disease and insect pests.
4. Plant early vegetable seeds
As soon as the garden is dry enough to be worked, I like to plant the early vegetable crops. Peas, potatoes, onion sets, and lettuce are some of the earliest. In our area, I've heard the old timers say that St Patrick's Day (March 17) and Good Friday (April 10 this year) are the perfect potato planting days. Which date is best is for you to decide! I just pick a dry day that is suitable for my husband to help!
Last year we had such great success in planting late potatoes that we have decided to only plant a few in early spring and wait until June to plant our main crop. I am hoping to do better at planting a fall garden. With the growing appetites in our family, we are consuming far more food. Extending our garden later in the fall has really helped stretch our canned and frozen veggies. The key for me is remembering to plant a late row of beans, etc in July when seed planting is not top on my mind. I also need to buy enough seeds for the second planting since garden seeds and seed potatoes are impossible to find in the middle of summer! If a little extra planning can save me from freezing and canning extra produce, it is certainly worth it! And fresh vegetables are better for us anyway!
5. Start indoor seeds
Tomatoes, peppers and flowers should be started soon to be set out when the danger of frost is past. If you have cold hardy plants such as broccoli, cabbage and lettuce started, they can be moved to a cold frame or planted in a protected area. Some people plant them in their garden and protect with row cover, hoop house or milk jugs.
6. Clean up flower beds
Unless you did this in the fall, cut back old perennial foliage, rake out the leaves and remove the garden debris from around the emerging spring blooming bulbs. If you have some homemade compost available, apply a thin layer over the soil, avoiding the crowns of the perennials. Plant some early pansies, sit back, and enjoy the spring show! If we have a warm spell and perennials such as hosta begin to emerge, dividing the plants early will make the job less difficult and give you new plants to fill in any gaps!
Wow! I'm getting excited about March! Too bad that I can barely bend over, stooping puts me into a contraction, and I have the energy level of a slug! Oh well, I know it will all be worth it come April!