Monday, March 9, 2015

March Garden Plans

 I was so glad to see the arrival of March.

February brought record low temperatures here. Some winters we get cold weather, but usually it does not last long. But this year we had morning after morning for weeks of frigid temperatures. I don't think I ever remember so many mornings that registered in the negative digits.

But March began with yet more snow. The photos here were taken on March 6. You can see my grapevine that did not get pruned in February and the garden in front of it certainly did not warm up and dry out yet.

I am grateful for the large windows that bring in lots of light on these snowy days. Since this room faces our backyard, Ed persuaded me to not hang any drapes. I am so glad for every bit of light in the winter.

I actually enjoy snow. If it is going to be cold, it might as well snow imo. Since I don't need to go anywhere and my shelves are still full of the garden produce from last year, I can enjoy being holed up indoors. But after a while...when Legos, puzzles, and playdough has lost its appeal and is replaced with jumping off the couch, pestering your sister, and fighting with your brothers - then I'm ready for the snow to melt.

But there is hope. Snow doesn't stay long in March. Today the temperature reached the fifties. We plowed through our schoolwork quickly and rushed outdoors to take advantage of the warmth. I even hung out some laundry and pruned those grapevines. March may tease us with yet more snow and cold, but the swelling buds herald that spring is coming.

Here is some of the garden tasks for this month
in my zone 6 garden.

1. Prepare garden soil

Beautiful, healthy dirt makes beautiful healthy plants.
This is the time of year that I like to add a layer of lime and unload my compost pile into the garden. Of course, it is going to be a while until it dries out enough so that I can walk in the garden so it might be April before I can actually get into my garden. If you've never taken a soil test, you may consider doing one this month.

2. Draw up a garden plan

I jotted down a few notes but I want to make a more detailed plan. I look at my past records so that I don't plant the same plant in the same place for at least two years. Crop rotation will help halt the spread of disease and insect pests.

3. 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, onions, spinach, and lettuce are some of the earliest. In our area, I've heard the old timers say that St Patrick's Day (March 17) is the time to plant peas and Good Friday (April
3 this year) is the perfect potato planting day. But I will just pick a dry day that is suitable for my husband to help.

4. Start indoor seeds

Tomatoes, peppers and flowers should be started in early March 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 this month. I sometimes plant these cold hardy plants in the garden and protect with row cover, hoop house or milk jugs.

I started a few cold hardy plants in February. I often wonder why I bother starting plants as I can buy nicer plants at a greenhouse in a few weeks. But in February I long to get my hands in the dirt so I amuse myself by starting a few seeds. But I don't have a good place to start seeds—like a good light—so I won't attempt to start tomatoes.

Here is my super simple method.

I fill old plant packs with soft potting soil and place the packs in an old cake pan.

I gently place one seed in each tiny pot and dust a little soil over it.

I pour water in the cake pan (not the plant packs) so the soil will absorb the water without disturbing the seeds.

With tape and a marker, I label the sides of the pan. I have found that if I use sticks, they often fall out or get moved.

I cover the pans with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place (the top of my refrigerator.) The goal is a nice warm humid environment.

When the seeds sprout (which took three days for me) remove the plastic wrap and sit them in the sun.

My only convenient spot is a wide windowsill in my basement. This is a sunny spot and next to my washing machine so I can keep an eye on it every day.

5. Clean up flower beds

Already I see a few emerging spring blooming bulbs. Soon I will pull back the mulch, clear out any weeds that I missed last fall, and cut back any perennials. As the perennials sprout out, I like to divide any that need it as soon as possible to reduce the stress to the plants. I may add some compost around the plants as well. I might add some pansies for some extra spring cheer.

6. Start sweet potato plants.

I haven't planted sweet potatoes for several years because they take up so much room—which we never have an abundance of in our garden. But I do love sweet potatoes so I'm going to try to find a spot this year, even if it means giving up something else.

I wrote about starting sweet potato plants from a sweet potato several years ago—and strangely is it the most popular post I've ever written. Year round, that post has hundreds of readers every week. Who would have thought?

Anyway, I plan to put a sweet potato into water this week to get a start on sweet potato plants. If I can't find the garden space I can probably find some other gardener who will appreciate the plants. If nothing else, the children can have the fun of watching the sprouts emerge from the sweet potatoes.

Are you excited about March? What are your garden plans?

For more garden information, see my Garden Page.


  1. My grandmother used to have sweet potato plants in her room when she lived with us in my childhood. I remember the endlessly long, tangled vines around the windows. If I can remember to stop at an Indian grocery, I'll pick up a sweet potato or two and grow some vines myself. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. I am glad you have your family room addition to enjoy. We added a 4 season room last year and it is well used. We are zone 4 so I have not done much yet as far as the garden. My oldest girl who lives next door has taken over the gardens. We have a green house attached to my husbands work shop and she has put up hoop houses, too. She eventually plans to garden year round.

    We played outside no matter how cold it was. You just dress right. We had multiple days this year of -35 F or so windchills and the schools were not cancelled. Do you have a pond on your property for skating and ice fishing? We do and the children would be out there for hours. There is a "camping" area next to it with a fire pit and grill and they would take food out to cook. We did the same thing growing up as this was my childhood home too.

    Cross country skiing is an easy winter sport to get the children out. We didn't when we were younger but we did for our children. We'd buy used skiis and go to ski swaps so we always had mix and match skis and pole and boots that hopefully fit them and friends. They all still ski.

    Crop rotation is important. I hear so many people complain about poor tomatoes and when asked, they say no, they plant their tomatoes in the same spot every year. Well, happy garden planning and dreaming. Sounds like a good reason to sit in your sun room several times a day, a least.

    1. We don't have a pond on our property - though my children sure wish we did. Our winters here are not normally cold enough to have long season of cold to have good ice for skating. We might have a week or two. But this winter was colder than usual. I've never tried cross country skiing. Sounds fun.

      Happy Garden Dreaming,

    2. They always say if you can walk you can cross country ski. It is pretty simple as long as you stay on relatively flat ground. You can do up and down hills but that takes some tricks and more effort.

  3. Sounds like you are on top of your garden plans. I have roughly laid out what I am going to put where but that is about it. I have heard of the St. Patrick's day for planting peas so I tried it last year. Out of over 200 seeds I only got 11 plants. Even in NC I think it is still a little too early and a little too cold mid March. This year I am going to plant them either the last week of March or on Good Friday. Happy gardening!

  4. I don't think I've ever had peas in that early. Our garden lays low and takes a long time to dry enough to plant. But sometimes I think that planting too early doesn't have much advantage when the ground is too cold for the seeds to sprout anyway.

  5. Gina, as usual, you are my motivation!!! I cannot wait for planting!!!!
    Good luck with gardening and hopefully the perfect weather will arrive soon!!!

  6. Hi Gina,
    I was wondering if you have any preference over buying treated vs untreated seeds. I've never really paid attention to that before - we just have a small plot for fresh eating mainly. We live in Canada - zone 4. Sometimes very dry, sometimes very wet. Any advice?
    Thanks either way!

    1. I'm not strictly organic though I do try to avoid chemicals in my garden. But I often buy treated seeds since they are more readily available and I do think they grow well. I figure the chemical on those seeds is very minimal and not on the actual food I eat.


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