Brr! Longing for rain to come and clean up the dregs of snow and for warmer days. March has been pretty cold thus far, lots of nights with minus degrees. However, the sun is shining and that makes up for some of it, makes me feel better about the otherwise cooler weather as we near the first day of spring.
What am I working on this month?
Just like everyone else, this is a fun and busy time for me, lots of seeding and sowing going on and more so when the weather warms up a bit. No reason to hurry the season along, there is no messing with Mother Nature.
I tend to prefer direct sowing as much as possible, rather than pre-starting everything in the greenhouse. I’m not a fan of using my valuable greenhouse space, additional heating, more plastic containers for seeds that can just be tossed into the garden to happily do their own thing.
I totally get that this is not for everyone, some people are itching to get going, sowing all kinds of stuff indoors, filling up counter tops, dining tables, bath tubs … If that brings you joy, you should totally do that : )
So, what do I tend to direct sow straight into the garden in March?
Broad Beans and peas, of course : ) Both are super easy and cold tolerant. This year, am planting some lovely tall shelling peas called Alderman Tall Telephone. I want them to grow on super tall vines that fill up the trellis rather than bunching up at the bottom. Also going to grow some snap peas … for when I don't feel like shelling them.
All the hardy greens, like spinach, kale, mustard, and lettuce. They will come up in their own good time, even if sown while it is still cool outside. Do nothing kind of seed starting : )
Radishes -I mean, radishes are just about the best thing ever. I love to slice them up, salt them a bit to get rid of the heat, drain, add in cucumbers and onions, toss with a light vinaigrette. Yummy!
Rutabaga. I have not grown rutabagas in years, but I always miss them in the fall, lightly roasted. Time to get these back in the garden.
Start Indoors Now …
I already have onions, leeks, peppers, artichokes, and strawberries started in the greenhouse. If you want to grow these from seed and have not yet done so, they can still be started now.
Tomatoes - I am itching to get going on these, is so hard to hold off as I love my tomatoes, but they will get started between mid and end month.
The peppers are already up and ready for transplanting, but I will start a few more this month, varieites that I just got the seeds for. Peppers can take a long time to germinate, especially the hots, so try to get yours started as soon as you can.
Trying to decide if I want to pre-start broccoli and cabbage or just toss in the seeds as the soil warms up. Either way will work just fine. Super excited to grow Napa Cabbage this year as I want to try my hand at making my own Kimchi.
Herbs like chives, fennel, mint, oregano, thyme … most all herbs can be started now, but not basil! Basil really hates cold wet feet, wait till next month to start. The ones that can be direct sown, like dill and cilantro, are best to wait till end month.
Just as with the veggies, I tend to prefer seeds that I can just toss into the beds and forget about rather than fussing with them in the greenhouse. .
Need more gorgeous Earl Grey Larkspur into the perennial flower bed in my food garden. This bed is chock o block full of easy to grow, drought tolerant blooms to feed pollinators and entice beneficial insects and birds to the garden. Organic pest control plus feeding the bees. Earl Grey has grey-blue dainty looking flowers on long stalks, is part of the delphinium family without the powdery mildew issues. Renee’s Garden Seeds sells seeds for double flowering larkspur, called Singing the Blues, that I will also toss in for a lovely mix of blue spikes growing in and around the golden rudbeckia.
As soon as they snow melts (again) is time to toss in hardy annuals like cosmos, ammi, and calendula seeds throughout the beds. I know that calendula self sows readily, but I love all the different hues and types, it is easy to grow and adds early colour and blooms to the food garden. There are more hardy annuals that can be direct sown, but they are not for this month, need a bit more heat yet.
Sweet peas can be sown this month, too, if you did not plant them in late fall last year.
Some seeds take longer and need to be pre-started. I have my fancy pansies on the go and will start some heirloom marigolds, too. The heirloom types are taller with single blooms and have circus striping, are super pretty.
Dahlias and other bulbs can be picked up at the nurseries and box stores now as tubers. Take them home, pot them up, and then pop them into the garden in May, after all threat of frost is over.
Lilies are super hardy though, you can plant the bulbs in the garden at any time of the year that you can chip a hole in the ground.
Soil - Feed your soil if you did not do so in fall, or if it needs extra tlc. A layer of compost or manure on the beds will never go amiss at any time of year, it helps to feed the soil life (the earthworms, the microorganisms, the soil bacteria, all that teeming life under our feet).
The secret to a great organic garden and great garden success is all in the soil. Do not cheap out when it comes to your soil. Save by making sides out of scraps, rocks, bricks, bottles, or nothing at all. Mounded beds are great, too, make flat and wide mounds to plant into (see the picture above). Go to seed swaps, exchange plants and seeds with friends, save where you can… but not on the soil.
Buy or build the best soil that you possibly can. This time of year I start to get lots of questions on where to get the best soil from. Okay, the question is usually... 'where can I get the cheapest dirt?' I then tell them that if they want cheap, dirt is all they are going to get. Soil costs more as it actually grows great food.
Cheap will not give you successful gardens, you will spend so much money amending your soil that you might as well have spent the money up front on good soil to begin with.
Starting from scratch? Get soil from a reputable local supplier. do not find the cheapest one out there, look for the supplier with the best name, reputation, and check out the soil.
Did you inherit old, neglected beds with poor soil? Organic matter is the answer. Manure or compost is best and easiest, any kind of manure is fine, though I like chicken best. Adding leaves, leaf mould, home compost, grass clippings, anything organic that breaks down to feed the soil is great. If you are a no-dig gardener, as I am, add it on top of your soil, if you are still on the fence about no-dig, gently fold it in with a garden fork. Do not rototill, that has long been proven to be very detrimental to your soil.
Need more nutrients yet? Blood and bone meals are available in bulk or boxes and add nutrients to the soil very quickly for results this year. Buy a few bags of manure and add the meals to the manure, spread this mix onto your beds, or dig in. Bloodmeal is nitrogen, bonemeal is phosphorous. If you need potassium, kelp meal or rock phosphates are great. Garden centres will often sell these in bulk while box stores will sell them in boxes or bags.
Other garden tasks…
I am also still working on weeding out this horrible Hairy Bittercress, also known as the Snapping or Popping weed, as it snaps it’s seeds far and wide when disturbed. One weed soon becomes hundreds.
The snow put a halt to my pruning of fruit trees and roses, so am trying to get those all done before they leaf out and the sap is flowing.
Chitting potatoes.. this simply means leaving them in a warm spot to grow sprouts. It helps them to grow faster, produce a bit sooner.
Not the prettiest photo by far, still have to sweep the floors and take out the clippings… but is time to prune back your over-wintered geraniums. Use the trimmings to start new plants or just keep the mother plants, as I have done.
Cutting back the geraniums gives you bushier plants in summer and more blooms. If you do not trim them, they will be tall and lanky and thus have less flowers, as well.
For a how-to on rooting in cuttings, see the post from my old blog HERE!
GARDEN FARMERS MARKETS
Here at the nursery each Sunday in April and a good part of May, too, from 10 till about 2 or 3 pm, have not quite decided the end time as of yet.
At these markets you will find…
ANNUAL FLOWERS - basket stuffers, 6 packs, geraniums, begonias, cannas, all kinds of flowers for your baskets, planters, and garden beds. They are all from a local grower who is completely BEE-SAFE, she uses no neonicitinoids so our birds and bees are SAFE!
COOL SEASON VEGGIE STARTS - all the early veggies that like cooler temps, like kale, spinach, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, artichokes, etc… Organically grown by a local grower.
WARM SEASON VEGGIE STARTS - my organically grown heirloom tomatoes, peppers, cukes, zukes, and more.
ASPARAGUS - I will also have asparagus roots, nice big Jersey Knights, just like last year… and I will tell you how to plant them for success!
PRE-ORDER - You can also pre-order your tomato and pepper starts and pick up in May. I have the list of peppers HERE! but do not yet have the tomato list up. That will be up in about 2 weeks time.