With seed catalogues poured over for months, some planning, whether on paper or mentally, and a few starts and stops because of the unpredictable weather, March is finally the month to get outdoors and get things done. There are a few things that can be planted outside during the later days of the month, provided the soil is ready. But most of March is taken up with preparing the ground, trimming and watching for signs of life in perennials, and perhaps some surprise appearances by annuals who have obligingly seeded down.
It’s a cold and wet month in the garden, but the spring sun heralds impending summer, which is in some ways easier on the gardener than fall. However, if you’re like me, you’ll have enjoyed the slow pace of winter, eaten a few too many sweets and not be quite ready for the shoveling, weeding and warmth of the sun—which can, even at 50ºF, seem like a heat wave. I break my month up into four sections.
- The first week or so I inspect the ground, make of few notes, sift through notes and plans from other years and generally drink lots of tea indoors while planning out my year in full outdoors. There’s nothing quite like strong tea on a chilly and damp spring day.
- The next week or so I start digging, if the soil is not too wet. I just dig where I am planning in the near future. Some gardeners put a ground cover on and wait until later in the spring to dig. I often mix into the soil leaves, compost and mulch in the late fall, which is turned in spring. However, I do have several methods I use, including a no dig method, which is great for the back.
- The third week or so involves indoor seeds. This is when I start the bulk of my seeds. However, some seeds, like onions are started in the winter months.
- Usually seeds that like cold weather can be sown in the last week or so. These include cold-loving plants, like broad beans, peas, cabbage, lettuce and beets. If you’re eagle-eyed, you may notice a few hills in the dirt from my March photo. I tucked some potatoes in and hoped for the best. It’s always good to experiment in the garden. Not everything works, but then again, you’ll have some pleasant surprised throughout the years.
Sometimes the thought of spring can make us race through the month of March, getting ahead in both prepping the garden and planting. It might be nice to have a perfectly clear template to plant on but chances are you’ll kill of some lovely volunteers and the weeds will come back before you can plant out the whole garden.
I try to use up old seeds that may or may not come up—saving my new seeds for better weather conditions. I also try to be patient and wait to see if anything seeded down or survived the winter. Why dig up a patch where cilantro grew last year if there’s a possibility that in a short while scores of little seedlings will voluntarily jump up? It may be my imagination, but they do seem hardier that way. This is where the no dig method of adding compost to the soil is beneficial. I would still wait to see what comes up and add compost around plants. You might even wait until April for this dressing.