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If January is the month to get ready, set, and plan, then March is the month to start your engines to put that grand plan into action. March is one of the busiest months in the gardening calendar if you grow a vegetable garden or have cane fruit. There are many indoor jobs (starting many garden vegetables) as well as outdoor jobs (transplanting, pruning, fertilizing and spraying for disease).
March is also a month with dicey weather. It can be warm(er) and/or there can be lingering, icy blasts and plenty of rainy days. This year, we seem to be making up for our severe drought conditions all at once, with a very rainy winter. So, assemble your warm gear, pull on your waterproof boots and let’s head to the garden.
The traditional saying is “Plant peas by Presidents’ Day”, but March is when I prefer to sow peas because I find they come up better than if planted earlier. This may be because I am at 2000 feet and almost everything in my garden and landscape is two weeks behind the valley. My sister Gretchen’s tip is to soak peas before planting and wait until a scant ¼” of the root is showing before planting to shorten the time before they poke their tips above the ground. There are many other green vegetables you can direct sow in March too, including cress, kale, lettuce, mustard and turnip greens, spinach, swiss chard, and cilantro. Carrots, scallions, radishes, chives and parsley will also do well if planted in a sunny spot. You’ll be eating fresh garden salads in no time from your March plantings.
Onions and leeks can also be planted in March for harvesting in July. I find that adding a large helping of compost and decomposed manure to the onion-leek bed in the fall is easier than in the spring when the ground is almost certain to be wet and difficult to work when I plant onions. The same goes for the potato bed, which tradition has it should be planted by St. Patrick’s Day.
March is also the beginning of the season for transplanting, although many vegetables require warmer soil and stronger sun to thrive than March provides. Asparagus and rhubarb roots, often available at local nurseries or by mail order this time of year, may be planted in a well-prepared bed with deep soil, good drainage, aeration and medium-high fertility. Incorporate aged manure, compost or leaf mold to the top 6”-8” soil in the bed. If you started broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage earlier, March through April is the time to set them out in the garden. March is also the time to get your strawberry patch planted to ensure that you have plenty of that sweet June treat.
Fertilizing and pruning many cane fruit varieties is a March job. (For blackberries, wait until they flower). Check out the OSU publications on caring for blackberries, raspberries and blueberries in your home garden as well as many other gardening topics.
Get a head start on pest control in March by spraying plants that are susceptible to fungus like black spot, such as roses and cane berries. Lime sulfur or fixed copper sprays are often recommended, but I have achieved great results with a nontoxic spray of horticultural oil. Spray again in a couple of weeks and in the fall.
March garden guide
Sow for transplanting later: artichokes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage,
eggplant, leeks, oriental greens, peppers, tomatoes.
Direct sow: carrots, chervil, chives, cilantro, collards, corn salad, fava beans, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, mustard and turnip greens, onions, parsley, peas, radishes, scallions, spinach, swiss chard, turnips.
Transplant: asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, onion, strawberries.
Fertilize and prune: established asparagus bed, raspberries, everbearing strawberries, grapes, currents, blueberries, and gooseberries.
Spray for fungus diseases: horticultural oil twice.
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