While I sit here writing, the snow is falling and there is a gentle breeze. Its actually quite beautiful. Then as most gardeners do, I looked at the long range forecast so I know what the weather will be like outside for chores over the next week. Snow today (Friday), temps in the low 70s by Tuesday! Welcome to March in eastern Pennsylvania!
It is not uncommon for March to be mild in our region. I remember many times getting to wear shorts and go bike riding in March without a coat because temps were in the upper 70s and low 80s. It is also not unusual to have a green Christmas and a white Easter in this region. You never really know what Mother Nature has in store, and looking at the long range forecast proves that time and time again.
The good news is that March does mean that spring is coming, and it is in fact time to start planting! If you have not started your summer crops indoors yet, you want to do that now. I recently purchased grow lights and a germination heat mat off of Amazon, and I’m hoping that they will give my seedlings the extra push they need over just keeping the trays in a sunny window. I will admit, a lot happened in February, and I am behind on starting my plants, so that is my primary goal for this weekend.
With the nice weather we had this past week, you know before the snow today, I got to spend a lot of time outside and I was exploring my garden beds to see what they need. I pulled a bit of grass that had made its way into the beds. When I got to my rhubarb bed out front, I pushed the straw back to check my plants, and saw little bits of red & green starting to push through the soil. I covered them back up for now.
I then noticed bright green shoots along the back edge of the rhubarb bed, and was about to start weeding them out, when I remembered that I planted garlic on the back edge in November! I would have been so upset had I pulled those! So all of my garlic has sprouted, and has put out green tops about 4″ tall. I’ve never successfully grown garlic before, so I’m quite excited about these first signs of life from the garden.
In January, I had cleaned out my seed and combined a variety of seeds from lettuce, spinach, and other greens. At the time, I had dumped it in the sunny corner of one of our garden beds, taking up about a 2’x2′ area. To my delight, I noticed that most of that seed has germinated and the sprouts are about 3/4″ tall. I’m hoping to see some real growth over the next week with the warm weather we are getting, and *fingers crossed* maybe enough growth that we can use fresh cut greens for our salad on Easter.
My fruit trees and shrubs are also starting to bud up. My father in law was down over the weekend, and he helped me to prune our peach tree. The apple trees are only on year 2 from bare root stock, so they don’t need much pruning yet except for the one or two small branches that have started in less than favorable locations. Our pear and cherry trees are doing beautifully. They don’t require any pruning right now, but the one pear tree needs branch spacers so that the tree takes on a more favorable shape, and the sun can reach the inner branches more effectively.
Goals for March in the Garden
- Spray the fruit trees & shrubs with dormant oil spray
- Fertilize the fruit trees
- Cover last year’s tomato bed with black plastic to kill off the remaining seeds (we don’t want rogue tomatoes in that bed)
- Prep all of the garden beds for direct planting
- Transplant blueberry bushes from my in laws home to my home while they are still dormant
- Purchase new fruit trees, and set up our micro orchard (this is a 2 month project with a goal of completion by May 1)
- Start planting (see lists below)
- Set up trellis for various crops
- Over seed the yard with white clover and red clover to choke out the lawn – no lawn = less to mow
- Cut back the spruce and maple trees where they are getting close to the house
- Turn the compost pile, and build a frame for the compost pile
- Convince my husband that we should get chickens (this is a work in progress)
- Begin visiting garden centers regularly for deals on soaker hoses, bird netting, organic fertilizers, tools, and inspiration
- Make adjustments to the Garden Plan as needed – I highly recommend the Vegetable Garden Planner by Mother Earth News
Starting Seed Indoors
Even though there is summer feels a long way off right now, there are lots of summer crops that you can start indoors now to be ready to plant outside in May and June.
- chili peppers
- kale lettuce
- summer squash
Sow Outdoors/Plant Out
Now for the exciting part – actually getting plants and transplants into the ground outside! There are a lot of crops that you want to get outside by mid-month. My rule of thumb has always been to plant these crops on our about St Patrick’s Day. You will notice some of these crops are also listed above, and thats because they can be started indoors and transferred out in April or started outside now.
In addition, March is a great time to start planting all of your perennial fruits and vegetables. Ideally, you want to transplant when dormant, but if your perennial is already showing signs of life (which they usually will be by the time you purchase them from garden centers), thats ok too. Your goal is to get them out of their pots, and transplanted with some soil amendments as soon as the ground is workable. So basically, any time after this coating of snow melts since the ground is no longer frozen solid.
Now that gardening season is in full swing, and there is a lot more to do, you will see me sharing those items on Happily Homegrown as well as on Facebook and Instagram. I invite you to follow along and share your garden’s progress with us as well! Use #happilyhomegrown when you post so we can all share in your garden’s success.