March is a pivotal point in the garden year, this is the month that gardening really can begin. Thought March can be very mercurial and very up and down weather wise, this is usually a month of the promise of the new garden year and we can actually get our hands in the garden soil.
If the soil can be worked, you can begin preparing the ground for this years garden. Remove any mulch (this will let the soil begin to warm up some) and left over debris and rake in some good compost or fertilizer.
On nice days, do garden clean up-straighten borders, raking, pulling of what weeds are growing-and believe me-they are growing!
Start seeds of eggplant and a variety of sweet and hot peppers.
Start seeds of cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kohlrabi, and Brussels Sprouts. Try different types of cabbages-green, red, Savoy. My favorite is Savoy, for Cole slaw!
After you have started this years seeds, store them carefully so they will stay viable till next year or later.
As soon as soil can be worked you can direct sow seeds of leeks, onions, carrots, peas, radish, spinach, parsnips and turnips.
If the soil cannot be worked yet you can start many of the above seeds in containers indoors.
If you have ordered any asparagus, rhubarb or horseradish crowns, try to get them planted as soon as possible.
If you have seeds started, they may need potted up to bigger containers. Do not let them get root bound.
If you have planted a cover crop on the garden, get it turned under.
Remove mulch from garlic and strawberry beds as the new growth begins.
Work out your crop rotation plan.
Have you started any garden work yet? Let me know!
March 7th is the full Worm Moon, the last full moon of winter-that should be good news for all gardeners! This month’s moon is also known as the sugar moon-the sap begins running for maple syrup, and the Wind Strong Moon, as this is usually a windy month. This is also a Lenten Moon.
This full moon should be especially large while it is near the horizon, so here is hoping for good weather to see it.
Worms rising to the surface is a spring sign that winter is ending and the ground is thawing. Worms are wonderful for the garden-aerating the soil and devouring decaying material.
Worms are reported to taste like bacon! I will never know…
The full worm moon is such a welcome sight as it also brings another welcome sight-the red-breasted robin. The robins return when the the worms come to the surface. If they could talk, we could ask if worms taste like bacon, as they love to eat them.
The robins are such a familiar and welcome sight as they run and hop over lawns looking for worms. They are welcome to nest where ever they like and their early morning song is delightful.
But…I have not seen a robin yet, though there have been reports of robin sighting in our town. We are currently in Florida and I will have to wait till we get home to see my beloved red-breasted robins.
Gather and prepare your containers. There are many items you can use to start your seeds in. I have tried a number of ways, and most of them worked out well for me. Egg cartons. Wax covered milk or juice cartons. Carry-out container. Paper, plastic or foam cups. Containers that yogurt or puddings come in. I wash and save them all year and just poke a hole in the bottom of each for water drainage. Used six packs can be reused if they are cleaned well. You can make your own growing containers from empty toilet paper rolls or you can make them from newspaper. Just make sure that they are at least 2 inches deep. All work well. Have a water proof tray or container of some sort to put all your seeded containers in. Something that will catch the water that drains out of the seed cups. A tote works well for this.
You can purchase ready made starting trays from the store that come already filled with starting mix and have a humidity dome. These are the easiest. Just wet the soil and you are ready to plant.
Make sure you are using a seed starting mix and not regular potting soil. Seed starting mix can be purchased by the bag to fill all your starting cups with. It is the ideal medium for seed starting. It is finer and more light weight than regular potting soil and makes it easier for the germinating seeds to break the surface. It actually contains no soil and is comprised of peat moss, vermiculite, coconut coir and perlite. Just moisten, stir and fill your containers. Make sure to tamp the soil down so there will be no air pockets and good soil to seed contact.
Poke a hole into the center of each cup of starting mix-I use the end of a pencil-it seems to be about the right size. Check the seed packet for information on how deep to plant each seed, usually two times deep as the size of the seed.
Drop the seeds into each pre-made hole. I use tweezers to do this-it can be hard to handle small seeds. Sow 1 or 2 seeds into each one. If both seeds germinate, just cut the smallest one off after they germinate so there is only one plant in each pot.
Pinch the soil up over each planted to seed to cover it. If the seeds are very small, just give a thin dusting of soil over them.
Make sure to label and date the seeds sown. My stand-by for marking all the things that I grow is plastic mini blinds. Find an old set of mini blinds and cut out the cords. Cut the loose blind pieces into whatever length of marker you need and use a permanent marker to label each variety. These markers will last all year. (I did this when I had chickens-I had all my perennial plants marked in their pots. I usually let the chickens out in the evening to scratch around the yard and they pulled all my markers out of the pots. Sigh!)
I love the pre-prepared trays that come with a humidity dome. Once the seeds are planted, just cover the tray and that is it. The moisture will stay inside to keep the seeds well watered. If you do not have a humidity dome, you can cover the tray of seeds with plastic wrap to keep the moisture even. Light is not needed for most seeds to germinate.
I also have a heat mat and consider it a good investment if you will be starting seeds regularly. I set the trays of planted seeds on the mat to keep it at an even temperature for good germination. If you do not have one, don’t worry. Any warm place will work. Seeds usually like a temp of 65 to 75 degree to germinate.
In just a few days this is what you should see…the seed packet will have information on the usual germination time of each seeds type so you will know when to expect to see growing green.
As soon as most of the seeds have germinated, remove the humidity cover, remove them from the heat mat and make sure the seedling are put in bright light. A window is usually not enough light to promote good growth. You will need to provide good growing light for the seedings. This usually involves artificial light. The seedlings will grow tall and spindly and lean toward the light if there is not enough light. You are wanting short and stout seedlings. When I was growing plants for the Farmer’s Market, I had a seed starting set up that involved a metal shelving unit with regular shop lights hanging on chains that I could adjust as the seedlings grew taller. The lights need to be just inches above the growing seedlings. Regular shop lights worked fine for me as opposed to more expensive grow lights. I also had the shop lights plugged into a power strip that was plugged into a timer so the seedling received the correct time of light. You will usually be starting seeds when the daylight is less. Seedlings need 16-18 hours of light to grow properly.
Water the seedlings regularly. They can be watered by bottom watering or use a fine spray bottle with room temperature water. Do not let them dry out, but also do not overwater.
The first leaves that emerge are not true leaves, but are known as cotyledons. They are actually part of the seed. When the first true leaves emerge-and you should now recognize them as the leaves of the plants you are trying to grow, you can begin fertilizing. Use 1/2 strength regular fertilizer once a week.
As your new seedlings begin to grow, they will need to be potted up. More on that later.
Some vegetable seeds that benefit from early sowing indoors are:
Peppers- 8-10 weeks before last frost
Leeks and Onions-6-8 weeks before last frost
Tomatoes-6-8 weeks before last frost
Eggplant-6-8 weeks before last frost
Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage and Cauliflower-4-6 weeks before last frost
While you are busy planning for your garden this year, remember that God has plan for you!
Have you started shopping for your garden seeds yet? Here are some ideas to help you get started.
Browse the seed catalogs, (a nice thing to do on cold, snowy days!) Stop by the store and see what seeds they have available.
Inventory the seeds you already have.
Make sure the seeds you have saved are viable and will grow for you. Nothing quite as disappointing as planting, watering, tending and….nada…nothing. (More on that later)
Decide what you want to grow this year. What is your reason for growing vegetables? Flowers? Are you planning on canning and freezing or just growing for fresh eating? Are you wanting to make cut flower arrangements or just enjoy beautiful flower beds? (More on this later)
Consider the days to maturity, habit and size of the plant and fruit, disease tolerance
Grow what you will eat
Shop early for the best selection and supply and to avoid shipping problems
Know you growing zone
Know your frost dates
Mix of seeds may be better than a straight variety
Will you be growing hybrids or heirlooms? Or a mix of both?
All American selections are always a good choice-tried and true
Save the seed catalogs-there is usually valuable info there you can refer to later.
Have you started buying you seeds for this year yet?
We are 11-12 weeks away from the last frost date for my growing zone 5-6 here. Here are some things you can be doing in the garden this week.
Start more seedlings of the cool weather crops such as leeks, onions, celery, spinach, lettuce, swiss chard, and peas. These don’t all need started early, as most of these can be direct sown from seed into the ground as soon as the soil can be worked.
To test the soil to know if it can be worked yet, gather a handful of garden dirt into a ball in you hand-if it remains in a moist ball, the ground is still too wet to work and you will damage the soil (as well as it will be very messy to work in!). If the soil crumbles in you hand like chocolate cake when you squeeze it it is ready to be worked.
Look for and save any recipes that you think you might be interested in using for the vegetables you plan to grow. (I will be sharing my favorite recipes for each vegetable and fruit as I post about each one)
On a nice day do a walk around the garden and make a list of what will be needing done as soon as the weather permits.
Build a cold frame to put your seedlings in.
The items that were listed in my post of February 13 –SEE HERE-can all still be worked on.
Have you considered starting your own seedlings this year? It may seen like a difficult thing to do, but with a little know-how it is easy to accomplish.
Here are some reasons to start your own seeds this year.
Better selection. Buy your seeds early to avoid not getting what you are wanting and had planned on growing. Seed companies have so many more varieties than the seedlings that are grown by the nursery, greenhouse or big box store. In a previous post-SEE HERE-there is a list of some of the seed companies that can be ordered from. Most of them have a website and you can order on-line. Or you can request a paper catalog be mailed to you. I always so enjoy taking my time to read through the paper catalogs before I place my order. The choice is yours, not only what has been started by the garden business. A word of caution! Be careful and thoughtful or you will get carried away and order way too much! Don’t ask how I know this….
Save money. You get more for your money when buying seeds as compared to buying the usual 6-packs of seedlings. For the price of the six-pack you get many more seeds in a packet. If you only need a few seedlings, most seeds can be saved for future use.
Growing Practices. You can have control over the growing practices. If you are concerned about pesticides, herbicides, GMOs, etc, you can make sure of how your seedlings are being grown.
Planting and Harvest. When you grow your own seedlings you have control over the planting time. You may want to start seeds early to be set out under a protective cover for an earlier harvest or start seeds late to have a later fall garden. You can grow just the amount you need.
Earlier Harvest. Some types of plants will need to be started indoors as the growing season is not long enough to get a harvest before frost, but many of the plants that can be direct sown can be started indoors to get an earlier harvest or flowers. You can get a jump on the season.
Successive Planting. You can have control over successive seed starting to give a long season of harvest.
Proper Plants. You can make sure that you are growing plants suited to your region and location.
Seed Saving. Many of the plant varieties (open pollinated or heirloom) can left to go to seed and the seeds saved from year to year. This is another way to grow plants that have become acclimated to you location.
Quality Control. You have control over the quality and quantity of the seeds grown. You can grow strong, healthy seedlings.
Food Security. Growing your own plants is a good way to enjoy some food security in this unsettled time. Grow enough to can and freeze and you will have food all year long.
Avoid the Spring Crowd. I always make a trip (sometimes many trips!) to the greenhouse in the spring, but if you want to avoid the frantic rush of everyone in town scurrying to buy those plants to get them in the ground in a hurry, you do not have to go there.
Sharing and Swapping. Starting your own seeds is a great way to do sharing and swapping with others. For many years I started seedlings to sell at the Farmer’s Market in the spring. The left-over seedings I would take to church and share with whoever wanted any plants, usually tomatoes. When church was over I would pull my van up to the church entrance and open the back with a sign-Free Tomatoes! I grew lots of unusual heirlooms and got lots of questions about each kind. It was a great joy to share with others.
Fun. Seed starting is a very good garden activity to do when those long winter blues are feeling heavy. How nice to get your hands in the ‘dirt’ and be growing things when not much is happening outside. It is very fun to watch the seeds emerge and grow.
February has arrived. And with it comes Groundhog day. Groundhog Day is celebrated at 6 AM at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, PA, every year on this date. So, what did old Punxy Phil see this morning? His shadow! Which means 6 more weeks of winter. This all makes no difference, as winter will leave when it is ready and Spring will come soon after.
“no matter how you measure,
its 6 more weeks of winter weather.”
But Groundhog Day makes a nice excuse to party in the middle of winter. (But whoever wants to party outside in this frigid weather is a mystery to me!)
This date is also known as Candlemas, a traditional Christian day of lighting of candles.
This date is also known as cross-quarter day, the midway point between the winter solstice (shortest day of the year), in December and the vernal equinox (equal daylight and nighttime) in March. Thankfully the light is lengthening every day.
The setting of the sun gets later and later each day-by the end of