Sunday, March 3, 2024

March 2024 Edible Garden Planner

March garden with lettuce and spinach
Sunday, March 3, 2024

Feels like spring is here in our area with above normal temperatures.  Daffodils and crocus has been blooming for a couple weeks.  Forsythia and Bradford pear tree buds are are beginning to open, daylilies and iris flowers greenery is poking their heads up.  

If you have not already, it is time to test your soil, get your garden beds ready for planting, finalize the plan for your spring garden and get planting! 

Soil Testing and Bed Preparation
Now is the time to clean up your beds and determine what your soil needs to feed and support your plants through the coming growing seasons.  Remove all the dead plant material still left from last season.  If you had any disease problem, do not compost.  I always leave anything with seed heads through the winter for the birds then remove what remains this time of year.  

You can take a soil sample to our local county co-op extension office to have it tested or buy a do it yourself kit at any big box store or local nursery.  You can do a more extensive soil test by sending your soil sample off.  Here is a link to my blog on soil nutrition:  The next step in garden production and your nutrit...  Well-fed plants grow better and are more nutritious for you, too.  A win-win.

If you don’t want to go to the trouble of testing, a sure way to enrich your soil is to use a balanced organic fertilizer and compost.  I add organic material every spring with a layer of compost, then fertilizer and top with hardwood mulch in the garden beds, building the soil’s fertility and its ability to hold water.  This is also when I use amendments to adjust pH if needed.  I did a soil test last fall and my soil has a pH of 7.8 which is more alkaline than herbs and vegetables do well at so I am going to add sulfur this spring to bring it down.  Optimal range is 6.5-7.0, so slightly acidic.

A local CSA farmer and organic gardener told me years ago that it is important to not let your fertilizer just lay on top of the ground as many of the nutrients will be lost, especially nitrogen.  My spring routine to build the soil is always to put down an organic fertilizer like Espoma or ReVita Pro, then a layer of compost and top with mulch.  Nitrogen oxidizes easily with the air so be sure to cover your fertilizer with soil, compost or mulch every time you fertilize.  You can make your own balanced fertilizer, too, which is pretty inexpensive  Make your own all natural, complete fertilizer

If this is your first time gardening, it is super easy to buy plants and put in pots or plant in your established flower beds with your flowers.  I do 100% of my edible gardening in pots and my flower beds.    Easy kitchen garden  How to know what to grow  Surprising veggies that can be grown in pots  If you are really nervous, the easiest garden to start with are herbs.  They love to be neglected!  Just plant them and watch them grow.  My first edible garden was herbs.  Most herbs are perennials so you plant them once and they come back every year.  Start a kitchen herb garden!

Finalize your garden plan
Before your start planting, take pen to paper and finalize your spring garden plan.  Every fall, I capture what went well for the growing season, what I want to learn more about over the winter, and a plan for the coming season.  You will forget if you don't write it down.  A garden journal is a great tool for gardening.

The big box stores have out their seed and plant racks so they should have transplants soon.  Seeds are already stocked every place I've been.  Transplants are a good and easy way to look for what will grow well in your area.  The types that like cold weather that will be out soon are cabbage, broccoli, spinach, lettuce, leeks, onion sets, potato sets, blueberry, raspberry, and blackberry bare root plants.  Spring edible garden
Mid March garden
The greens I will plant in our mini greenhouse to keep them warmer and encourage growth so we get fresh salads as soon as possible.  They will do just fine in the garden bed too.  I just love spring salads!

Some varieties I enjoy growing in the spring garden:  
Oakleaf Lettuce-ready to harvest in 45 days  Everything you need to know about growing lettuce
Wild Garden Kales-ready to harvest in 30 days Grow one of the super greens this year-kale
Mesclun Valentine Lettuce mix (red tinted lettuce and greens)-ready to harvest in 30-55 days
Marvel of Four Seasons Butterhead Lettuce (I love the sweet taste of butterheads)-ready to harvest in 55 days Everything you need to know about growing lettuce
Red Sails Lettuce (a ruffled red and green, stays sweet even after bolting)-ready to harvest in 45 days
Space Hybrid Spinach-ready to harvest in 38 days  Grow spinach-a super nutritious, easy green
Gourmet Blend Lettuce (Prizeleaf, Royal Oak Leaf, Salad Bowl, Ashley)-ready to harvest in 45 days
Sugar snap peas-ready to harvest in 70 days Time to plant peas!
All kinds of broccoli or cauliflower-ready to harvest in 50-80 days (leaves are great in salads) Broccoli and cauliflower growing tips
Cabbage-ready to harvest in 68 days.  Cabbage is nutritious and easy to grow
Carrots-ready to harvest in 50-75 days  Grow crunchy, colorful carrots practically year round
Parsley-70 days to harvest  
Potatoes-ready to begin harvest in 70 days  Time to plant potatoes, even if you only have a patio

The above can be companion planted with radishes, beets, chives, garlic, and onions.  Since they are shallow rooted, they grow well with root crops.  Get the most from your space-plant intensively!

When I plant, I plant with a handful of worm compost and water in with fish emulsion.  Germination should take anywhere from 4-15 days, depending on how warm the soil is.  I am out in the garden looking for little green shoots daily!  Decorative container gardening for edibles

Important tip-if planting seeds in a mulched bed, be sure to cover the seed with only soil; most seedlings are too weak to push through mulch.  Mulching your beds keeps the weeds from sprouting, too.  Weed free, self fertilizing, till free garden beds 
Potato box
Zone 6/7 Spring Garden Roadmap

Planting seedlings outdoors:
Now (or as soon as the soil can be worked)-fruit trees and vines, nut trees, asparagus, garlic, leeks, onions, peas
Mid-March-cabbage, kale, lettuce, mustards, spinach
Beginning of April-broccoli, cauliflower, cilantro, more lettuce, lemon balm, parsley
Mid-April-corn, marigolds, rosemary, sage, thyme
First of May-basil, chives, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes
Mid-May-cantaloupe, eggplant, okra, squash, watermelon

Starting your seeds outdoors**:
Now (or as soon as the soil can be worked): peas, spinach, lettuce, radish, mustards
Mid-March: all the above plus arugula, bok choy, cabbage, carrot, collards, leeks, mache, onion. rhubarb, cultivated dandelions
End March:  all the above plus fava beans, beets, broccoli, carrot, Chinese cabbage, cress, kale, kohlrabi, leek, mizuna, parsley, parsnip, early potatoes, turnip

**One watch out is planting seeds too soon.  Seeds have to have a certain soil temperature to sprout.  Plant too soon and the seed will rot and not sprout.  Here are some soil temp guidelines.  Temps to plant seeds outdoors  Be sure to harden off your seedlings before planting outdoors if started inside  "Hardening off" seedlings

Starting your seeds indoors for summer planting:
Now-lemon balm, parsley, sage, thyme, lettuce, cress, chard
Mid-March-basil, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, okra, marigolds, eggplant
End of March-cantaloupe, cucumber, lettuce, peppers, tomatoes

These dates are just guidelines.  You can start your seedlings later and plant your transplants later as well.  Be sure to read the seed packet for what you are starting.  They make all kinds of varieties that are cold hardy and can be planted sooner than what I outlined above.  If you get a cold snap, there are things you can do to protect your early crops.  Extend the season with protection for plants

I bought a pop up walk in greenhouse in the fall so I am starting my seeds a couple weeks earlier and will put them out in the greenhouse when they get their first set of true leaves to get a jump on spring planting.  This is my first year using it so I am sure I will make mistakes, but that is a fun part of gardening-learning and adapting.

Happy gardening!

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