March 1 to March 31
Discover what you should be doing right now. Our experts share gardening advice, techniques, news, and ideas to make your garden the best ever.
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Here’s to a great spring. Even those of you in South Florida saw temperatures plunge below freezing last month, so you’re no doubt ready to see that warmer weather around the corner. Hopefully you’ve covered your tomatoes, but otherwise there’s still time to replant if you do so quickly. Grafted tomatoes are worth trying out because they combine the performance of hybrids with the flavor of heirlooms, all on a single plant. It’s also time to prepare for the onslaught of pests that pops up in springtime with some of the organic control methods outlined below. You should also hurry to complete your warm-season crop plantings now, either in coir pellets, cell packs or directly in the ground. The threat of cold weather will be gone this month and hot weather will be here before you know it, so catch a case of spring fever and go have some fun in the garden!
Start Seeds Right
Even if it is warm enough to plant your spring seeds directly in the ground, they’ll get a much better head start if you get them started in pots and trays first. They’re also a lot easier to maintain and plant that way, since what you see is what you get; you don’t have to worry about losing plant tags or stepping on newly sprouted seedlings. Seed trays let you organize your seedlings so that you know exactly what you’re growing and once their root systems have developed, the plants can be easily transplanted into the garden right where you want them. Fiber pots and coir pellets can be planted directly into the ground and are ideal for plants like peas that don’t like to have their roots disturbed. If you do plant directly in the ground (some plants such as carrots prefer this method), accessories like seed sowers are helpful for sowing straight lines of evenly distributed seeds. Whichever method you choose, just be sure to use a seed starting mix for the best results.
Plant Grafted Tomatoes
They’re all the rage and for good reason. By grafting a scion of your favorite tomato to a tough rootstock, you end up with a disease-resistant plant and a whole lot of tomatoes. (I have to get some of these) For just over twenty five dollars, Burpee will send you three delicious heirloom or hybrid tomatoes of your choosing, grafted to resilient hybrid rootstocks. San Marzano, Mortgage Lifter, Black Krim and Cherokee Purple are just some of your choices. Grafted tomatoes are an excellent choice for gardeners who have difficulties growing tomatoes or for those who just want to maximize their space with bigger yields. They might cost a bit more, but you may find that they’re easy enough justify the splurge.
Enjoy the Harvest
You’re probably already harvesting your fall and winter planted veggies, and if too many of the same seeds were planted at once, you might even have a bigger crop than you anticipated. Whether you’re feeling uninspired or you’re just tired of the multitudes of leeks in your garden, these easy recipes should help get you excited about even the most played out ingredients. Spinach soufflé is fancy enough to entertain guests, yet easy enough to make yourself for lunch. The lemony pea risotto recipe is another easy one and can be adapted to include other ingredients of your choosing. If you have a glut of ripe kumquats on your trees, this sautéed carrot and kumquat recipe is an interesting and unexpected way to prepare them in a hurry.
Pest Proof your Spring Garden
Pests will be a lot more active as the weather warms up, so prepare your plants by first ensuring their basic needs are met; that they are receiving the right amount of water, sunlight, fertilizer and drainage. Pests are more likely to infest weakened plants than healthy ones, and they’re even drawn to the yellow leaves of sick plants. Cucumber beetle traps seize on this tendency with their yellow sticky traps that stop cucumber beetles and other pests in their tracks without the use of pesticides. A tried and true method for a wide range of insects and mites, insecticidal soap works by disrupting the pest’s cell membranes without harming people or other mammals. Hot pepper wax spray takes a different approach and deters pests with a mouthful of spicy heat. Don’t worry – the residue is hardly hot to humans and washes off easily.
Start a Container Garden
Everyone has at least one reason to grow plants in pots. If you don’t exactly have a lot of room for a garden, container gardens allow you to utilize wasted space on your patio, balcony, walkway, staircase or windowsill. Even tomatoes can be grown in containers, where they can be easily maintained and kept free of pests. Hybrids like ‘Patio Princess’ are compact, yet prolific enough to give you big yields on a small footprint. Herbs are especially suited to container culture, and they look great either on their own, combined with other herbs or combined with flowers and other ornamentals. Thyme is a perfect fit for any pot since it trails over the edge with fine and bushy fragrant foliage. Bring potted herbs indoors whenever you have guests so that they can clip their own!