March- What's in Katie's Garden?


In My Garden (Zone 7-8)

Katie Elzer-Peters
Katie Elzer-Peters is the author of Beginner's Illustrated Guide to Gardening, Carolinas Fruit and Vegetable Gardening, Southern Fruit and Vegetable Gardening, and many other vegetable gardening books. She lives in coastal North Carolina, where she enjoys four-season gardening. 

March is kind of a strange month in the Zone 7 and 8 garden. Where I live, March is the moodiest of all months, in terms of weather. There are drastic temperature swings from day to day. It can be twenty degrees and sunny one day and 75 and raining the next. We can get a dusting of snow, a half inch of ice, or two weeks of weather above 65.

There’s still happening in the garden, though. Here’s what I look forward to in March.

Blackberry canes trimmed and trellised

Wrestling Blackberry Canes
In March I cut back last year’s growth. (Primarily because I’m too lazy to have done this in the fall when I should have.) I spend some time tying up the one-year-old canes to the trellis and cutting back the end 6-8 inches of each cane to encourage them to branch more. More branching = more fruit..

Native columbine blooming

Enjoying Early Perennials
We had some horribly cold late February weather, which has put things a little bit behind but the daffodils will be blooming by mid-month and the native columbines will put on a show. I am going to have to do some serious work cutting back things like the holly ferns and cast iron plants that got completely fried by the cold.

Kale, glorious kale!

Harvesting Winter Vegetables
I feel like I go overboard on planting kale. Is there such a thing? Probably not if you like to eat it in almost everything. Here’s a really good recipe for Quinoa and Kale stew.

-4 leeks, chopped and rinsed. White parts only
-1 parsnip
-1 cup white quinoa
-4 large carrots, diced
-2 turnips, diced
-1 clove of garlic, minced
-8 cups of kale, shredded, midvein removed
-Vegetable broth (usually 8 cups)
-1/2 teaspoon each crushed fennel seeds and rosemary
-1 teaspoon each sage and marjoram

Sautee leeks in olive oil until soft. Add spice mix and stir for one minute. Add vegetables (except Kale), quinoa, and broth. Cook until vegetables are soft. Add Kale and cook until wilted.

Thinned spring root vegetables

Planting Spring Vegetables
I also plant another round of cool-weather vegetables in early March. I sow turnips, carrots, lettuce, and cilantro directly into the garden. Then, as the seeds begin sprouting, I thin the rows. If you are really dedicated, you can use the “babies” that you pull up as microgreens on top of salads. One thing I always thing is fun is how you can see the colors in the root vegetables even when they’re tiny! (It’s the little things. . . )

Pruning the Shrub Roses
March is the last chance for me to prune back my shrub rose bushes before they start to leaf out in earnest. The great thing about most shrub roses on the market now is that they don’t require a lot of care and they will bloom even if you don’t take the time to cut them back. However, I can tell you, based on my personal experience, that if you do take the time to trim them, they’ll flush out with a huge expanse of blooms in May. It’s worth the time. Always cut back to an outward-facing bud.




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Gardening Tip of the Day

  • It only takes 3 to 4 weeks to grow radishes and mesclun. Radishes and Mesclun are an easy way to grow and create a tangy mix for a first-of-spring salad.

    Prepare a planting bed as early as the soil can be worked, then carefully sprinkle the seeds over the bed spacing the seeds generously to minimize the need to extensively thin the plants.

    Rake the seeds in lightly and keep the bed well watered.

    Thin radishes to an inch apart within a few days after they germinate. Otherwise they tend to produce lots of leaf tissue, but the roots don't develop.

    Thin mesclun by cutting plants with scissors so as not to disturb the roots of nearby plants. In just a few weeks you will be cutting gourmet salad mixes.