March- What's in Steve's Garden?


In My Garden (Zone 9-10)

Steve Asbell
Steve Asbell is an illustrator, the author of Plant by Numbers and blogger of The Rainforest Garden.

As I write this blog post, I look out my window at the dead plants that made my garden look like springtime just yesterday. In a cold snap that extended all the way to South Florida, my garden reached 20 degrees this morning after a whole night below freezing. I covered many of my bromeliads with moving blankets, but since there weren’t enough to go around I will definitely see a lot of damage over the next few days. It will be interesting to see which plants make it, but I have to admit that it bums me out a little to see the garden slide backwards into winter when it seemed as if spring was just around the corner. 

On the bright side, I can always count on my cool season annuals and veggies to shine brightly when everything else has turned to mush and straw. The alyssum and spreading pansies are still blooming for the shivering bees, and the plantings of ‘Ruby Glow’ lettuce, ‘Lacinato’ kale, Egyptian walking onions, ‘Scarlet Nantes’ carrots and ‘Bull’s Blood’ beets appear to be right on track for a spring harvest. My evergreen groundcovers and shrubs are still doing fine, though the newly emerged foliage no doubt took a hit. Tropical plants are kind of my thing, but I’m always grateful for my freeze-hardy plants when I wake up to a frosty day. It also helps when they’re edible.

I’ve been a lousy gardener this month and haven’t even taken advantage of the numerous pleasant days at my disposal. Maybe I’m just taking a breather since I accomplished so much in January, but I’ll definitely have a lot of catching up to do this March.

For one thing, I still need to break ground on the veggie garden I plan on planting in the side yard. This spot is especially promising for a kitchen garden because it has a sidewalk that will keep my feet clean for last minute harvests while cooking dinner. Even my wife –who rarely goes outside – will likely enjoy the simple pleasure of picking cherry tomatoes for her salad. Indeed, packing a fresh lunch for work will be as simple as leaving through the back door with a lunch bag to fill with fresh produce, much like a drive-through.

I also need to simplify my front yard landscaping. It’s been an indecisive hodge podge thus far, but I’m already incorporating more unified plantings and have an action plan for year-round interest. So far I’ve planted five burgundy Dyckia (a terrestrial bromeliad) hybrids amidst a bed of lush variegated carex. In the back and front of the bed I’m leaving a few pockets free for annuals and perennials, which can be popped in place depending on the season. I’m thinking ‘Arizona Sun’ Gaillardia and dusty miller would be nice for the front, while the back pocket could be planted with something taller like ‘Red Butterfly’ Asclepias and the chartreuse variegated ‘Pretoria’ canna.

I’ve never really given the lawn much thought when there are gardens to be planted, but there comes a point where it looks so bad that the gardens themselves start to look bad by association – and since I want my son to play in the lawn without weed seeds getting tracked in on his onesies, it’s time I get my ailing lawn in shape. For one thing, I haven’t been fertilizing since we moved in. A poorly fed lawn is a weak lawn, and it will need to be in fighting shape to compete with the weeds. My neighbor’s lawn is always green and perfect, but he also maintains it weekly (even in winter) and has a guy spray chemicals at least once a month. It can be discouraging for someone who tries to garden organically, but I just have to remind myself that if a pest or disease knocks out his pure swatch of St. Augustine grass, it will fall like dominoes. Meanwhile, my side of the lawn will be green with clover, weeds and maybe a little bit of grass for good measure. These things take time, right? At least the neighbor’s grass is also brown from the freeze and I have a green veggie garden in my front yard.





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