I am fairly positive I have missed the week of winter we had this year while in the summertime in New Zealand. This year’s coldest season has been almost anything but. It’s strange to think that we still have several months before the gardens will be ready to harvest! However, despite the troubling temperatures and early blooms, March is a great time to ready your space for the start of gardening season.
The importance of keeping leaf litter in place has been discussed in this column at an earlier point, but just to reiterate, it is not yet time to move a lot of leftover fall detritus. The reason being that it serves as a home for the larvae of many important summertime critters such as butterflies, bees, and other pollinating insects. Once we are sure we will have no more frosts and the soil has warmed up from the longer spring days it will be time to clean up a bit in the yard.
While waiting, March is a great time to prune existing annuals and clear out dead plants from the previous year. Cut back herbs such as lavender, thyme, and rosemary and prune hydrangeas and rose bushes so they will be full of blooms. If you are unsure of what to do with your specific variety of plant in terms of pruning, I recommend a visit to a gardening store for advice. Be sure to have a photo of the plant in question, or at least an idea of what you’ve got. The expert at the gardening store will likely be full of helpful information and resources to get you the best blooms of the season.
Indoor sowing season has also begun, and getting those tender veggies starts with careful planting. Be sure to read the seed packets you acquire for best practices, but a majority of yummy summer foods can be started inside in March. Having a consistent source of light is important, which can be obtained by a large window or artificial growing lights. Hardcore gardeners likely already have a system rigged up for this, but designating a part of your home as starter central, such as a sun porch or a sunny living room corner, is a great idea to make sure your plants are kept at a consistent temperature and light level. It is also a good idea to obtain some plant starter food to mix in with the water that you provide them. Check your local gardening store for options!
If we get hit by the always-possible March snowstorm, another great indoor task to tackle is repotting and fertilizing your houseplants. Although they do not have to adhere to the harsh realities of outdoor plants, indoor plants follow cycles as well. Winter is a quiet time for them, while spring provides more light which means it’s about time for them to grow as well. If your plants have outgrown their pots, March is a great time to get them into a bigger home. It is also a time to propagate some of your leggier vines and succulents. Adding indoor plant fertilizer to your watering can and routine is also something to start doing in early spring. They will need extra nutrients after their winter nap.
Itching to get your fingernails caked with dirt? Some berries prefer to be planted in early spring and thus would be a great opportunity to get out the trowel and garden hose. Strawberries and raspberries especially prefer to be planted in early spring. They require well-drained soil and to be in a spot that gets at least 6 to 8 hours of sun a day. Strawberries especially are great container plants. We have turned an old rusted out fire pit into a strawberry patch, and it’s fun watching them start to bloom as spring arrives. We moved the pit to the edge of the fence and filled it with outdoor garden soil. The strawberries love it because the spot is very sunny, and we love it because the strawberries can stretch out but not invade the entire yard. If you accidentally left your firepit out and uncovered during the winter months, this is a great opportunity for upcycling!
While this winter has been somewhat disappointing weather-wise, it is nearly over and we can enjoy later sunsets and crocuses and daffodils. Getting ready for gardening season is for me akin to the excitement a lot of folks have for decorating for the holidays. Finding the garden tools, checking seed packets and looking for a space to house my seedlings gives me hope and excitement in a time where winter sads are still a heavy blanket. I hope you find joy in planning your garden this year, and I wish you sturdy sprouts!