Spring Into Food Gardening!
In the Garden
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Food Garden Tips
March Food Garden Tasks and Tips
For what to plant this month, click here.
- It’s pretty clear at this point that we should all plan on reducing water use as much as possible this summer, so we suggest you check out the Food Garden Specialists’ video on growing vegetables with less water and other related materials.
- Eliminate early emerging weeds before they go to seed. Weeds in the veggie garden can usually be pulled by hand. It’s one of the big pluses to adding compost regularly. Do not allow weeds to compete with your food garden for water.
- If you grew a cover crop, cut or mow it down and lightly till it into the soil, or for minimum soil disturbance, chop it and drop it and plant right into the crop residue. Add more compost on top.
- The most efficient way to deliver water to your food garden is a drip system. If you already have drip, flush and test the drip irrigation system; identify/repair leaks; clean the water filter. If you hand-water, check the condition of hoses and nozzles; replace old washers to prevent drips.
- If you have never started seeds indoors, start a favorite variety of a warm weather veggie this month to set out when the danger of frost passes in early May. Because there may be water issues this year, consider growing a variety with fewer days to maturity (an early variety) so that you have fewer days to irrigate before harvest. For advice, see: Growing Vegetables from Seed.
- If you are thinking of growing potatoes, many nurseries have been selling seed potatoes in the last weeks. If the ones you bought are not yet sprouting, leave them in their paper bags and add an apple which will produce ethylene gas that will hasten sprouting. Put the closed paper bags in a larger plastic bag, tied to reduce airflow. Check progress every few days. For growing information, read here.
- Certain crops may benefit from row covers (e.g., to protect shallow seed from being washed away by spring rains and to protect tender seedlings from insects and birds). Row covers also can collect dew that falls on the soil–a strategy to consider in a drought year. Light weight covers can be laid over the rows and secured with irrigation staples or bricks, or draped over PVC hoops and secured to the ground.
- Encourage bees and good bugs to visit you garden by planting beneficial-friendly plants near your vegetable bed. Nepeta (catmint), Rosmarinus (rosemary), Salvia, and Lavandula (lavender), and Thyme are just a few. Many perennial Mediterranean herbs are loved by beneficials AND are low-water.
- Thin root and salad crops so that they do not become overcrowded.
- Fertilize fruit trees. Applying two inches of aged compost is ideal. Alternatively, apply a 7-1-7 organic fertilizer in the spring. If mature fruit trees did not put out sufficient shoot growth and/or good fruit set last year, the UC ANR recommends applying half of a nitrogen fertilizer in March or April and the second half of the treatment in July or August.
- Applying one to two-inches of aged compost to your vegetable gardens will improve soil tilth and plant nutrition. Place the compost on top of the existing soil and let the spring rains and soil macroorganisms move nutrition down. In a drought year, plan to add three to four inches of mulch (e.g., compost, rice straw, leaf mold, etc.) to the top of the soil to keep it cool, retain moisture and to inhibit weed growth.
- Plant citrus in early spring to give tree roots the longest possible time to become established before it is exposed to frost. For UC’s guidance on citrus, click here. Consider your water availability when choosing thirsty new trees.
- Prune one-year old grape vines when growth just begins in spring so that new growth will avoid damage from late-spring frosts. Refer to UC guidance on growing grapes.
- Most grape varieties are susceptible to powdery mildew. Once it appears, it is too late to treat. Powdery mildew is controlled during the growing season by spraying with water-soluble sulfur. Begin applying treatments when all buds have pushed. Thereafter, repeat at ten-day intervals in the spring if disease pressure is high.
- Inspect crops regularly throughout their growing season for early problem diagnosis and resolution. Refer to University of California’s Integrated Pest Management (IPM) site. If we have a warm March, aphids may make an appearance on vegetables and ornamentals—control with insecticidal soap. Normally, we suggest a water blast from the hose, but there may be restrictions on hose use. Have you tried a hand-held car vacuum? We hear it works great.
- As spring planting begins in earnest, select disease-resistant crop varieties (especially important in a small garden where crop rotation is difficult). The abbreviations on the tag are important (e.g., “VFN” means that a plant is resistant to Verticillium wilt, Fusarium wilt and Nematodes).
- Click here for ongoing monthly tasks.