March KG tips
Check out the Food Garden Specialists’ drought action plan for food gardeners as well as their list of drought-tolerant crops and varieties. The links can be found on the Food Garden page of the SCMG website.
Eliminate early emerging weeds before they go to seed and while the ground is soft: hoe or pull by hand. In a drought year, do not allow weeds to compete with your food garden for water.
If you grew a cover crop, cut or mow it down and till it into the soil.
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. For more information about drip irrigation, click here.
If you have never started seed indoors, start a favorite variety of tomato 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.
Certain crops may benefit from row covers (e.g., to protect shallow seed from being washed away by spring rains we hope will come 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 Echium 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 – or, 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 ornamental and vegetable gardens and lightly turning it into the soil will improve soil tilth and plant nutrition. In a drought year, plan to add three to four inches of mulch 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. If you’re in a locality with water restrictions, it may be best to wait until next spring.
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 be making an appearance on vegetables and ornamental – control with insecticidal soap. Normally, we suggest a water blast from the hose – but there may be restrictions on hose use due to the drought. What about a hand-held car vacuum? We hear it works great.
RHUBARB, Dec-Mar, C, D/T, 1 yr maturity from roots, 3 yrs from seed
ASPARAGUS (crowns), Jan-Mar, C, T, 2 yrs to maturity from roots/crowns
PEAS, Jan-Apr, C, D, 60-80 days to maturity
ONIONS, BULB, Jan-May, C, D/T, 100-120 days to maturity
ARUGULA, Feb-Mar, C, D/T, 30-40 days to maturity
BOK CHOY, Feb-Mar, C, D/T, 40-60 days to maturity
SPINACH, Feb-Mar, C, D/T, 40-50 days to maturity
TURNIPS, Feb-Mar, C, D, 30-55 days to maturity
GREENS, ASSORTED, Feb-Apr, C, D, 35-45 days to maturity
RADISHES, Feb-Apr, C, D, 20-60 days to maturity
POTATOES, Feb-May, C, D, 100-120 days to maturity
LEEKS, Feb-Jul, C, T, 120-150 days to maturity
SWISS CHARD, Feb-Aug, C, D/T, 60-80 days to maturity
LETTUCE, Feb-Oct, C, D/T, 50-60 days to maturity
BROCOLI, Mar-Apr, C, T, 60-80 days to maturity
CABBAGE, Mar-Apr, C, T, 70-100 days to maturity
CAULIFLOWER, Mar-Apr, C, T, 80-90 days to maturity
KOHLRABI, Mar-Apr, C, D, 60-70 days to maturity
BEETS, Mar-Aug, C, D, 55-70 days to maturity
CARROTS, Mar-Sep, C, D, 70-90 days to maturity
ONION, BUNCHING, Mar-Oct, C, D/T, 70-80 days to maturity
KALE, Mar-Nov, C, D/T, 65-75 days to maturity