March In The Vegie Patch

Clear starry nights, cool, dewy mornings and that special golden hue in the evening sky are all signs that Autumn is moving in. Those cool mornings and nights slowly begin to cool the soil, which in turn slows soil life + plant growth.

May plantings take much longer to mature than April plantings, taking longer again than March plantings. The moral of this story is to plant some winter stuff today.

Finding Room

March in the vegie patch Leafy greens and saladings planted beneath the shelter of the seeding parley Ediblebackyard NZ
Beneath the seeding parsley is the perfect place to plant leafy greens and saladings, nicely protected from the Autumn sun. In a month or so the parsley will be brown and I’ll crunch it down in situ as mulch for the greens.

Finding space to sow and plant winter crops takes lateral thinking when all the beds are full of summer stuff. With a bit of creativity, you’ll be amazed at what you can fit in. Keep things flowing – as soon as a crop is finished, plant/ sow the new.

  • Prick brassica seedlings into a bigger pot and grow them on a bit more to buy you some time. I like to plant them out at 4 – 6 leaf stage for better luck against slugs and snails.
  • Make pockets amongst greencrops to plant seedlings into – they’ll perform so well with a bit of protection especially if its still hot at your place. As the new crop grows make way for it by chopping and dropping the greencrop.
  • Use the space underneath or around finishing crops like tomatoes, cucumbers, courgettes, flowers and squash. Prune them back as much as you need to let light through, and sow or plant in the space.
  • Plant leafy greens and herbs beneath fruit trees and along the edges of flower beds.

It’s a homecoming for seedlings to grow up under the shelter of older plants and trees – it’s what they know.

Sow

spring carrots

If like me, you’ve yet to sow rootcrops – make this the week to get it done. Direct sow carrots, parsnips, beetroot, turnip, florence fennel – whatever your favourites are. Direct sowing is key for rootcrop success! If you struggle with fine motor skills buy seed on a tape rather than seedlings – rootcrops sown from seed are better by far. Here’s my carrot sowing ways. Use this same style for all your rootcrops.

Direct sow red onions, broadbeans, peas, mizuna, salads and kale.

Let coriander go to seed and you wont need to ever buy coriander seed again!

Direct sow coriander and rocket. Don’t buy a 6 pack and transplant them – they’ll shoot off to seed on the next hot day. Spend $4 on a pack of seed with 50 potential plants in it and sprinkle a few seed each month directly in the garden. Thereafter let them self-seed of their own accord and never buy seed again 🙂

Sow miners lettuce this month along the edges, under flowers and tall crops – such a useful winter salad green – you cant sow enough of it!

Direct sow miners lettuce and cornsalad. Sow them along the edges for easy picking with veggies, flowers, shrubs, fruit trees or even in pots – so verastile! Sow quite thickly to create a patch – they’re such sweet little things they’re easily out competed. If you let them flower and go to seed they’ll come up every Autumn/ Spring year after year = solid gold!

Anise hyssop, lettuce and parsley all going to seed in the edge of my veggie patch. Self seeders are such winners! Heartier plants by far and save the gardener effort + the planet packaging.

Sow lots of flowers to help the bees, beneficial insects and your good self get through winter. I’ve got stock in trays and have scattered bishop flower direct. So many wonderful self seeders now at play that I dont have to do anything about – chamomile, calendula, borage, cornflower, cosmos, larkspur, anise hyssop – they’re cycling round and round themselves. For a better life let as many flowers, herbs and leafy greens go to seed as you can.

March in the vegie patch Oat greencrop mulch NZ Ediblebackyard
Autumn sown oats, cut down in spring for a really useful, homegrown mulch

Winter greencrops like oats, wheat, lupin and mustard should all be going in this month.

Mustard is a biofumigant, make best use of it after diseased crops. I sow it in my greenhouse in Autumn before the chooks go in. Because it’s part of the brassica whanau, don’t sow it before or after other brassica.

Oats and wheat are magic for heavy soils – those big root systems open soil up, and at the other end of their life they make the best mulch. They are prone to rust though, so if its is an issue at your place, stick to lupin. I really like kings seeds Autumn manure mix greencrop.

pricked on seedlings

Tray sow onions and another lot of broccoli, cauli, cabbage for planting out next month.

Plant

Broccoli seedlings

Plant another lot of broccoli, cabbage and cauli. Go for a mixture to create a continuity of harvest. Here’s my planting plan

Plant salads or sow beetroot beside the brassicas. They’ll grow fast in the rich soil, and finish by time the brassicas begin. A quick and slow crop planted together is a cool way to fit more crops in and plug harvest gaps.

Parsley, celery and silverbeet are the backbone of my winter kitchen and all need to be planted this month. It’s too late (down this end of the island) to sow them now and get a winter crop. If you don’t have the seedlings raised, go buy them. Plants heaps and heaps of parsley and silverbeet/ chard! So easy and so good.

Plant early garlic. If there is one thing we can do to beat rust, it’s get in early. Here’s some excellent advice from Sethas seeds about managing rust.

Feed + Water

February planted brassicas under insect mesh
  • Liquid feed brassicas and leafy greens weekly to speed their growth before the cold comes.
  • Protect brassicas from cabbage whites by covering with insect mesh – by far and away the simplest way! Or you could pick off eggs and caterpillars daily (look under the leaves). Or you can safely spray with a fortnightly squirt of Dipel or Kiwicare Caterpillar Killer. Just be sure to do something to stop the cabbage whites decimating your seedlings. And make it not be Derris dust – a neuro toxin the world can do without.
  • Keep up with watering. Its easy to forget once the weather cools off. Check your soil and water seed + new transplants as required.

Harvest

pumpkin harvest
  • Check pumpkins, kumara and shellout beans for readiness.
  • Keep up with daily harvests of berries, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchinni and beans to keep plants prodctive and pests at bay. Worth it for plant health and productivty even if the harvests are small. A little bit daily adds up to alot.
  • Harvest apples, peaches and pears. Save peach stones and have a go at growing your own peach tree!
  • Save seeds

Let there be light!

Keep January tomatoes going by harvesting ripe fruits as they are ready and removing old leaves Ediblebackyard NZ

With shrinking daylight and dewy ground it’s a good idea to check how the air flows and the light shines in your vegie patch. Grab your seceteurs and go for a slash and mulch mission to open everything up.

  • Help your pumpkins, squash, peppers, aubergines and tomatoes ripen up by trimming back that wild jungle of leaves. Remove ratty, old foliage.
  • If your corn is blocking light/ air to other crops, cut down the finished stalks and the scrawny undeveloped ones.
  • Greencrops, seeding chards, marigolds, borage and other rambuctious things can be take back as little or as much as you need.

Either pile the trimmings back on the bed from whence they came or make an awesome compost pile. Unless of course they have a terrible pox, in which case tuck them under natives/ shrubs/ trees/ wild places, or burn them up.

3 useful Autumn reads

Comments

  1. hi Kath, thanks for the great list! What flowers do you recommend for this time of year? Thanks, nicky

  2. Sophie Campbell says

    Hi Kath

    Whats the name of the insect mesh that you use and where did you purchase it??

    Thanks
    Sophie

  3. Jo Clendon says

    Hi Kath. With Brassicas I seem to end up with a huge leafy plant that doesn’t develop a head of broccoli or broccoflower. I am guessing it is an imbalance in my soil. I use home-compost, sheep poo, lime and worm
    Castings. What would you suggest please? Thanks.

    • What you need for a good head is minerals – I like seaweed for this or use a full spectrum mineral fert like Fodda. Probably your over feeding Jo – homemade compost + minerals + a dollop of wormcastings per plant are plenty enough at planting, perhaps lime if you are on heavy clay soil. Use the manure as a side dressing when they are 30cm tall but only if its well rotted, never fresh. And if they are already growing great guns I wouldn’t bother with the side dress. Heres hoping for good broccoli heads 🙂

  4. Celia Grigg says

    Hi Kath, thanks so much for your blog, it’s helping me too, even though I’m a very experienced/old vege gardener.
    I watched your carrot planting video and wondered if/how much you water the carrot seeds in the first two weeks that they’re covered? (I thought I was too late for carrots now.)
    Many thanks.
    Celia

  5. Kirstie Hill says

    Hi Kath. I grew the best corn ever this year. Any suggestions to make best use of finished stalks? Thanks, Kirstie

    • Well done you! Either chop and bash them up and add them to compost if feeling energetic or I chop them into big bits and pile them along with sunflower stalks and other big things on the edge of the vegie patch and leave them to rot down. In a years time they’ll be an awesome source of fertility or toss them as is beneath avocados or tamarillos who enjoy a rough deep mulch.

  6. Sheila Tippett says

    Hi Kath
    Our silk tree which is so beautiful and gives us wonderful shade has fusarium wilt – I think, the leaves are turning yellow and there are bare branches. I’ve googled it and there doesn’t seem to be much hope – do you have a magic cure? Failing that, what would be another quick growing graceful shade tree to plant that won’t be at risk of the wilt?
    Many thanks

    • Oh no! Sorry to say Shelia – I dont know much about silk trees. Instead of google, I’d go visit my nearest, best garden centre or if you dont have one contact a reputable nursery such as southern woods or appletons for advice. Its too hard on google to sort the sheeps from the goats. Infact the same nursery would be a fun place to find a replacement – there are many options. Dont be too seduced by speed – waiting a few more years can be worth it for the perfect specimen. Places like leafland sell larger grade trees which is another great option.

  7. Marylin Avery says

    Totally agree with you about the coriander. I bought a packet of seed many years ago and they’re the most prolific plant in my vege garden, and a favourite with the bees. It’s much the same story with chervil and dill, which isn’t quite so prolific. This year I’m experimenting with folding plants over my brassica seedlings to see if it keeps the white butterflies at bay. It’s working so far.

  8. Hi Kath,
    What’s your view on horse poo?
    Hubby bought me a whole heap of bags of it for my garden.

    • So sweet of your hubby – brownie points! I’m sad to say though that horse poohs pretty scary to me unless you know the pasture and how the horses are treated. Most horse paddocks are way over grazed and full of thistle and dock and inkweed as a result which comes right out in the poop. I’d tip it out, cover it and leave it a goodly long time before using it or even turn it into a liquid feed. If the horse poo came from a stables I’d throw it away itll be full or wormers and all sorts of anti life buisness. A good friend rotted down stable manure then spread it over his garden in autumn, the spring plantings grew very poorly and his summer planted tomatoes didn’t even get out of the starting blocks.

      • Ruth Offord says

        Oo, good to know thank you Kath.
        So glad I checked first.
        I’ve seen the paddock and it’s as dry and lifeless as can be.
        Would it harm my worm farm also?

        • The harm only comes from wormers and antibiotics. If these aren’t in the equation then its a matter of safe guarding yourself against weeds which go in one end and out the other in a horse – notice the weeds in the paddock – the dry isn’t the issue. To safeguard against them, either rot it down or put it through your wormfarm before using.

          • Thank you for the advice, I will investigate what they use. They keep horses for teaching disabled riders not for racing, so hoping they have good practices. Don’t see much in the way of weeds.
            Having owned a block once that had nothing but dry paddock and pines dotted with stinging nettle after being grazed by horses, I remember how long it took to get things growing there..
            All my veg and fruit here are in raised beds, everygrow bags, Flexi bins and vege pods as we have a small section with clay and rock below.

          • Sounds like safe poop then 🙂

  9. Juglans Nigra says

    Marylin Avery said
    “This year I’m experimenting with folding plants over my brassica seedlings to see if it keeps the white butterflies at bay. It’s working so far. ”

    Best I found so far for cabbage chompers has been to encourage nests of the paper wasps: both asian and Tasmanian varieties. They constantly search the veges for all sorts of caterpillars to feed to their youing grubs. From about April they slow down as it gets too cold for flying; and don’t start again until about September (Gisborne ) Queens try to over-winter in dry areas like firewood stacks to re-start colonies in spring. Not used derris dust now for about 15 years. CHeers, W

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