March In The Vegie Patch

Zinnias, sunflowers, cosmos, anenomes – March is so vibrant!

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, so 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.

3 useful Autumn reads

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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 🙂

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