To Do In The Northwest Edible Garden: March 2011

Just getting started? Don’t worry, you’re not too late. Almost everything that could be done in February can still be done now.

Plan & Purchase:
If you haven’t ordered your seed potatoes yet, get on it!  Bare root fruit trees and bushes should be in by the end of the month at the latest.  The last of the winter spraying and pruning of fruit trees happens this month.

  • Asparagus Crowns
  • Bare Root Fruit Trees
  • Bare Root Fruit Bushes
  • Bare Root Cane Fruit & Vines
  • Seed Potatoes

Sow Indoors:
If you are new to starting your own seeds you might want to check out my three-part Seed Starting 101 series: Key Components For Healthy Seedlings, A Step-by-Step Visual Guide To Growing Seedlings At Home, and Up-Potting.

  • Tomatoes – it’s tomato time! Start your tomatoes from seed at the end of February or the very beginning of March.  
  • Peppers & Eggplants – these are a bit more tender than tomatoes, so standard practice is to start them a few weeks after tomatoes. I find it’s just easier to start them at the same time and up-pot them in a gallon pot so they have the longest grow time. Remember these guys are tender so use  cool-climate cultivars. I’m growing Gypsy peppers this year with seed from Territorial. I don’t bother with eggplant.
  • Brassicas – If you didn’t start broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower & kholrabi under lights last month, you can start them now or wait until after mid-month and sow outside under a cloche. If you’re going to sow out, make sure your cloche is in place a few weeks before you plan to sow so the soil can warm and dry out somewhat.
  • Hardy Herbs – Parsley, chives, fennel, chervil, oregano, dill, mint, sorrel, marjoram, lemon balm, pansies etc. can be started under lights.
  • Salad Greens – Time to sow more salad greens! I’m sowing more Little Gem Romaine Lettuce. It’s a family favorite. At this time of year I still find it easier to start things indoors but you can sow your hardier salad greens outside directly too. Your seeds will take awhile to germinate with soil temps this low.
  • Spinach – Just like the other salad greens: new month, more spinach.
  • Kale & Collards – I’ll start mine under lights at the very beginning of the month in small pots or toilet paper tubes. They are very hardy and can be transplanted out while still small towards the end of the month quite happily. You can also seed them directly. They’ll take a bit longer to germinate but they’ll grow.
  • Swiss Chard – Tied with Kale as my favorite green. Chard is more tender than kale, but started now it will be fine. If you prefer to sow it outside directly, I’d wait until after mid-March.
  • Onions & Leeks – Give them a shot from seed if you want, but at this point I’d buy sets.

Sow & Plant Outside
Fruit & Perennials:
As long as the ground isn’t frozen or waterlogged, bare root or potted fruiting trees, bushes and perennials can be planted out. The sooner you can get them in the better, next month will be too late.

  • Bare root fruit trees – these should be put into previously prepared ground while still dormant. 
  • Bare root fruit bushes (currants, gooseberries, blueberries, etc.).
  • Bare root cane fruits (blackberries, raspberries, etc.).
  • Asparagus crowns – these can be purchased at a good nursery. Look for an all male variety.
  • Rhubarb crowns – these can be had by dividing established plants or purchased at a good nursery.
  • Horseradish roots – these can be invasive!  It’s a good idea to plant them in a very large container sunk into the ground to control their roaming.

Vegetables & Annuals:

Everything, and I mean everything, that you sow outside at this time of year will be happier & faster to grow under a cloche. I had “grow under a cloche” written for every single vegetable on this list and it was just silly. So just remember that any veggie sown or transplanted out in March will be happier and give better results under a cloche. Many of the things I prefer to start indoors can be sown out directly if you wait until the second half of the month. See above for details.
  • Peas & Favas – As I write this in late February the ground is snow-dusted and it’s really cold out there. Peas & favas are hardy but they aren’t going to sprout and grow vigorously at these soil temps. So if you haven’t sown your peas yet, don’t worry about it: you aren’t losing any time if you wait a week or two until the soil has warmed up before planting. I’d wait until overnight lows are in the high 30s/low 40s consistently at a minimum.
  • Salad Greens – Spinach, mustards, arugula and cress can be sown directly for baby salad greens. They all will want to bolt the moment the sun starts showing some real strength so when you see something harvestable, use it. Those greens you started last month under lights are ready to transplant out. Harden them off before you settle them into their outside bed. 
  • Carrots, Parsnips & Root Parsley – The issue with starting the big tap-root veggies like carrots this early is soil texture. If you have fine, loose, sandy soil they will probably do fine sown about mid-month. If your ground is heavier and holds water I’d wait several weeks until it’s drier and you can work it to a nice fluffy consistency without forming dirt clods.
  • Radishes – Can be sown out directly. It works well to intercrop radishes and carrots. 
  • Turnips & Rutabagas – I don’t bother with rutabagas in spring. For me they are a purely fall-winter crop. Spring turnips are lovely though.
  • Beets – Can be sown out directly.
  • Onion Sets – For early green onions, you can plant sets now and use them before they bulb.
  • Potatoes – the gardener tradition is to sow potatoes on St. Patrick’s day (March 17th). But really they can go in anytime from late March to late May, depending on when you want to harvest them.
  • Jerusalem Artichokes – I still have a bucket of Jerusalem Artichokes I lifted two weeks ago that I’m trying to give away. Anyone in N. Seattle want them? They’re borderline invasive if you have a nice sunny spot. Seriously, email me and I’ll set you up with 10 or so to get your own patch going. Anyway, March is a good time to replant them, if looking at them doesn’t fill you with foreboding.

Harvest:

  • Beets – any remaining beets should be used soon before they go to seed.
  • Brussels Sprouts – any remaining sprouts should be picked this month. You can eat the top mini-cabbage that forms on the top of brussels sprouts, too. The tops of mine were looking like gorgeous mini fluffy cabbages until this last cold snap. Now they have frostbite all over the tips and will be barely usable. Sad! The sprouts are still good, though.
  • Overwintering Cabbage – All my cabbages are gone. If I had any left, this would probably be the last month for ‘em.
  • Carrots & Parsnips – finish off the overwintered carrots & parsnips, they’ll go to seed soon.
  • Kale & Collards – if your kale is sprouting, the shoots are delicious used like broccoli.
  • Cauliflower – if you planted over-wintering Cauliflower, it may be ready to harvest now.
  • Sprouting Broccoli – sprouting purple should be ready to harvest towards the end of the month. 
  • Chard – if any Swiss Chard has overwintered, it will be re-growing now and can be harvested.
  • Leeks – Still quite harvestable. Next month leeks will probably send up a seed stalk.  If this happens, check the flavor and texture before consigning them to compost.  I have harvested leek scapes that were sweet, mild and crunchy.
  • Turnips & Rutabagas – harvest the last of the turnips and rutabagas; leave them into April and they’ll probably run to seed.
  • Salad Greens – overwintered spinach is doing great now, and greenhouse and cloched lettuce is taking off.  Mache grows very well in March, and if you are quick you can harvest arugula and mustard greens before they jump to seed.
  • Jerusalem Artichokes – lift and use any remaining ‘chokes, they’ll start re-sprouting soon. See above for my offer of sprouts.
  • Stored Winter Squash – the long keepers are still in good shape.  I lost one butternut to rot, check frequently for signs of softening and use right away or send to the compost to prevent molds from spreading.
  • Rhubarb-is your rhubarb coming up yet? Baby leaves are just peaking through, but I won’t be harvesting any this year!
        What We Look Forward To
        Why The Hell Do I Put Myself Through This?

        Comments

        1. Great post! Glad I found you~
          I'll take some Jerusalem Artichoke! sending you my email..

        2. Jessi – great, let's figure out how to get them to you. Thanks for reading! :)

        3. Just found you from the urban homesteading forum on facebook. All very useful, timely advice for someone who has just moved to the Fraser Valley, not too far North of you.

        4. This is my first year for planting Jerusalem artichokes and horse radish…The horse radish I know what to with, but the artichokes I have no idea (?)…zone 7, west slope of the Sierras (July-August temps. can get 100+ degrees)

        5. flowerman – They are related to the sunflower and do great on sun and neglect. Don't know about your area for lifting and storing in the fall; out here we are mild wintery (mid-20 degrees low a few times) and they've never had a problem staying in ground all winter. I don't think you'll have a problem. Plant them once and you'll have them forever, though – they're like that. Oh, and they get TALL. But you probably know that. :)

        6. Hey thanks for putting this post together! I moved from Spokane to the Seattle area last fall and so now I am faced with trying to figure out how to grow in a completely climate. I went from zone 5 with cold winters and hot summers, to zone 7 with mild rainy winters and cool overcast summers. I think tomatoes and peppers will be my biggest challenge. I was so in the mindset of waiting until March to start my seeds and didn't realize until too late that I was already late on my sowing! This really helps though and will give me a good frame of reference.

        Your participation makes this whole thing work, so join in! Comment policy: Wheaton's Law enforced here.

        *