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The garden in March is somewhere in between two worlds. For colder climates, you might still have snow on your garden beds, and the ground may be frozen. In milder temperate climates, your ground may be ready to plant in. Whichever is the case, you can still start plenty of seeds in March.
March is the time to sow cold-resistant crops like broad beans and garlic in the ground and protect them with fleece. Start seeds in trays for cold-hardy crops like beetroot, radish, peas for shoots, and plants from the cabbage family. Time to start peppers, chilies, and eggplant indoors as well.
The following recommendations are only meant to be a guideline because of the many variations in weather and location. I garden in zone 6B, and, depending on what winter we’ve had, I sometimes can’t put anything in the ground until late March.
Observe your weather and your soil. Even if it’s still cold outside, you can sow a few seeds direct, as long as the ground is thawed and workable. If it’s still cold and frozen outside, adjust your sowing dates and wait for 2-3 weeks longer than the milder climates.
Vegetables to sow direct:
Garlic. If you haven’t sown your garlic in autumn, now is the time to put those cloves in the ground. Place the cloves root side down, and cover with 1-2 inches of soil.
Broad beans. You can sow broad beans in modules if you like, or you can direct seed them outdoors as they’re a very hardy plant. Sow them in rows when the ground is no longer frozen. Keep in mind that they will need support with stakes and strings when they grow taller.
No-dig potatoes. Potatoes can go in the ground as early as the end of March. You can start chitting(sprouting) your potatoes at the beginning of March, although you’ll have a nice harvest even if you don’t.
Asparagus. Now is the time to plant asparagus crowns. You can do this in autumn as well, but for some gardeners, asparagus crowns root better in spring.
Other seeds you can sow direct if you have mild weather and prefer to get your seeds directly in the ground:
- First carrots
- Early cabbage
- Onion sets and seeds
Except for carrots and parsnips, I prefer to sow my seeds in modules, so I can have a better germination rate, but all these seeds above can go in the ground just as well. Depending on the weather, it might take some of them a few weeks to germinate, so be patient.
Vegetables to sow under protection, in module trays:
Many of the same plants that you can sow directly outdoors can be sown in modules instead. A lot of gardeners prefer to module sow because it’s easier to control germination and spacing in the garden. Having plants in modules ready at all times ensures that no space in your garden will remain empty
- Peas for shoots (multi-sown)
- Spring onion (multi-sown)
- Broad beans
- Beetroot (multi-sown)
- Radishes (multi-sown)
After sowing seeds in your module tray, place them in a covered area – either a greenhouse, a polytunnel, or indoors under grow lights. Seedlings will take between 3 to 6 weeks to form a few true leaves, although transplanting them sooner rather than later gives them a better chance.
These seedlings will be transplanted in April when the weather is increasingly warm. Cover them with fleece until the danger of frost has passed. On cold nights, I like to add a double layer of fleece as protection.
Vegetables to start indoors, with warmth:
You are probably familiar with a special category of vegetables that take a long time to mature: nightshades. Plants like tomatoes, peppers, aubergines, and chilies are usually most abundant in tropical climates, and they need a lot of warmth to grow properly.
To ensure we get a good start on our peppers, chilies, and aubergines, you can start them as early as February, but don’t worry if you haven’t already. They will quickly catch up if you start them now as well.
With nightshades, the key is to start them and keep them in a sheltered, warm, and sunny spot, such as your windowsill. These plants will need warmth and won’t do well if you start them in a cold greenhouse in March, as they can’t withstand any frost.
You can also start your tomatoes for the greenhouse now. If you’re planning to grow your tomatoes outdoors, it’s best to wait starting your seeds until the very end of March, or even early April, otherwise, your plants will get too big, and the weather will still be too cold.
You can start all these seedlings in small modules and pot them on later, or start them directly in bigger pots. As they grow, you may need to move them to bigger containers.
Other tasks to do in the garden in March:
Add compost. If you haven’t done so in autumn, you should place a layer of 3 to 6 inches of compost on your beds. You don’t need to mix it in with the soil, as seeds and seedlings will grow and thrive directly into the nutrient-rich top layer.
Rake weeds. If you’ve added compost in autumn, but still have weeds in your soil that keep shooting new growth through the compost, you’ll eventually get rid of them by regularly disturbing the small weeds. Use a hoe or a rake through the top couple of inches of your soil and disturb and weeds that may have appeared.
Stock on fleece covers. Covering all your seedlings with fleece covers until late April, or until the danger of frost has passed is a great way to protect your plants from both the elements and pests or birds. You don’t need to install hoops – lay them directly on top of your seedlings. Fleece is as light as cobwebs, and plants have the strength to grow with this material on top. Fleece covers are cheap and they last several years. Measure your garden and figure out how many you need.
Do you need to cover your beds with black plastic to warm up the soil?
Having a warm soil temperature is not as important when you have seedlings raised in modules. Instead, it matters what happens after you transplant your seedlings in the ground. So black plastic cover is not really necessary for warmth – fleece will accomplish that for you. However, you can use black plastic when you have a lot of weeds you want to kill, as it excludes light.
Build new structures:
Winter is ideally the time to build new structures in the garden, such as a compost area, new raised beds, or cold frames. But the weather doesn’t always allow for outdoor activities.
Cold frames are a great way to extend your season. Plant seedlings there for your first salad ingredients: they will develop faster thanks to the greenhouse effect.
For new raised beds, add cardboard to smother weeds, build the wooden sides, and fill your bed with compost.
As for the composting area, there’s no emergency, and you can do it any time of the year you like. But come summer, you’ll have a lot of green material to feed your compost heap.
If you plan on building your garden in March, hurry up and finish it by mid-month at the very latest. It would be a shame to miss out on the spring growing season. If you’re curious about how the month of March looks in a kitchen garden, here’s a tour of mine at the beginning of the season.
March is an exciting month for gardening. After all that planning and stocking on seeds, tools, and soil, it’s finally time to get to work. Don’t be intimidated by all the seeds you have to start.
I love writing in a journal whenever I start seeds or do something in the garden. Keep track of the seeds you’ve sown with the help of a journal and make sure to label your seedlings with their name and sowing date.
Caring for seedlings is like caring for little babies, and this may be a stressful time for first-time gardeners. There are so many things to look out for. You need to stay on top of watering but be careful not to overwater. You also need to make sure they get proper ventilation and shelter them from extended frosts or too much heat from the sun. It’s not easy, but you’ll get the hang of it.
Enjoy this month of new beginnings. I wish you a bountiful season!
Check out these must-have gardening products
You don’t need much to start gardening, but some tools and products will make a difference in how comfortable and effective gardening can be for you. Here are my favorites:
- Garden Trowel. A good garden trowel will last you many years. I love how sturdy this hand trowel from WOLF-Garten is, the metal doesn’t bend and it has a nice grip.
- Trimming Scissors. I use them for delicate pruning and harvesting all summer long, and they’re super handy. These Teflon Trimming Scissors are extra nice because they don’t rust as easily.
- Dutch Hoe. Dutch hoes may seem old-fashioned, but there’s nothing like a quick sweep through the topsoil to get rid of small weeds – no bending required. I love WOLF-Garten’s selection: this dutch hoe coupled with their universal handle.
- Grow Lights. These grow lights from Mars Hydro are super strong, yet dimmable, so they fit every stage of growth. They don’t put out too much heat and are very economical.
- Seedling Trays. There’s an art to choosing the best size for seedling trays so that it holds the perfect amount of water and gives the roots enough room to grow. These germination plugs are perfect when coupled with 1020 bottom trays.
- Liquid Fertilizer. You’ll need to feed your plants from the seedling stage, all the way to fruiting. This organic fish & seaweed blend is a very versatile option. Use it half-strength for young plants and full-strength for established plants.