What to Do in the Garden this Weekend - Linda Gilkeson

by: EJ on 03/13/2015

Linda Gilkeson, author of Backyard Bounty: The Complete Guide to Year-Round Organic Gardening in the Pacific Northwest, gives our west coast readers some tips for what to do in the garden with this weekend!

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What to do in March depends a lot on whether or not you filled your garden last summer with hardy greens and other overwintering crops. A year-round garden right now has rapidly growing Swiss chard, spinach, lettuce, radicchio, kale, corn salad and many other greens, while purple sprouting broccoli and winter cauliflower are coming into full production. If you planted enough to last you until spring, there may still be carrots, beets, parsnips, celeriac, leeks, Brussels sprouts and cabbage to harvest.

With a garden full of harvestable crops, the main activity now is starting seeds indoors under grow lights or in very bright south window. Start leeks, onions, celery, celeriac, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and other warm season crops for later transplanting (some keen gardeners have already have started theirs, but it is not too late to seed them now).


If you are in a hurry to taste the delights of new potatoes and early peas, get an early start by sprouting both indoors for a few weeks. Line the seed potatoes up along the window sill to grow short green sprouts and sow the peas in trays of vermiculite or potting soil. I cut out one side of a quart milk carton to make it into a planting tray, fill it with vermiculite and push 25-30 pea seeds into the mix. On the day you start the seeds indoors, go out and rake back any mulches and cover the garden bed where they are to grow with clear plastic to warm up the soil.

What with cutworms, slugs and diseases rampant in cool, wet early spring weather, I wait until April and May, to most crops outdoors--well after the cutworms are pupating and the soil is nice and warm. The crops start producing in June about the time overwintered crops go to seed (and I am becoming pretty tired of purple sprouting broccoli, kale and spinach....)


Gardeners without a bountiful supply of overwintered crops will be in more of a hurry to plant, of course. Go out now and cover planting beds with clear plastic to warm the soil so that you sow some very early plantings. If you have poorly drained or heavy clay, your soil may not be dry enough to work until April. In that case, concentrate on growing seedlings indoors or in cold frames so you can plant the beds as soon as the soil can be handled.  Best bets for such early plantings are annuals, such as hardy lettuce, namenia, mizuna, Komatsuna, leaf mustard, Chinese cabbage and spinach. Unlike biennials (e.g., chard, leeks, onions, kale) the annuals won't bolt to seed early if we get a late cold spell after they have been growing for awhile. If you do sow some biennials early, also sow some later to ensure you have a crop if it is does get cold enough to trick the early plantings into bolting.


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