The March Garden
March is the harvest month- the time to gather in what you have grown and keep it safe for winter. It's a gentle month. The sun isn't as fierce and there's a touch of lushness in the growth- the Autumn flush before the winter.
The weather is cooling now. With a few exceptions like spinach, broad beans and cabbages the main vegetable planting time is over.
Early broad beans sown now will be susceptible to aphids- but you can just nip off the tops, steam them and eat them, and that will be the end of the aphid problem. Early broad beans may mean an early winter harvest, instead of waiting till spring to eat them. Plant them very closely together, so they can protect each other from the frost which will nip off the flowers. As soon as the weather warms up the plants will start setting fruit again.
Early onions, like flat white, can be planted now, and the ground prepared for later main onion plantings. Onions don't like weeds- as they grow slowly they won't take competition- so make sure the ground is clear.
Tomatoes will be glutting now, and melons and okra ripening. Test melons for ripeness by sniffing them, ( a fruity smell indicates ripeness) and by tapping them to see if they sound hollow. Don't pick pumpkins till the stems turn dry near the base of the pumpkin, then let them 'cure' or harden on a hot roof or dry cement for a week or two. This will help stop them rotting in late winter.
Pumpkins that aren't quite ripe will still be sweet- but they won't store well.
. Plant more peas or broad beans for 'green manure'- slash them in late winter or early spring just as they start to flower, to provide mulch and fertilizer for a 'no dig' garden
.Start to prepare for frost now- work out which trees are vulnerable, like avocados, citrus, tamarilloes, and start building shelters for them. See Chapter
Keep up fruit fly lures till there have been none caught for three weeks. Most pests will be vanishing as the weather cools down.
Jobs for March
.divide agapanthus and other large clumped plants. One big clump can give you twenty new plants!
. move shrubs and small trees while the weather is cool, but still arm enough for them to put out new roots
. take rose cuttings: - snappable wood about as long as you hand. Fill a box with clean sand and plant so just the top third is poking out. Keep moist and in semi shade; pant out your new roses next winter
. keep pots of succulents dryish- if they die over winter it may be too much moisture, rather than cold that kills them
. leave pumpkins in a sunny spot Ie the shed roof or on paving) for a few days to 'cure' so their skins will harden before storing them (on their sides- moisture collects in the tops and bottoms and the pumpkin may rot)
. pick off African violet, rex begonia, gloxinia, pepperomia leaves. Poke the leaves veins downwards into clean sand till the leaves are half covered New roots will form at the ends of the veins- and by next spring you'll have new plants to pot out.
Useful tip: worried that your favourite plants may turn into weeds ? go to www.weeds.org.au to find out what plants may become pests in your area
Quiet achievers: A good garden has plants that look good all year- not necessarily stunning bloomers, just trees and shrubs that give a garden shape and form. Autumn is a great time to mooch around your suburb, or visit local open gardens, and look at the 'background' plants- not the showy flowers, but the pleasantly shaped plants that should do well in your garden too.
Tired of straggly grass under trees? Replace it with:
.a bed of hellebores for winter flowers
. a mulch of bright pebbles or crushed rock
. a ground cover like yellow or pink flowered variegated lamium
. a wrap around garden seat
.half a dozen hydrangeas for a stunning summer display
What to Plant in March
New veg to try: coloured chard- just like silverbeet but with brilliant yellow pink or reed stems, long white radish- very mid tasting and fast growing ornamental kale- frilly and coloured but can be finely chopped to make a stunning coleslaw, sweet, tiny red mignonette lettuce, crisp fast growing Japanese turnips
Plant to eat: garlic, macadamias, avocados, bananas, custard apples, lychees, sapodilla, star fruit, paw paws, mangoes, passionfruit, citrus, strawberry plants, capsicum, carrots, chilli, cauliflowers, eggplant, okra, potatoes, silver beet, sweet corn, zucchini.
Plants for beauty: hibiscus bushes, calendula, poppy, primula, snapdragon, sunflower, salvias; fill bare spots with ferns.
Plants to eat: garlic, macadamias, avocado trees, citrus, strawberries, beetroot, broccoli, broad beans, cabbage, carrots (mini or 'French round' carrots mature fastest), cauliflower, garlic, leeks, parsnips, spinach, celery, fast maturing Asian veg like tatsoi, pak choi and mitsuba.
Plants for beauty: bulbs, including liliums, agapanthus, iris; multi stemmed jonquils, heat hardy tulip varieties, flowers like alyssum, dianthus, pansies, primulas, salvias, poppies, sweet peas, stock. Grevilleas for nectar for the birds (Superb and Robyn Gordon and her relatives bloom throughout the year)
Plants to eat: garlic, strawberry runners, broad beans, spinach, onions, seedlings of broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, fast maturing Asian veg like tasto, pak choi and mitsuba.
Plants for beauty: bulbs like daffodils, jonquils, tulips, anemones, hyacinths, freesias, ranunculi, seedlings of Iceland poppy, primulas, pansies, polyanthus, sweet peas.
Fun for Kids
.Cut off a pineapple top with the 'shoulders' of the fruit as well as the leaves; plant in a large pot with the soil up to the lowest leaves; keep moist by a sunny window, or outside in frost free areas- and watch it grow!
. tie a string or a sticky tape around a young apple , orange or zucchini. As it grows it will develop a 'waist' and bulge out either side.