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March 02, 2021

Start a vegetable garden with success this month

Welcome to March! It is still pretty cold out but there are already crops we can start outdoors. Here are some strategies that help us get an early crop going.

Fertilize the soil

Winter rain washes nitrogen out of the soil so you’ll want to add some fertilizer before you plant. Put down a layer of compost, aged manure, and/or your favorite mix first thing. 

Dry and warm a patch for planting

Seeds can stall out and mold if the soil is too cold and soggy. Try various techniques depending on materials you have access to. Old panes of glass, black or clear plastic sheets, etc. can be put down a week or two before you plant to warm and dry the soil. This isn’t necessary, it just helps if we have bad weather.

Choose vegetables that prefer cool weather

Favorites that I am planting right now are peas, spinach and radishes. The popular regional planting chart from West Coast Seeds shows what can be planted any month of the year. There are many that can be started either indoors or out this month. I had success ordering seeds from them in February -- a pleasant surprise with all the news of seed shortages these days.

Presprout seeds indoors before planting

I really like to soak seeds until they sprout before planting them out. If your seed is large enough to handle -- as is the case with peas, spinach and radishes, soak them in water overnight, then drain and cover with some wet paper towel until they sprout. It takes a few days. I fuss over them by rinsing them every day with fresh water so they stay damp but don’t get moldy. If you don’t have time for this whole process, even a few hours of soaking before planting gives them a jump start.

Plant and protect your seeds

After you plant them, it’s worth protecting them from pests! Slugs, rodents, and birds all like little sprouts so do what you can to keep these guys out. My arsenal includes chicken wire to lay on a freshly planted patch, clear plastic tunnels, an old glass pane propped up as a makeshift cold frame, and Safers slug bait. Position any glass or plastic to keep out rodents but allow for sun and ventilation. This kind of protection doubles to further warm the soil. Again, all this fussing isn’t necessary, but if you’ve got a lot of critters around it is worth it to act preemptively so you don't go out to find all your peas dug up.

Water sparingly until the plant comes up 

If you’ve soaked the seeds, you’ve probably got enough dampness to where you won’t need to water much. Let your touch be your guide. Once the plants are growing they won’t be so sensitive to mold and cold.

Good luck starting your early spring garden!

Susan Jensen





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