Spend some of Valentine's Day contemplating your garden!
Spring in the low desert can last a mere two weeks or so where we watch the day time temperatures zoom from a balmy 75-85 range to high 90s during March. [Pictured - use chicken wire 'hats' to protect young seedlings or seeded areas from birds and other critters.]
Get your tomatoes in ASAP to ensure a nice fruit production and harvest before the hot summer nights (not day) temperatures keep the pollen from setting fruit. (They start setting fruit again in September when those night temps drop back down below 80.) [Pictured cardboard tube "collars" sunk 2 inches down to protect seedlings from slugs, snails and sowbugs.]
Basil, Plant or seed
Bay, Greek aka Sweet
Beans, Soy (March 15th)
Catnip, Plant or Seed
Chives, Garlic, Plant or seed
Chives, Onion, Plant or seed
Epazote, Plant or seed
Marigolds including ,Citrus Scented (Tagetes Nelsonii), Tangerine Scented (Tagetes Lemonii)
Perilla, Plant or Seed
GARDEN TIPS for March
If you are just now thinking about planting, see Flower Mulching technique. And run, do not walk, to purchase a water meter from your favorite garden nursery. The gallop into high heat can occur this month with such rapidity that we can go 70 to 95 in 30 days. (In a rare occurrence, we hit a 100 one year on March 29th.)
Get a jump on spring with weed cleanup. Some pests breed on the winter weeds and can launch an incredible attack (a type of gnat can assume locus swarm proportions), which may cover everything light or white in color, plants, flowers, buildings, even clothes drying on the line.
Perennial herbs will be starting to flower by end of March / beginning of April. If you use thyme, marjoram, oregano or any of the trailing herbs as ground covers, enjoy the blooms, then give them a hair cut. Remember the flowers are edible!
HAIL!!! Is a possibility in spring as the soil warms, and weather highs and lows bring alternating warm and cool air mass. If you add winds to the mix HAIL is a strong possibility. Keep your frost protection covers/poor man’s cloches handy.
The pest bugs like our mild weather too with aphids a particular pest. SAFE Soap Spray for aphids: 1 tsp each vegetable oil and Dawn to 1 quart of water. Spray every 5 days at sunset at least 3 times. DO NOT MISS a follow up spraying - spraying once will not take care of the aphid problem. The 1st gets the active adults, the 2nd one picks up the just hatched and missed ones and 3rd one gets the stragglers.
Purchase moisture meter and learn the various evaporation / water use characteristics of your garden. I consider these one of the desert gardener's BEST tools. Instant read.
FLOWER MULCHING TECHNIQUE
Some years ago I tripped across this idea when I wanted to grow a lot of basil fast, and I was planting late into the heat (late spring, early summer).
First, what is going on that a special technique needs to be used?
As the spring and summer day time temperatures climb into the high 90s and 100s, the surface of ANYTHING heats up and stays hot -- remember burning your feet on the pool surrounds? By July and August the surface afternoon mean temperature of soil, the sides of pots, asphalt and concrete can be as high as 180 degrees F! That includes the top 3-4 inches of soil. Without a protective canopy or surround the soil heats up to root killing levels.
So back to the basil. It was June and as I say I wanted a lot of basil fast, and so I planted about 8 young starter basil plants out of 3-4 inch containers, planting them about 6 inches apart. As I watched them over the course of a couple of weeks, the outer plants one by one died off. But the 1 or 2 plants in the center not only lasted, they thrived.
So what was going on? The outer plantings shaded the sides of the center plants, but still allowed the very necessary direct sunlight from above to feed (photosynthesis) the center plants. The outer plants leaves, while canopying the soil around the center plants also keep the soil surface cooler and moister until the center plants grew big enough to be their own canopies.
My "Flower Mulching" technique was born. Not wanting to sacrifice primary edibles, I turned to seasonal edible flowers to provide the initial protection.
THE TECHNIQUE: Imagine a 12 inch diameter circle. Place your primary herb, vegetable or fruit plant in the middle and using 3-5 flowers from a six pack or 3-5 4 inch flowers plant very close to the primary plant staying within the imaginary 12 inches. You can also plant the flowers first and then the primary plant, or you can use existing plantings to perform the same service. Many of the flowers will survive to be used in salads etc. (which is why I choose seasonal edible flowers). If the flower plants were not grown organically or without chemicals, wait 90 days before harvesting the flowers for food use.
Have a fun month in the garden!
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-- Catherine, The Herb Lady
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