Garden, Plant, Cook!

Thursday, February 14, 2019

March Planting Tips - And 1 Major Reason Your Seeds Did Not Grow

Dear Folks,

Well, we have certainly had the ups and downs of temperatures.  More cold this month than we have had in a couple of years, some frost/freeze with rain. It took a toll on my seedlings so I have to start over with some of them.  The best news about the low temps is we may have seen a die-off of pest bugs.  We have the potential for more frost for another week or so and more rain (great!) then warmer temps both day and night.

[See at the end of the post for links to purchase my perpetual month-by-month calendar in print or PDF form.  Then you will always have monthly gardening information at your fingertips.]

The apple seed pictured is not one of the fails!  This winter I have had the most interesting luck sprouting apple seeds after I got special wild landrace seeds from Baker Creek, I noticed seeds sprouting in an apple I forgot in the crisper draw and planted those (post with pictures here).

The seed pictured (and another one that sprouted several days later) are from a Fuji organic apple that I just said to myself, let me see what happens.  Took about 10 days for the first one to sprout in water.  So I will see how they do now that they are in small pots.

If you enjoy trying to sprout seeds from fruit you have purchased, let the fruit stay in a cool place like your crisper - protected from bruising as best you can.  Aged fruit that has not molded can create a natural germination environment.  Some of you may have noticed tomatoes sprouting inside the fruit when you cut it open, and if you carefully remove the seeds (soak overnight in water) you can sow them.  Now. With Frost Protection.

March is our crazy temperature month.  We have had 50-60 degree day time temps, with nights in the 40s and up, AND hail and rain.  As a temperature transition month while the soil warms, but air flows from the north and south collide, if you add wind and moisture you can get hail.  So, just because we probably won't get snow or freezing temps does not mean put the frost protection away - yet!  Historic temperature runs in March can go from a nice 70 to over 90 and we have had the rare 100 degree day in late March.

So what does that mean?  It means get perennial plants in the ground NOW, so they have some time to adapt the above-ground foliage to the coming heat.

Sow seeds and DO NOT SKIP sprinkling the ground EACH day (or evening) until you see growth above ground, then you can start to back off, sprinkle every other day, then every 3rd day water more volume and adjust watering to maintain.

I can't tell you how many times I have answered reader and audience questions about why their seeds never sprouted after the sowing.  The typical response to my investigation questions about when, how much they watered, sun orientation etc. - was - "well I watered for a couple of days".

At the Seed Share I hosted last week, I talked about this challenge.  Just because you do not see above-ground growth when you "think" it should have happened, does not mean nothing is happening.  What does happen is the seed sprouts - under ground.  In the presence of CONSISTENT moisture it continues to grow and eventually break ground.  IF IT hits a dry time, even for a day, it dies underground never having finished the germination cycle. 

I took this still from this excellent video on youtube showing a bean sprouting over 25 days (please take the time to watch the video - just 3 minutes and 10 seconds long).  Many other seeds may take LONGER to break the surface.  Please keep that in mind and be patient.  If you have viable seeds they should sprout for you when the soil temperature, moisture and light are sync'd to optimal conditions.  Some seeds like cool soil and some like warm soil.  We are going into the "warming" trend now. While the initial under-ground phase does not require light, it behooves you to direct sow when you can - outside - in the ground - or a very large container - in full sun.  If your seed is going to produce a fruit or herb, then it needs full sun.

By The Way - notice in the video the seedling in a breeze.  A breeze and wind is why plants directly sown in the ground do better - they have the advantage of stronger roots and pest control created by breeze and wind.  In a cultured environment of a green house or similar you are providing superior support to seed germination, but it also means most seeds will grow - including "weak" ones.  Direct sowing in the ground pretty much ensures the ones which grow, are the strongest ones and the ones most likely to give you best results.  FOOD- For-Thought!

ALSO notice the expansion of the root system in the video.  Half way through it switches to the cycle of the root expansion clearly showing the roots going wherever they need to, not constrained by a small container.  Bigger roots = healthier plants.

Now, what to sow and/or transplant for March.

If transplanting and the temps begin to rise quickly when you get to it, harden indoor or greenhouse grown transplants over the course of a couple of days by exposing them to full sun, 1 hour the first day, then back in shade (NOT indoors - patio or under trees/big bushes), 2 hours second day, and 3 hours the third day, then transplant that evening watering in well.

Artichoke, Jerusalem
Artichoke, Globe
Basil, Plant or seed
Bay, Greek aka Sweet
Bean, Lima
Beans, Snap
Beans, Soy (March 15th)
Bee Balm
Catnip, Plant or Seed
Chives, Garlic, Plant or seed
Chives, Onion, Plant or seed
English Daisy
Epazote, Plant or seed
Lemon Grass
Lemon Balm
Lemon Verbena
Marigolds including ,Citrus Scented (Tagetes Nelsonii), Tangerine Scented (Tagetes Lemonii)
Melons, Winter
Melons, Musk
Onions, Green
Oregano, Mexican
Oregano, Greek
Perilla, Plant or Seed
Scented Geraniums
Squash, Winter
Summer Squash
Sweet Alyssum
Tarragon, Mexican
Tarragon, French

    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.

    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.

My Month-By-Month Calendar
 -- There is a preview available

Print version 

PDF version

Have a great time in the garden and kitchen with your bounty!


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

If you enjoyed this post, please share and subscribe below by entering your email, to get all my posts! 

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner
Disclaimer: Clicking on links on this blog may earn me a small commission if you purchase something. Your price does not change.