Early Spring Gardening

We’ve had a few mild sunny days here in the Mid-Atlantic, and it’s easy to get over-excited about Spring gardening. But the final frost date in our area is May 15th, so it’s not quite time yet to go full tilt into digging and planting. Still, if you’re eager to get out there and get your hands in the dirt, here are a few things you can do in our area (Zone 7) in March.

  • Turn and shape your beds
  • Dig compost trenches and bury last winter’s
  • Cut back perennials*
  • Fertilize perennial beds, trees, and shrubs
  • Rake paths and shred trimmings to create mulch for later plantings
  • Clear areas to make new beds**
  • Plant green manures, especially white clover or buckwheat, to turn over in mid-May just prior to planting summer annuals.

*Some notes on trimming perennials:

Remember that with our Mediterranean herbs, like Lavender, Rosemary, and Thyme, you should wait until the first green growth shows before trimming. These plants will produce new leaves on old branches, so wait to look for dead wood until later in the season.

Mints, on the other hand, grow back from the root, so you can cut back old branches and add these to your mulch or compost.

Nettles, if you have them in your garden, make great compost for other plants, but be careful to only use dried leaves and stems, root pieces will likely grow into new Nettle plants! To be on the safe side, you can soak old Nettle plants in a bucket of water for 2-3 days before adding them to other garden beds. Add the water too, it’s great for the soil!

**If you’d like to know more about preparing garden beds, check out our blog post here.

If you’re as eager as I am to get the vegetable garden started, there are some annuals that can go in the ground now, despite the possibility of frost or late snow. I’ve grown kale and beets in all kinds of weather here, for instance, and peas are a favorite first vegetable of the year for many gardeners. Here’s a list from thevegetablegarden.info

Vegetables that can be planted in March in Zone 7-8:

Beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, lettuce, mustard greens, onions, peas, potatoes, radishes, spinach, turnip

Most herbs prefer to wait until after the frost date to be planted out in the garden. You can start seeds indoors now to give them a head start or wait and buy plants in May. Some fall blooming flowers like chrysanthemums can be divided now.

And of course, if you don’t have a garden of your own, or aren’t quite sure where to start, you can always join us in Smile’s garden on Wednesdays and Fridays to learn more about the joys of working the land!

Happy Gardening!

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