Dreaming of gardening in March
You can feel it now on clear days - the sun’s strength is increasing. We can literally watch the snow melt and the raised beds reappear from their wintery blanket. Spring is approaching tenderly and soon life will take place in the garden once again. In about one month we can sow the first seeds and transplant the first seedlings right into the beds.
Mid-April is when our gardening season starts with the first planting of cool and cold season crops. The name suggests it already, these plants are hardy. They can deal with some degrees Celsius below zero and actually thrive in cool conditions. Most of our favorite vegetables and leafy greens belong to this category: broccoli, cabbage, lettuces, snow peas, radishes, beets, carrots, mustard and mizuna leaves as well as Pac Choi and parsley. Yes, you’ve read right. You don’t need to wait until June 1st to start your garden. This is just one of many garden myths that have been cultivated for decades, but that are actually wasting precious time and opportunities to grow food. I’m not exactly sure why this rule became so popular, but I can imagine that it had to do with the frost dates. The last frost date is indeed the important date for gardeners, as it marks the transition from cool to warm season. Once May 12 (last frost date for Ottawa & Montreal) or May 24 (last frost date for Prescott-Russell & other rural areas in Eastern Ontario) come around, you can transplant frost sensitive crops like tomatoes, peppers, basil, cucumbers, squash, pumpkins and beans. Be aware though, these dates only give you an orientation for when the warm season starts since not one year is like the previous one. So please always follow the weather forecast to make sure you’re in the clear and keep some row covers ready for cold nights!
Radishes, arugula, lettuces, mizuna or chives grow fast in cool weather especially when protected by a frost cloth or low hoop tunnels. Starting your spring garden with seedlings often gives you some extra days ahead too.
Do you intend to start your own seeds but haven’t gotten around to doing it yet? No worries! March is the perfect time to start warm season crops like tomatoes, lettuce, basil, and cool season crops like Pac Choi, arugula, broccoli or cabbages. It’s easier than you might think. With good seed starting soil, a gentle watering can or water sprayer, grow lights and good quality seeds you’re very well set up for success. Plant seeds at a depth no more than two times their width, water regularly but sparsely and add the grow lights once the seedlings emerge.
Now, who is not dreaming of their own garden full of greens and veggies by now?
This article got also published in The Review, Vol. 130 ,No. 12 on March 22, 2023 on page 6: