Monthly Garden Tips – March 2013

I developed these fun tips to provide a little guidance this season with your urban agriculture and backyard gardening adventures.  Enjoy!
Start composting!
Its always a perfect time to start.  You can start with  just a pile, use a fancy tumbler, or use an old plastic garbage bin.
See my quick tips on how or learn more:
Garden clean-up.
They don’t call it spring cleaning for nothing.  Start pruning all the stuff knocked out from winter.  If you can, chop it all up small and then compost it.  You should start seeing new growth now on many shrubs and perennials indicating they are ready for that haircut.
Start shopping – for your shopping list!
In those areas where winter is hanging on, this is the best thing to get you started with you spring garden – planning!  Make a list of veggies and flowers you want to plant and grow this season.  Think about where you plan to plant and how many.  (might be helpful to do a garden sketch – try it!)
Prepare the garden soil.
Don’t overwhelm yourself here!  Focus on your first primary planting areas.  This can be simpler than you think.  Just start adding compost to the top of the soil, and just rake it in – no need to dig and turn over the soil.  You’ll add more organic material as you do your planting.  Want even simpler?  A good pile of leaves can do a lot of the work for you in a couple of weeks, even in just a few days.  Wet down the pile and wait for bugs.  When you’re ready to plant, move the pile to your next planting areas to get them ready for later.
Go shopping.
The other super fun garden chore!  Select quality transplants.  It’s a good idea to shop at a local nursery, carrying plants that do well in your area.  Be sure to ask questions.  And be sure to buy the plant and buy the seed – anything similar.  There’s loads of info on those seed packets!
Here are some favorites I recommend for this season:
Beets
Broccoli (raab, romanesco, broccolini – all of it)
Carrots (any kind)
Chard
Kale
Lettuce (any kind still available)
Radish
Tomatoes (small & large varieties)
Zucchini (yes, squash too)
And lots of herbs!
Fertilize and prune citrus.
As citrus wake up for the season, prune off all the dead stuff from winter and remove as much fruit as possible.  This will help them redirect their energy into new growth and flowering.
Check your watering system.
Turn it on now before the garden really needs it, so you can identify any leaks or damage.  Get things repaired pronto, because it will be warm before you know it.
Tend to those weeds.  
In warmer areas, the soil is drying and will make weeding more challenging.  It may also help to allow weeds to grow a bit bigger making them easier to grip and tug.  Give weedy areas a nice watering, then wait a day and pull away.
Watch for pests.
Aphids.  Powdery mildew.  Squash bugs.  Sharpshooters.  Caterpillars.  Birds.  Squirrels.  Cats.  The list goes on.  Vigilance & observation are you first line of defense. Research IPM (Integrated Pest Management) practices in your area to learn your usual suspects and how to deal with them organically.
Feed the bees!
As spring draws near, the bees will be out in search of nectar.  Get wildflowers planted, and be sure to plant lots of seeds too.  You can set-up a watering tray for bees using a garden saucer or an old plate.  Add water and thinly sliced fruit for some natural goodness.  You can even use a little bit of honey as a sweetener.  (whatever you do, DO NOT use regular sugar!).
For more tips on what to do this month, check out your local Master Gardeners’ or County Extension Cooperative.  If you’re in my ‘hood in the southwest, check out:

http://cals.arizona.edu/maricopa/garden