Mar 01, 2023
7 mins read
It's March. We're saying goodbye to our... eventful "summer". Things in your garden probably need clearing out (and maybe preserving).
If your garden really suffered over the last 3 months then the good news is it's time to turn a new page and start planting the cooler-crop veges.
New garden, new you!
There's a good chance the late-summer weather means you're facing a lot of root rot and caterpillars. I covered them both in last month's gardening guide.
If you're planting baby brassicas this month, make sure you cover them with insect net until they're big enough to stand the pressure or the cold kills off your white butterfly population.
Also watch out for slugs and snails who will happily disappear your new seedlings. We use Quash Snail Bait in our garden as it's easy and safe for animals (and children). But if you're not a fan of snail bait, you could try beer traps or going out at night and picking them off your plants.
Avoid using salt for slugs and snails. It works, but it will also cause problems for your plants if it builds up in the soil.
My very first Garden Club member mentioned that aphids were causing issues for her brassicas. If you have aphids, you'll see little bugs, a black sticky mould, and ants. If you have all three of those things: you have aphids.
The aphids suck the sap from your plant, and secrete a substance called honeydew - which quickly turns into a black sooty mold. Ants love honeydew because it contains sugar. They are even known to 'farm' aphids for their honeydew!
So, now we've diagnosed your problem, what do you do? Well, aphids are pretty easy to control - you can just squash them, blast them off with a hose, or spray them with one of many home-made sprays containing a mixture of water, vinegar, and/or soap.
Longer-term, you need a friendly army of ladybugs, who will feast on your aphids. Ladybugs will be attracted to gardens with umbrella-like flowers such as dill, carrot, or yarrow. They also like alyssum, calendula, and (in the summer), marigolds.
These can be planted right amongst your problem crops, or nearby. If you're growing fennel to attract beneficial insects, keep it out of your main garden. Fennel is 'allelopathic', meaning it restricts the growth of other plants nearby - utterly useless as a companion.
What pests and diseases are causing trouble in your garden? Leave a comment on this post and I'm happy to try help!
What to plant
All the brassicas! No matter where you are, it's time to fulfil your hearts desire for broccoli, cabbages, cauliflowers, brussels sprouts, kale, kohlrabi, and Chinese cabbages such as pak choi.
You can squeeze in some leeks if you buy seedlings and do it ASAP - here's my planting guide. They'll be a little later to develop, but should be harvestable by mid-winter through to the end of spring.
Winter lettuces like cos, oak-leaf, or buttercrunch can be sown and/or planted out. As can silverbeet, spinach, rocket, and mesclun mixes.
Preparing to grow garlic
This will be a little ongoing theme for the next 9 months - let's try growing garlic together. I plant my garlic on the shortest day. I've just found that planting later seems to improve my chances with rust. But you can start planting anytime from April.
Use your best draining bed for garlic. Good drainage is the #1 thing you can do to reduce the chances of rust. Then, start preparing your soils. If you have at least 3 months before you plant, think about getting a green-cover crop sown this month. The Kings Seeds autumn green manure mix is a good choice.
If you don't have time for that, layer on the organic matter. Compost, seaweed, grass clippings, aged wood mulch, manure - use what you have. Remember, don't use fresh wood mulch (like that tree that came down during Gabrielle) as it can leach nitrogen from the soil and stunt your plants. Leave it in a pile and use it next year.
Harvest and storage
Now we are entering autumn, it's time to squirrel away what you've managed to grow for the winter months. Anything that did manage to get through the summer production period is ready for harvest. When it comes to harvests, you have options.
Drying is my favourite way to store things. Tie up bunches of your favourite herbs before they die back for the winter. Dry and store your potatoes and kūmara - here's my guide.
Your pumpkins can be picked and stored in a dark cool place once the stems dry off. Wipe away any dirt and store on a wire shelf to provide a good air-flow.
After drying, there's bottling. If your tomatoes made it through, you can have a go at canning them. They key thing is to ensure all your equipment is clean and sterilised, and that you keep everything as hot as possible. If you have fruit trees, you'll find this a very helpful skill to develop.
Making relishes or pickling are great ways to use those excess crops too. It involves a bit more work and extra ingredients, but it's worth it, and always makes a lovely gift.
Finally, there's freezing - I prioritise this last because we lost a lot of our frozen stores as a result of power outages. It's great and easy, but it's not fool-proof!
Herbs can be finely chopped and mixed with oil, then frozen in ice-cube trays. You can also simply freeze whole leaves. The herbs will lose colour, but they won't lose flavour. When you go to cook with them later, you'll often find they kind of just dissolve into your food, saving practically all the work.
Many vegetables require blanching before freezing to break down enzymes. Simply bring a pot of water to the boil, put your veges into the boiling water for about 2 minutes, then plunge into ice water.
If you want to make your harvest comes out of the freezer free-flow, rather than in one giant clump, you need to freeze it flat and separated. I find plastic lids are fantastic for this. Once frozen, transfer to a container or zip lock bag for storage.
Join the club!
This month marks the official start of the gardening club. This post - and last month's - are free for all to read. If you find it helpful, you can get one sent to you every single month of the year starting at just $3 per month.
For $10, you'll get a monthly 'deep dive' on a topic you vote for. Whether it's hot composting or growing carrots, once a month I'll go down the rabbit hole and find out everything I can to help you have the most productive garden.
At $25 per month, I'm going to start sending you actual physical things from my garden - seeds, bulbs, plants. Every three months, you'll get a package of goodies. Join by the end of this month and you'll get a collection of native plant and tree seeds from our property in April. I've got mānuka, taupata, pūriri, harakeke and ake ake as well as guides for growing them.
In June, members at this level and higher will get exclusive access to my garlic collection. The longer you're a member at this level, the more garlic you'll get.
To keep things manageable I've limited this level to 24 people, and you need to live in New Zealand.
And finally, if you've got a part of your property you'd like to redesign and transform, the $200 per month level gets you your own private gardening coach. We'll connect through email and video call and I'll help you come up with a plan, then cheerlead you through executing it. Perfect if you'd like to DIY with a bit of experience behind you.
You can join the gardening club by signing up at my BuyMeACoffee Page. Just select the level you'd like to support me at.
Remember - if you have any questions about gardening in the month of March, leave them in the comments section of this post and I'll do my best to answer them.
Thanks for reading, and happy gardening!