Your March Guide to Gardening
From our Community Garden Coordinator Leslie Wade
In the Spring our fancy lightly turns to thoughts of… what’s growing in the community garden and what’s good to eat! This March a broad range of vegetables, herbs and flowers will be growing. Annual herbs such as cilantro, chervil, parsley, cutting celery and dill are fragrant and at their peak flavor. Perennial herbs like rosemary, oregano, lavender, fennel, chives, mint and thyme are starting to flush out new growth and will continue as they are snipped regularly for use in culinary creations. These herbs will complement root vegetables such as beets, radish, turnip, carrots and rutabaga, as well as, greens, lettuces, leeks, kohlrabi, kalettes, broccoli, peas and cabbages.
These cool season crops will start to lose their sweet, crisp flavors as the temperature continues to rise so, once harvested, their spot in the garden will be replaced with warm season plants. Warm season plants are growing and waiting patiently in the greenhouse for their time to be placed in the warm soil and to bask in the sun.
A mulch cover like wheat straw or covering with frost covers can protect plants if we have a later-than-expected Spring freeze. While it is important to protect seedlings and warm season plants so they are not damaged in a freeze, cool season plants will have acclimated to any cold temperatures and will be ready for harvest.
When harvesting these scrumptious vegetables and herbs, try to pluck them in the morning hours before the temperatures become too intense and the sun gets too high in the sky. Even in 50-degree temperatures, greens can wilt quickly if too long in the sun. If your greens do wilt, add them to a basin of water to perk them right up before use. Root vegetables will have longer storage life if you separate them from their green tops and the root tail at their base. But STOP! Don’t discard the tops of root vegetables. The tops of most root vegetables, in addition to their underground counterparts, are edible and they are loaded with incredible nutritional value! A popular use for carrot top greens is to make a pesto, which can be used with fish, grains, roasted vegetables, bread or pasta. Add some parsley, celery tops or celeriac greens to add even more flavor to the pesto.
Healthy soil is the first step to a productive garden, and composting yields wonderful results. Though, what we see on our plate is generally much more enticing. A favorite item to prepare with spring vegetables from the garden is Kohlrabi, Carrot & Leek Fritters with an Herb Yogurt Sauce. Click here to read my recipe.
As you stroll through the parks in the next few weeks you will see Conservancy horticulturists and Park Angel volunteers spreading compost around the base of the plants. Compost is an essential ingredient in creating an active soil. Not only does it add nutrients, but it also improves soil structure which allows for proper drainage, it mediates soil pH, and it creates an environment that is beneficial to soil organisms crucial to a plant’s health. The Conservancy uses mushroom compost regularly to improve soil quality. Not only does this natural amendment add much needed nutrients to help plants thrive but it has a host of other functions in the natural garden.