March is the month for sowing seeds, pricking them out, preparing garden beds for summer planting, making compost and being prepared for pests and diseases.
Our first job this month is making a hot compost.
Slightly limited ingredients, but we do have a pile of spent crops which we call biomass, grass clippings, seaweed, egg cartons, rock dust, and some blood and bone.
Give the ground you’re building on some aeration with a fork first, then we layer in this order:
- grass clippings
- egg cartons
- activators which are seaweed, rock dust and blood bone
- soil or mature compost
- a good watering.
Repeat this 3 or 4 times until you have a pile around 1 metre cubed. I cover ours with black polythene, securely fastened with leftover concrete fence posts from the garden. This is to help build up the temperature, keep the pile contained, and while the heat that’s generated in the beginning will deter rodents, I have a mortal fear of them so it’s also to keep them out!
Over the next 48 hours the temperature should be up around 70 degrees. Within a week it’ll have broken down by half, and in two weeks it’ll be down to a third of its original size. At two weeks it’s time to turn the compost over. After three weeks I’ll be able to use it.
Another good job to do at this time is feed your trees. Evergreens should be fed in spring and autumn and deciduous trees just in spring. I pull any weeds away from around the trunk, then apply generous amounts of chicken manure and a multi-mineral fertiliser. This should be around the dripline of the tree, but our trees are so small it ends up near the trunk.
Then I cover with a mulch – this is wood chips from prunings on the property. And this is when it looked all neat and tidy. Subsequently the birds have got in looking for worms! But we need the birds in the garden too, so it’s a matter of putting up with it!
Now if you have any salad greens ready for planting you can get them in the ground now. I’ve been too optimistic with my seedlings (and planted them out a bit on the small side) and sadly lost a few to the slugs. This is the time of the year we do battle with slugs and snails. I have been highly vigilant with our yeast traps and even so, still lost seedlings. So, belatedly in some cases, I’ve put milk and juice bottles with the bottom cut out over the smaller seedlings, to act as a cloche and give them a helping hand.
Remember yeast traps are 1 cup of warm water, to which you add 1 teaspoon of white sugar and 1 teaspoon of dried yeast. Mix well and allow it to froth up. Pour into a container that’s more or less soil height. Only thing is you need to replace them after rain, but they sure do catch slugs.
As our deciduous fruit trees are about to burst, we’re making codling moth traps using milk bottles with handles. The recipe is 5 cups of warm water, ½ cup molasses, 1 cup cider vinegar, a few drops of dishwashing liquid and a few drops of cloudy ammonia.
I mix it up with my hands, then pour into the bottom of a 2L milk bottle (one with a handle) which I’ve cut a hole in on either side.
Hang them with two ties to distribute the weight evenly over the branches in trees as small as these ones. Tie in the crook of a branch.
These will help detract guava moth as well. Other methods of deterring guava moth are using neem granules, as the smell of neem detracts the moth. Sprinkle some on the ground beneath the tree and we would also recommend putting some in breathable drawstring bags and hanging in the branches. You can also spray the caterpillar with Btk.
Now is also a good time to plant flowers like borage and phacelia. These flowers attract beneficial insects which help keep the ecosystem in the garden in balance.
Our tomato seeds are germinating now, so in a couple of weeks, they’ll be big enough to prick out into their own pots to grow on for another month. The main punnet of tomato seeds had a slight crash off the windowsill this week (Grrr!). I’ve saved six seedlings, but it’s not enough. Have had to sow more in a poor moon phase. At least the Romas, which only had a 75% germination rate this year, are intact.
We’re also going to sow eggplant and capsicum seed now. If you like to grow chillis, this is a good time to sow them too.
And in this Full Moon week we recommend sowing your parsnips which grow all over summer and are ready for autumn and winter harvest. Full Moon is also a good time to sow carrots. As we eat so many carrots, I’m aiming to sow some every Full Moon.
It’s time now to buy seed potatoes.
I’ll start chitting them at the end of this month, ready for planting out in April. We don’t plant our potatoes until all signs of frost are gone, as frost will nuke the new growth of potatoes and set them back.
And lastly our rhubarb has come away beautifully and we’re enjoying eating it. As the leaves have a high concentration of oxalic acid which can be toxic, it’s not recommended to put them in worm farms, so we use them as a mulch under the plant.
Lots to get organised before we start spring planting in earnest!
From Jan and Rob.