March harvest basket
March harvest basket

What a strange summer we have had this year with lots of cool days and lots of hot humid weather. Hopefully autumn will bring more settled weather and lots of energy to get us going in the garden. Effort spent now will reward us with lovely fresh vegetables, flowers and herbs in the cooler months ahead.

March is a great time to start planting the vegetables that you will harvest through the winter. The warm weather should get them off to a good start. You will have to watch the weather and remember to water them every couple of days, if it does not rain. However they should grow well with little attention through the winter apart from the odd bit of weeding.

New silverbeet plants starting to grow
New silverbeet plants starting to grow

Once the summer vegetables have finished, clean out the bed and prepare for the new crops (see the February notes for more detail.) If you are planning to grow green vegetables such as silverbeet, kale or lettuce, add the fertiliser and/or manure at least a week prior to planting and water it in well. Peas and broad beans do not need so many nutrients so you can skip this unless the soil is poor.


Jobs to do in my Ocean Grove garden this month:

  • Remove the tomato, climbing beans, cucumber and zucchini plants as they stop fruiting. Check the soil pH in the empty veg beds and adjust if necessary.
  • Add manure/compost/organic fertilisers to the empty beds and cover with straw.
  • Plant out the lettuce, broccoli and kale seedlings into the prepared garden beds.
  • Sow seeds of coriander and chervil in large pots for the balcony.
  • Start seeds of calendula in small pots.
  • Prune the pears, apricot and nectarine trees on a cool dry day, then spread manure and mulch around them. Water them well.
  • After pruning all the stone fruit trees, spray them with Kocide to prevent peach leaf-curl and fungal diseases.

Learners Corner

Calendula flowers encourage the good bugs
Calendula flowers encourage the good bugs

The easiest vegetables to grow through the winter are silverbeet, lettuce, kale and broccoli. As kale and broccoli belong to the cabbage family, you will need to watch out for the green caterpillars of the cabbage white butterflies. (See the war zone below.) However once we get to May they will hibernate and give you a rest!



Calendula seedlings starting to grow
Calendula seedlings starting to grow

If you are ready to try your hand at growing some flowers from seed, calendula is a good one to start with. Just fill some small pots with good quality potting soil. Place 2 or 3 seeds in each pot and cover with a thin layer of fine potting mix (remove the large lumps from the potting mix) or seed raising mixture. Place in a cool spot out of direct sunlight and water daily unless it rains. After the new plants emerge, move to a sunnier but sheltered spot. When they have 2 real leaves, and there is more than 1 plant in a pot, weed out the weaker looking plants so you have one good plant growing in each pot. Every week give them a feed of dilute liquid fertiliser. They should be ready to plant out in about a month.

Parsley and coriander are herbs that grow well through the winter. They should grow well in pots or in garden beds through the winter and last until early summer.

For the Experienced Gardener

Newly planted lettuces need protection from hot sun
Newly planted lettuces need protection from hot sun

Those of you who have been raising seedlings will be planting them out into your garden beds this month. If you can do this after a cool change the plants will be able to take advantage of some cooler days to adjust to their new homes. Don’t forget to shade tender young plants from the hot sun as the weather warms up again. By the end of the month they should be growing well, especially if you water them with seasol and powerfeed or worm juice once a week or so.


Sow carrot seeds now for carrots in September
Sow carrot seeds now for carrots in September

There are quite a few vegetables that are best grown directly from seed. It is now a good time to try carrots, lettuce and Asian greens. I like to make a channel in the mulch that is about 10 to 20 cm wide. If the soil underneath is a coarse texture, I add some potting mix or seed raising mixture and level it across the channel. Then I scatter the seeds over this in a wide band. Finally I cover the seeds with a thin layer of seed raising mix, press it down and give it a light watering. This works particularly well for carrots. As we do not get frosts in Ocean Grove, the carrots will grow through the winter and should produce lovely sweet carrots in early spring.

Seeds to sow this month

Asian greens, broad beans, broccoli, endive, fennel, lettuce, kale, radishes, silverbeet, spinach, spring onions, chervil, coriander, parsley.

Seedlings to plant out this month

Broccoli, cabbage, globe artichokes, kale, leeks, lettuce, rocket, shallots, silverbeet, spinach, spring onions, parsley.

The War Zone

If you have any plants in the cabbage family such as radishes, broccoli and rocket, you may have noticed the green caterpillars of the Cabbage White butterfly. As an alternative to spraying, you can pick them off. This is a job that kids often enjoy! The butterflies can be discouraged by placing white plastic butterflies on sticks among the plants or even egg shells. There are also fine nets and fleece that can be draped over the plants to exclude the butterflies. For young broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage seedlings, I dust them with derris dust before covering them with exclusion netting. This has no residual effect and deals with any eggs that are about to hatch. After a few waterings, the dust has disappeared entirely.

A katydid  looking for aphids for dinner
A katydid looking for aphids for dinner

Aphids can be a problem through autumn. Check to see if there are any ladybirds or other bugs attacking them before you spray with pyrethrum. If so hold off as the problem will soon go away. The black aphids seem to like my chives and spring onions. The green aphids are often found in the tender new growth of green vegetables such as lettuces and cabbages. If they are ignored, you run the risk of getting virus infections established. These can cause distortions in the growth of young plants, which then have to be destroyed. So get on the case early, either by squirting the aphids with the water hose or spraying them with pyrethrum. Please do not use the systemic products such as Confidor as they kill the bees too.

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