Begin March with transplanting raspberries and blackberries if you didn’t do this task in the fall. Put any compost you can spare on your asparagus, strawberry, blackberry, blueberry, and raspberry beds for a sweet reward in May and June. All of these acid loving berries thrive with a heavy sawdust mulching so top off your beds.
In the greenhouse or under lights indoors continue to sow lettuce, scallions, and broccoli. With the mild winter you may have been adventurous and started some extra early tomatoes, peppers and eggplant March 1, hoping the ground will warm enough to put them out in 6 or 7 weeks . If you didn’t start them yet now is the time to get sowing tomatoes, peppers, eggplants in flats.Outside you can start sowing early radishes, spinach, turnips, carrots directly in the garden and cover with spun polyester row cover. Presoak beets 1-2 hours before sowing 1/2″ deep, tamp soil when covered. Last date for sowing fava beans is 3/20. When forsythia blooms, sow pre-sprouted peas, only cover 1/2″-3/4″ deep. To support dwarf peas you can sow 1 oat grain per 5 peas.
Plant your potatoes as soon as possible after St. Patrick’s Day by green chitting. The practice of pre-sprouting seed potatoes before planting encourages early growth. It is widely used abroad, but less known to Americans. Chitting is simple. Spread the seed tubers in boxes or flats one layer deep with the seed end up. Look closely at a seed potato and you will notice one end was attached to the plant. The other end has more eyes from which sprouts emerge. The end with the eye cluster is called the seed end. Place your flats in a warm area (70 degrees) where light is bright but indirect. The warm air stimulates the development of strong sprouts from the bud eye clusters, which, in the presence of light, remain stubby and are not so easily broken off. Allow 1 to 2 weeks before planting.
As soon as your potatoes are in, it’s time to start the main crop of tomatoes indoors. Tropic and Brandywine OTV are great tomato for disease resistant, blemish free fruits placing high in our taste test last summer. Plan your irrigation and unfurl your hoses; be certain it’s all in running order because a dry spring may be right around the corner. Compost and prepare beds for outdoor planting that will begin in earnest in the next couple of weeks.
My new books have finally arrived. For those of you who have preordered Grow Great Vegetables in Virginia should be arriving soon to take your thoughts away from the corona virus and towards abundance in your garden.
by Ira Wallace of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange & author of the Timber Press Guide to Vegetable Gardening in the Southeast