University of Vermont
Department of Plant and Soil Science

gmg logo Spring News Articleline

SOWING HERBS AND OTHER MARCH GARDENING TIPS

Leonard Perry, UVM Horticulturist
and Charlie Nardozzi, Garden Consultant

Sowing herbs indoors, growing shamrock plants, and planning crop rotations for this yearís vegetables are some of the gardening activities for this month.   
   
Probably the biggest gardening project for March is to start transplants. Cabbage, broccoli, and other cole crops that can be set out early in the spring, as well as slow-growing flower varieties like verbena, pansies, and petunias, can all be started this month. But wait until April to sow seeds for tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and most flower varieties that cannot be transplanted until the danger of frost has past.
   
To get a jump on the herb gardening season, start seeds of basil, parsley, sage, and thyme indoors. Start seeds in flats filled with moistened seed-starting mix. Once the seeds germinate, place the plants under grow lights for 14 hours a day (timers make this easy) and keep soil moist.
   
Check the seed packet to determine if the seeds can be started indoors or should be sown directly in the ground when the weather warms up. Starting seeds indoors not only gives you a jump on the growing season, often leading to earlier harvests, but also allows you to have many varieties you canít find at greenhouses and garden stores.
   
Keep in mind that seed catalogs and packets often give "days to germination" which is the time for seeds to sprout, not the time until they are ready to plant outside.  You can find these times for the above plants, and more, online (pss.uvm.edu/ppp/consumer.html) in the Vermont Extension leaflets on Indoor Seed Sowing for Flowers and Vegetables.
   
As you begin planning and planting your vegetable garden beds, remember to rotate crops: Avoid planting crops in the same family in the same spot more than once every three years. Tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant are in the same family; so are squash, cucumbers, and pumpkins. Many pests and diseases overwinter in the soil, so moving plants around can disrupt their life cycles and minimize your need for pest and disease controls.
   
The familiar St. Patrick's Day shamrock plant is available at florist shops and many grocery stores this time of year. It has tiny, dark green, triangular leaves and grows to a height of about six inches. Shamrocks like cool air, moist soil (except in their dormant period), and bright light. Ideal temperatures are between 50 and 65 degrees (F), and over 75 degrees may cause plants to become dormant.  Soils should not be kept too wet or waterlogged. 
   
When the temperature climbs to 50 degrees in early spring and the wind is low, move houseplants with scale or mealybugs outdoors to a shady spot and thoroughly coat the foliage with lightweight or summer oil. Then move the plants back inside. A forceful stream of water, repeated every week as needed, may be all that is needed to dislodge mealybugs.  Check areas where leaves join stems for the white fluffy masses of the mealybugs.  Check undersides of leaves for brown scales, or their smaller light-colored crawling stage.
   
Take a walk around your yard to check for perennials that may have heaved out of the ground, exposing their roots to drying winds. Gently tamp them back into the soil or, if the soil is too frozen, surround them with mulch as protection, tamping them down later.
   
Other gardening activities for this month include watching for and attending flower and garden shows, signing up for a garden tour this summer (pss.uvm.edu/ppp/forpecon.htm#tours), taking stock of gardening supplies, and removing winter mulch from perennials.

(Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally known horticulturist, author, gardening consultant, and garden coach; gardeningwithcharlie.com).  

Return to Perry's Perennial Pages, Articles