Good afternoon gardening friends,
March in Portland is a wild month of whipping winds, cool temperatures, wet rains, and also warm sunshine that brings on the gardening itch! I enjoy having a break from my garden during December and January. The welcome break from the garden ensures leisurely time in the warm house, sipping tea & reading, cooking hearty winter meals, baking, catching up on house projects, and visiting with friends. Once February rolls around I eagerly read my new seed catalogs, review last year’s garden and making plans for this year’s garden. February is time of hope and promise in the garden.
Spring bulbs are popping up around every part of travels. Crocus, daffodil, miniature iris, hyacinth, and anemone brighten my porch containers and in the gardens I maintain. Flowering shrubs like quince, forsythia, winter daphne, sarcococca, edgeworthia, witch hazel, winter hazel, camellia and viburnum light up the late winter garden with a frenzy of yellow, orange, pink, and red. Look up to find cornelian cherry, ornamental cherry and tulip magnolia brightening the sky with their cherry blossoms that sing of the arrival of spring.
Our average last frost in Portland is March 15th. It is a good date to keep in mind when garden planning and planting. As February comes to a close with several sunny days it may seem time to start planting the edible garden, but proceed with caution. For optimal planting conditions not only do day temperatures need to rise, the soil needs to warm, and dry out some. In wet cold soil potato tubers will rot, seeds won’t germinate and transplants will struggle to grow. As March proceeds we generally have more ideal planting conditions.
Working in gardens causes soil compaction that impacts plant health. I’ve had my raised beds covered with a frost blanket that is keeping the soil warm and drier through the rainy season. The first week in March I will prepare my raised beds by removing the frost blanket, hoe the fall-planted crimson clover cover crop, leave greens on soil, sprinkle on an organic granular fertilizer, add a fresh layer of compost, and then replace the frost blankets. By mid March when I assess the weather the raised beds will be prepped and ready for planting.
Cool Season Crops to Plant in March:
Jerusalem Artichokes/Sunchokes-from tubers
Potatoes-from seed potato tubers
Onions-from bulbs or bunches
Direct seed in the garden with protection of a frost blanket, cloche, cold frame or plant transplants directly into the garden
Escarole & Endive
I would wait a little later in March to see how the weather goes for planting:
Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower. Or if you want to plant these now from transplants into the garden be sure to keep a warming frost blanket handy or use some other kind of protection from a cloche, cold frame or low tunnel. I would also hold off until late March into April for direct-seeding beets and carrots. Make sure the soil has warmed up!
March is a great time to get started with your herb garden. Cool-loving annual herbs like chervil and cilantro should be planted now from seed or transplants. Biennial parsley can be planted now. Additionally perennial herbs like chives, lavender, oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme can all be planted from transplants in March.
Late winter into early spring is the ideal time to plant small fruit and fruit trees in your garden. This time of year you will also get the best selection at nurseries. Consider planting a dwarf or columnar fruit tree such as apple, Asian pear, pear, cherry, or plum which all grow excellent in Portland. Fruiting shrubs, canes, and vines include:
And don’t forget the strawberries!