March is here, this is the month of hope for me as an urban grower in Chicago. I have endured subzero temperatures most of January, over two feet of snow in February and nursed my family through the flu while experiencing these challenges of winter weather. Gardening bliss cannot come quick enough for me. While experiencing the typical challenges of a Chicago winter, I have been envisioning a fruitful growing season of tasty nutritious vegetables. My seed catalogs give me inspiration to do another annual garden of determinate cherry tomatoes, straight eight cucumbers, luscious leafy greens and a variety of culinary herbs. My permaculture practice provokes me to enhance polycultures of my backyard with more perennial vegetables that can produce for many seasons to come. All my ideas have been put on graphing paper for plotting and designing a better backyard garden this year. March is the time when I make those ideas a reality as I begin to start the seedlings that will soon turn into abundant crops of food lasting well into the next Chicago winter.
Before I can enjoy my vegetable garden haven I must get ready in advance. After many seasons of food cultivation, I have found that preparation is key to a successful growing season. There are many things to consider before I can enjoy the fruits of my labor and celebrate the numerous harvest to come. Soil, water, compost and pest management are vital to my productive seasons. Although the initial steps can be daunting, they do make things easier as the growing season progresses. Preparing in advance has made my previous growing seasons of food cultivation fruitful ones.
Here are some useful tips maintenance related to soil, water, compost and pest management for vegetable spring gardening preparation.
• Use grass clippings, raked leaves, kitchen scraps (such as egg shells, produce rinds or coffee grinds) or mulch to amend your soil at the beginning of the spring season.
• Chop and drop old vegetable crops at the end of the growing to encourage the creation of rich fertile soil over the winter. This can help you avoid the cost of store bought fertilizer in the spring.
• Using water catchment systems like rain barrels is a great way to collect water in the spring (and throughout the season); April showers bring nourished vegetables. This a sustainable way to water your crops and save money on your water bill.
• Placing straw or mulch at the base of plants helps to retain water in the soil so root systems to obtain optimum nutrients. It also reduces water waste making a garden sustainable and resilient in times of drought.
• Prepare spring seedlings with red wiggler worm compost. Living in a vermiculture bin of kitchen scraps is all the worms need to create compost that starts a vegetable garden in the spring.
• Freeze kitchen compost for outdoor compost amendment in veggie garden beds at the start of the season. An abundance of growing medium by the spring as well as amendments is likely if this is practiced frequently.
• Applying a protective layer of fall leaves and or straw on gardens early in fall can deter harmful insects from being established over the winter. This can also prevent unwanted weeds from growing with new spring crops.
• Practicing companion planting of spring crops is an organic pest management method that reduces insect infestation. This good practice during the season that interrupts the life cycle of potential adversary insects that can damage crops later in the growing season.
Garden preparation in or before March is beneficial to spring food cultivation. It is a benefit to getting spring crops off to good start and producing fruitful harvests. Taking advantage of the winter months to plan a vegetable garden helps to deter some unfavorable issues. Consider helpful prep tips to encourage a productive vegetable garden in the spring and all season long.