too many words by laura lemay

March Garden Update Pt. 1

The good news is that I am no longer behind in getting all my seeds and plants started or into the garden. The bad news is that I’ve started a new writing gig and I’ve fallen behind in blog posting instead. So here is the garden update for March, posted in April.

Onions, Garlic, Leeks

I ordered onion plants from Johnny’s in February. The variety is Patterson, a yellow onion, and they come in a bundle in a box in the mail. This is the same variety I grew last year, and they’re a good onion — they grow into big bulbs that keep a long time. I like mail-order onion plants a lot; they are easy to put into the ground (make hole, drop onion into hole) and seem to reliably take root and grow on their own.

I also bought a 6-pack of red onions when I was at the garden center, and planted those next to the yellow onions. There were more plants than I thought there were going to be in the one 6-pack, so I guess I’ll have a lot of red onions. I also impulsively bought a 6-pack of leeks on another garden center trip (I visit the garden center a lot at this time of year) and those need to be planted in this same bed as well. I don’t really eat that many leeks, but if I have leeks I’ll find a use for them. (I didn’t eat that many shallots either until I accidentally grew 20 lbs of them last year).

The garlic is still doing well and the garlic plants are now about a foot tall. I also filled up the remainder of the garlic bed with a couple shallots and some left over onion plants that I’ll use for scallions.

Broccoli & Other Brassicas

Last year’s broccoli has stopped forming little heads and the ones it does form go to flowers almost immediately. It’s time to pull those plants out and give them to the chickens. I got pounds and pounds of broccoli out of these plants right up until last month, so I’m OK with letting those go.

I never got around to planting broccoli seeds this year, so I bought some started plants on one of my garden center runs. I planted two varieties: Gypsy and Green Magic, both hybrids. I had 6 broccoli plants last year and nearly too much to eat, but this year there are 12. I’m figuring on freezing a lot.

Right now these plants are looking really purple, and I’m not sure why. My friend Google would indicate either a nutrient deficiency or it’s just been too cold. These plants are due for a dose of seaweed fertilizer and the weather’s getting a lot warmer, so we’ll see if I can’t green them up.

I did seed some brussels sprouts earlier last month and they came up very well, I planted those into the garden at the same time as the broccoli. Brussels sprouts are kind of troublesome for me — I can grow huge plants but get really small sprouts, and they’re plagued by bugs. But hope springs eternal and we’ll see if I can’t coax some real sprouts out of them this year.

I’m not growing cauliflower or romanesco. We eat a lot of cauliflower, but it needs a lot of space and water and you only get one head per plant. You also have to cover it in order for it to be white, and it has a lot of bug problems, and it’s picky about the weather. Too much trouble, better to just give over the space to more broccoli and buy cauliflower in the store.

Roots & Shoots

I’m still eating carrots and beets from last year (I planted too many of them, and have not been eating them fast enough). The carrots are starting to sprout flower stalks, and some of them are a good three inches across at the crown, but they’re still edible. (they are especially good as ginger pickles) The beets are large and woody but the greens are still good.

I started planting this year’s carrots and beets a week ago. These will be multicolored carrots (orange, white, purple), as well as chioggia (pink striped) and yellow beets.

I planted peas in just about every bed as a cover crop, to add more nutrition to the soil. Peas are a nitrogen fixer, which means they suck nitrogen out of the air and store it in little nodules in their roots. If you cut down the pea plants you get the benefit of that extra nitrogen in the soil, and you can compost the greens. I haven’t been very good about cover cropping in the past and it’s something I want to try to improve — it’s always better to grow better soil in place than to add stuff every year to improve it. I probably won’t get any actual peas out of these plants before I cut them down, but every little bit of benefit to the soil counts.

I also planted snap peas, but either they did not sprout or they did and birds got them. Could go either way. I’m thinking of planting more seeds but it’s getting late in the season — Snap peas don’t do well when the weather is too warm.


Sometimes when I read other people’s garden blogs I get depressed because it seems like everyone else has fabulous gardens and everything they plant grows well and looks terrific. It finally occurred to me that no one posts about their failures, so you get a rosier picture. So. I planted a whole bed full of spinach seeds and watered them and protected them from birds and none of them came up. This happens every year. I don’t know why everyone says say that spinach is one of the easiest vegetables to grow. I suck really hard at spinach.

Kale and chard are started and ready to plant, but I haven’t put them in the garden yet.

Up next: tomatoes and peppers!