Seasonal Tips for Gardening Zones February-March 2002

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DAVID CAVAGNARO
Eva Purple Ball is a German heirloom tomato with incredible, old-fashioned flavor.

Learn about current February and March seasonal tips for gardening zones in the U.S.

New England/Maritime Canada Gardening

Seasonal tips for gardening zones. The days grow longer and the sun is slowly warming the
ground, sending the first sweet scents of spring into the
air. Seed orders are arriving. It’s time to sort the onions
and make French onion soup with the soft and sprouted ones.
Check your garlic, too: Soft cloves can be minced, mixed
with olive oil and frozen for future use. In northern
areas, start onions, leeks, celery and any slow-growing
herbs or flowers, such as petunias and pansies. As the days
warm, check for aphids in the greenhouse, especially on
overwintered greens, such as kale and spinach. Control with
sprays of insecticidal soap, neem or hot pepper wax before
introducing tender young seedlings like peppers. Sowings of
spinach, cilantro, lettuce and some oriental greens will
germinate and begin to grow. Got cabin fever? Plan a
community seed-and-seedling swap to share your extras.

Mid-Atlantic Gardening

Now is the time to be sure seeds are at hand and potting
soil is ready to use. Indoors, start some lettuce, early
brassicas (cabbage, broccoli and relatives), and bulb
onions from seed. Follow in mid-February with the main-crop
brassicas: peppers, eggplants, lettuce, celery, leeks and a
few early tomatoes. In the garden under row covers, make
successive plantings of spinach and radishes. Come March
add peas, beets and carrots to the successions. Plant
potatoes as soon as possible after St. Patrick’s Day. As
soon as they’re in, it’s time to start the main crop of
tomatoes indoors. “Eva Purple Ball” tomato is highly
recommended for disease-resistant, blemish-free fruits with
an incredible, old-fashioned flavor. Unfurl your hoses and
plan your irrigation; be certain it’s all in running order
because a dry spring may be right around the corner.

Southern Interior Gardening

The first days of spring are arriving across the South, but
don’t be fooled. More freezing temperatures can follow
those tempting warm days. It’s important to wait until
after the last hard frost of the season (usually around the
end of March) before moving tender seedlings out to the
garden. If you must plant them earlier, be sure to use some
type of protection, such as Wall O’ Water insulating tipis.
The careful planning you made in the winter months will pay
huge dividends now. It can be tempting to get carried away
and plant far more than originally planned. Choose items
that grow best in your zone and the space you have
available to maximize your enjoyment of your garden.
Early-maturing new variety choices to speed up your harvest
include “Blue Wonder” snap bean (ready in 55 days) and
“Magda” hybrid squash (45 days).

Gulf Coast Gardening

Finish planting cool-season vegetable transplants in early
February. Then sit back and catch your breath for a week or
two: This is the beginning of warm-season gardening, and
one of the busiest times of the Southern garden year. Corn
and snap beans can be planted as soon as danger of frost is
past; for a continuous harvest, plant beans every two weeks
through April. As nights get warmer, transplant tomatoes
and other warm-season veggies. Enrich the planting hole
with compost for long-term feeding and use manure tea or a
liquid fish fertilizer for an immediate boost. Black
plastic mulch will warm up the soil and allow earlier
planting of heat-loving melons, okra and peppers. Divide
perennials in February and prune evergreen shrubs. Wait to
prune flowering shrubs until after bloom is finished.
Fertilize ornamentals and trees with a compost mulch. Plant
palms, tropical fruit and citrus trees in March.

“Eva Purple Ball” is a German heirloom tomato with
incredible, old-fashioned flavor. Seeds are available from Southern
Exposure Seed Exchange.

Central/Midwest Gardening

To banish lingering snow, sprinkle it with a thin,
heat-absorbing layer of clean firewood ash or dark mulch.
It will melt away faster and give you a jump-start on
cool-season veggie planting. Fruit trees and other woody
plants should be trimmed now while daytime temperatures
remain below freezing. In some municipalities it is illegal
to trim oak trees past March due to concern about wilt
diseases. It’s time to start heat-loving veggies and
slow-growing flowers indoors, but limit your enthusiasm
according to the window and grow-light space you will have
as the plants grow. New varieties to try: ‘Black Magic
Rose’ geranium has unique, dark foliage edged with lime
green, and hot pink blooms all summer. “Fish pepper”‘ is a
pre-1870s African-American heirloom with white variegated
leaves and 2- to 3-inch-long fruits.

North Central and Rockies Gardening

While snow and cold weather linger through March outside,
inside it’s time to start flats of seedlings ready for
trans planting when the soil finally warms. Start tomatoes
extra-early only if you’ll have time to move them into
larger containers to prevent root growth from being
stunted. Otherwise, wait until late March: A smaller tomato
plant with growth momentum is better than a large,
root-bound plant. As snow recedes in the garden, note the
earliest melting spots. These sites maximize the growing
seasons of cold mountain gardens by creating small, warm
mini-climates. Even a small angle of slope to the south can
dramatically increase soil warmth. Large rocks or concrete
walls collect the sun’s heat during the day and protect
from frost at night. Tall-growing crops or permanent hedges
will protect larger gardens and fields. An old Chinese
saying: “Select a proper site for the garden and half the
work is done.”

Pacific Northwest Gardening

When the rainy, gray weather is about to drive you insane,
there is nothing more satisfying than getting flower, herb
and vegetable seeds started indoors and knowing the warmth
of the sun will soon be back to the Pacific Northwest.
Early spring soils are often too wet to till, but you can
still plant some cold-season seeds outside. For peas,
simply scratch a 1-inch furrow into the soil, plant your
pea seed and cover with soil. Plant lettuce, spinach and
other greens directly into garden beds and protect from the
elements with a cloche or row cover. For a spring cover
crop to be tilled under in early summer, hand broadcast
clover or Austrian field pea seed, and lightly rake it into
the soil. Try “Honey Gold” tomatoes this year for a
tempting summer treat. It is a flavorful teardrop bunching
tomato — nice and firm, but not overly sweet.

Southwest Gardening

Start heat-loving veggies inside and wait to plant them
outside until the nights are consistently above 50 degrees.
An easy test is to take your shoes off and walk through
your garden in the afternoon. If the soil is too cold for
you, it is too cold for your summer crops. Along with other
cold-season vegetables, try Miner’s lettuce (Montia
perfoliata), a shade-tolerant Western native with tender,
funnel-shaped leaves, grown extensively in Europe as a
commercial salad plant. Spread wheat straw mulch over your
garden in February to keep weeds at bay. One bale will
cover about 400 square feet. Just move the mulch aside when
it’s time to plant.

This time of year is heaven on earth for slugs and snails.
An easy solution: a chicken for every one-third acre or
less. They lay the most delicious eggs in
spring-escargot-flavored!

Our thanks to the following for their contributions to the
Almanac: Roberta Bailey, FEDCO Seeds,
Waterville, Maine; Cricket Rakita, Southern
Exposure Seed Exchange
, Mineral, Virginia;
Connie DamByl, William Dam Seeds, Dundas,
Ontario; Matt Barthel, Seed Savers
Exchange
, Decorah, Iowa; Bill McDorman,
Seeds Trust/High Altitude Gardens
, Hailey, Idaho;
Josh Kirschenbaum and Tom Johns, Territorial Seed
Company
, Cottage Grove, Oregon; Rose
Marie Nichols McGee, Nichols Garden Nursery
,
Albany, Oregon; Craig and Sue Dremann, Redwood City
Seed Co.
, Redwood City, California; Dean
Lollis, Park Seed Co.
, Greenwood, South Carolina.