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Virginia Cooperative Extension

Between the Rows - A Guide to Vegetable Gardening
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March in the Vegetable Garden: Time for Preparing
Welcome veggie gardeners! VCE supports local gardeners with a host of resources, including free classes, plant clinics and this newsletter. Want to know more? Subscribe here to receive future editions.
Garden Guide
March To Do List
  • Test your garden soil and/or prep soil with compost and other amendments, as needed
  • Clean out any plant material or debris from last season in your growing beds
  • Till out overwinter cover crops into soil: chop all roots and cover with mulch
  • Later in the month, direct sow seed outdoors: peas, beets, lettuce, arugula, spinach, chard, radish, turnip, carrot, potato, broccoli
  • Plant asparagus and horseradish
  • Start to harden off seedlings grown indoors (6-8 weeks earlier): Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, early cabbage, celery and celeriac, cauliflower, leek, onions, and scallions
  • Start additional cool-weather crops from seed indoors: kale, chard, broccoli/raab, kohlrabi, corn and okra
  • Start from seed indoors: tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and basil
  • Start from seed indoors various warmer weather herbs: lavender, rosemary, fennel, lemon balm, oregano, lovage, sage, sorrel, parsley, and thyme
  • Divide perennial herbs and direct sow cool season herbs, such as dill and cilantro
  • Consider sprouting or "chitting" potatoes indoors before planting outdoors
  • Cover newly planted seeds or transplants with light straw or floating row covers
  • Put up trellises and structures for peas and other climbing crops
  • Turn your compost pile
  • Build or repair raised vegetable beds, and remove any season extensions or structures
  • Conduct tasks listed in February's post that may not have been completed due to unforeseen weather conditions 
Plant, Pest or Other Garden Questions?

Contact the VCE Horticulture Help Desk 

Knowledgeable Virginia Cooperative Extension volunteers are available to answer questions Monday-Friday from 9am to noon.
 
It’s time to prepare your garden for planting. Many vegetables favor cool spring weather and allow you to start your garden early. But first, you need to examine your garden soil. It is generally recommended that soil tests be conducted every 3 years for vegetable gardens. Even without a formal soil test (see February's post for more information), it's important to prep your soil by removing any plant debris and adding organic matter and compost to your soil.

If you don't maintain compost piles at your home garden, compost (often free) is available at county mulch centers in both Arlington County and the
City of Alexandria. Other soil amendments available from most garden centers include vermiculite and coco coir (as an alternative to peat moss), among other amendments (e.g., manure, lime, gypsum). More tips for building healthy soil are available here.

Timing is everything as you prepare to plant, and gardeners have many references available to guide them in their decision-making regarding when to plant some plants and whether sow seeds directly or to start seedlings beforehand. Here are some planting guides for our area:
If you need more direct assistance, VCE hosts a number of vegetable garden planning and seed starting talks and workshops in early Spring each year, along with demonstrations at local gardens (see VCE's website).

If you want to grow potatoes, "chitting" refers to the process of preparing seed potatoes or other tubers for planting. There are many online sources on how to sprout potatoes indoors before planting outside (see, for example, these available instructions).

Consider building raised growing beds to improve drainage, soil health, and plant growth. Research has shown that raising beds yields more produce than other garden methods. More information on raised beds can be found here.
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