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Perpetual Spinach

March planting ideas

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With a good chance of decent autumn rains on the way JUSTIN RUSSELL says it's time to get planting!

By my reckoning, autumn can’t come soon enough. All seasons are a valuable source of meaning and connection but summer is my least preferred time of the year, a season I endure so that I can get to March, and hopefully, find some blessed relief from the heat, and all the rich earthiness that comes with the gradual descent into winter.  

Of course, calendar dates are only an indication of seasonal change and the BOM people are forecasting an Indian summer as El Nino slowly breaks down. The tip is that good rain is due for many areas from the middle of March, which means we might be in for one of the best autumns in years. Bring it on. Give this wide brown land the soaking it so desperately needs. 

In temperate and arid/semi-arid zones March marks the start of garlic planting season. Before you poke a clove in the ground, it’s worth bearing in mind that garlic has a few specific tastes. One, being a member of the allium family, it prefers a slightly alkaline soil. If your pH needs raising, add garden lime. Two, garlic likes a moderately rich soil high in organic matter. Add compost, well rotted manure, or dig in a green manure crop a couple of weeks before planting. Once your soil is prepared break individual cloves from the base plate of the bulb and plant them pointy end up, about 5cm deep and 10-15cm apart. Cover with soil, water the garlic bed deeply once, then cover with a light, loose mulch such as coarse sugarcane or straw. Water again once shoots appear and regularly thereafter.  

In very frosty areas, March is last call for sowing brassica seeds. You really want to get them in now while the soil is warm and give them time to put on some decent growth and harden up before the first big freeze. Focus on slow growing types first, including Brussells sprouts, cauliflower and purple sprouting broccoli and romanesco, then get in the faster growers such as heading broccoli, broccolini, cabbage, kale, mustard and the speediest of the lot, Asian greens such as bok choy and Tokyo bekana. Sow seed into punnets or directly into the garden. 

Other crops to plant now in temperate and arid/semi-arid climates include beetroot, carrots, celeriac, coriander, corn salad (aka mache or lamb’s lettuce), chard, endive, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, mizuna, parsnip, radish, rocket, spring onion, bulb shallots, and turnip. 

In the subtropics the March planting list is long and diverse. Ain’t that a good thing. Plant amaranth, asparagus peas, bush/climbing beans, beetroot, cabbage, cape gooseberry, carrot, cauliflower, celery, chilli, cucumber, fennel, kale, leek, lettuce, mustard, pak choy, radish, rocket, rosella, silverbeet, spring onion, and turnip. Poor old turnips sound like an afterthought, but they’re not. Try planting a Japanese cultivar such as Hakurei – they’re quick growing and delicious. 

Tropical gardeners, the wet season is still in full swing (March is historically the most active monsoon and cyclone month) but there are still a few things you can get in. Try basil in it’s various forms (sweet, Thai, purple, lemon etc), cape gooseberry, cucumber, ginger, rockmelon, sweet corn, sweet potato and watermelon.