Texas Permaculture Gardening And Food Forestry Tips For March

March is when things really start getting exciting in Texas Permaculture Gardens! The official start of Spring is March 12th. Every year I feel a surge of energy, optimism and joy seeing my gardens come back to life after surviving freezing weather through dormancy. This Spring surge can be tricky to manage for multiple reasons. It’s easy to get ahead of ourselves and start planting when their could still be another frost or two. It’s also easy to overcommit your time and energy and not complete critical projects. I say this from personal experience. Ride the energy wave but be mindful about these two potential pitfalls my garden friends.

Weeding Now Will Save You Time & Energy Later

Weeding is your most important task in March. Identifying the plants that pop up in your garden and knowing what they grow into can help you do a task that will be tough later in the year. This is a fun way to grow your plant ID skills, learning what each plant looks like at all different growing stages. Weeding now is easier because the plants are small and the weather is nice. Weeding the same plant that is now fully grown in +100 degree weather is going to be a real chore and you might curse your past self for letting them get so big.

Some of the most noxious plants are very easy to deal with now. One we look out for in particular at this time of year goes by many names: False Carrot, Falsecarrot, California Hedge Parsley, False Hedge-parsley , which is often called beggars lice or carrot grass. It grows a deep tap root which makes it hard to remove later in it’s growing season, and it’s seeds are very sticky. They often make their way into the house. The burs attach to our pet friends and cause discomfort. They can even get into the laundry attached to our pant legs and socks. I’ve had to throw away shoe laces at times because they got so incrusted in these little burrs. Catching them at the right time saves a lot of heartache later and gives a good excuse to be out in the garden while it’s still such a pleasant activity.

But you don’t have to weed in PERMACULTURE GARDENS!!!

I know that some people think you shouldn’t have to weed in a Permaculture Garden but in central Texas, you are likely to regret it if you don’t. letting any number of pokey, rhizome spreading, fast growing weeds get fully established in your beautifully amended, irrigated garden is going to be something you look back on and rue. Maybe some gardens that have been established for a long enough time need almost no weeding. Most gardens need at least some strategic weeding to keep less desirable plants from going to seed in the garden and taking over.

Is Winter Really Over Or Is It Waiting To Have One Last Hurrah?!

It is not unheard of for places West of Austin to get a frost as late as early April. Texas Hill Country Farmers call this an April fools frost. You still need to be cautious and ready to cover plants that can’t survive a frost on their own. But the garden beckons and getting things planted as soon as possible does give you a jump on Summer.

Planting in late Winter and early Spring is bit like gambling with mother nature. She always wins in the long run but sometimes we get lucky and have an extra 2 weeks of production on our tomatoes. Sometimes we lose big when that frost hits. All our tomatoes and squash die and we have to completely replant those. Not that big a deal if you planted from seed but heart breaking if you have been raising the tomatoes or other plants in pots in doors since January. If your going to gamble like this, hedge your bets and hold some plants back. If ther’es one thing I know, it’s that Central Texas weather likes to keep permaculture gardeners on their toes.

Keep Prepping, It Always Pays Off On Planting Day

Early March is a good time to clean up and amend your beds where you will plant. Start by removing any old growth that crowds the area. If you know what you intend to plant it can help you identify what amendments to add. For example, areas that will have tomatoes could be enriched with acidic and high nitrogen (organic) fertilizers ahead of planting. This will help your tomatoes take off Once you get them planted. If you’re clearing and amending a bed that will be planted with perennials, mulching after amending can be a big time saver! It’s easier to clear a little patch where you’ve mulched and then plant then it is to mulch around a bunch of baby plants you’ve just put in the bed.

Covering your amendments with mulch will help to prevent them from drying out and oxidizing into the atmosphere. Since many amendments have living microbiological components in them, it is good to get them covered. It can be very warm and dry in the middle of the day in late Winter and early Spring. That can dry out and kill microbes that are left on the surface very quickly. The permaculture gardening mantra of “Cover Your Soil” applies to your fresh amendments as well. This is a triple function stack because your covering your soil, covering your fresh amendments so they make into your soil and your saving time on planting day since you won’t have to mulch after planting. This also give the amendments time to start improving the soil even before your plants are there and this can help with transplant shock.

Every Loss Is An Opportunity

In your Texas Permaculture Garden woody and herbaceous plants are beginning their Spring growth spurts. They are blooming and pushing out new leaves, coming back to life after a long rest. It is so beautiful to watch and participate in this time of renewal! However not every plant will have survived the Summer or the Winter trials. Now is the time to take inventory on anything that didn’t make it. Replant them early in the season or choose a new species or variety that may work better in this location.

Everyone with a green thumb lost a lot of plants getting it. Don’t be too discouraged! Just learn and keep going. If you can identify something you could have done better, great! Do it this year and see if you get a better result. If you did everything you can think of/ are willing and able to do then plant something else and see if it can survive. Opting to replant anything which has died in a larger size than you had planted before can help prevent a feeling of losing pace with the other plants in the garden. When all of the space is filled in your garden there is less room for weeds to grow and that’s when it starts to become more self sufficient.

Seed, Plant Perennials and Propagate

There is still a lot that you can grow in March through direct seeding. We love seeding annual flowers! They can be cut and used in vases indoors and in bouquets. They add, low maintenance color and structure to the gardens all Summer. Zinnias in particular are beautiful and easy to grow with minimal effort.

Early march is a good time for you to plant native perennials. Native perennials are less likely to be stunted by cold nighttime weather than some of our beloved annual vegetables. Gregg’s Mist, Indigo Spires, Verbena are some of our favorite perennials to put in at this time of year.

You can also practice propagation through division. Some plants in your garden that cluster from the roots can be dug up and split into multiple plantings. Each division will grow into their own clusters over time, leading to geometric growth in due time. Try dividing Canna Lillies, Multiplying onions, Society Garlic, Elephant Garlic and Irises at this time.

Until Next Time…

We’re creating a monthly installment of these articles to help you stay on track with your Texas Permaculture Gardens. We noticed that they’re aren’t very many resources specific to central Texas and Permaculture so we’re aiming to help fix that. Here are the previous two months articles if you want to get caught up or make a note to review them next year.

Texas Permaculture Gardening And Food Forestry Tips For February

Texas Permaculture Gardening and Food Forestry Tips for January

Native pollinator on native plants