- Judy Barrett Special to the American-Statesman
Gardeners ’ favorite month means roll up the sleeves and get going
Here it is — Garden Month in Central Texas. March is when everyone considers getting serious about gardening this year. The weather is nice, there is probably going to be a little rain, no frost in sight. Optimism spills over the landscape. And that is a good thing. Still, if you are just thinking about getting into vegetable or flower gardening, take a deep breath and develop a plan.
One of the most common causes of disappointment in gardeners is assuming you can grow anything you want anywhere you want. A related issue is thinking you can grow as much as you want. Some first-time vegetable gardeners attempt to replicate the entire farmers market on their 10-foot-by-20-foot patio or in two raised beds. It just can’t be done. It is tempting, of course.
Any enthusiastic gardener who looks through a rack of seed packets wants one of each. You start out slow: “Tomatoes, of course, and beans, we like beans, oh, and squash, we all like squash — green, yellow, oh, and white, look at that! And melons, for sure, maybe watermelons and cantaloupe and honeydew. Oh! Artichokes!” Pretty soon you have enough seeds to plant a small island nation.
Before you start shopping, look at the space you have. If you are hoping to grow some of your own food, you don’t need a big garden, but you do need some space in full sun. It can be in a flower bed or container or raised bed garden, but it needs good soil and sunlight.
If you want flowers, the same holds true. New plants need light and rich soil to flourish. And you want the plants to flourish or else you’re just wasting time and money and conjuring that dread phantom — the black thumb. Nobody really has a black thumb. Green thumbs are available right around the corner. It only takes some information, patience and a realistic eye. So make a plan, then start thinking about what you’d love to see growing.
Almost everyone wants tomatoes, and March is the month to plant them. But plant well after the middle of the month, even if it is hotter than usual. More tomato plants croak from planting too early than from planting too late. They hate cool nights. Even if they don’t die from the cold, they can easily become stunted, leggy, and generally unattractive and unproductive.
Tomatoes like cozy spots with rich soil and a plentiful supply of moisture. Wrap their cages in row cover fabric to keep the winds from ravishing them and the cool from chilling them. Feed them a good organic liquid fertilizer every other week to get them off to a good start and keep them growing enthusiastically.
Plant several different varieties if you have room and include some heirlooms. You’ll be delighted with the variety of colors and tastes available. Speak kind words to them daily and check for any pests that might be hanging around. Before you know it, you’ll be bragging on your homegrown caprese salad.
In many cases, you’ll find that buying plants in small 4-inch containers is more satisfying than buying seeds. If you want only one squash plant, buy one. The seeds will tempt you into planting more than you want, have room for, or will take care of. When you are planting, remind yourself that you will have to tend these plants even when the weather is hot, there is no rain, and air conditioning is just inside the door. That’s where the realistic eye comes in. If you love gardening, go big. If you are just getting started, ease into it.
Some plants are easier than others. Zinnias, morning glories and almost all herb plants will grow with minimal care. All they need is sun, water when the soil is dry and some space. It is too late to plant cilantro, lettuce and broccoli, so forget about those. Plant okra when it gets really warm. Plant peppers and tomatoes soon and try adding a tepee with beans climbing up it in a corner of the yard.
Have some fun with this project and share the fun with your family. Or don’t if you prefer solitary gardening. Remember, you are doing this not because you have to but because you want to — for the taste of it, for the beauty of it, for the sense of pride that comes with it, and for the failures too. Every gardener has failures. They are part of the process. Gardens are never the same from one year to the next. You learn and you change your plan and your preferences. That’s part of the pleasure of the garden.
Try something you’ve never grown before. This year I’m trying lima beans. My husband hates lima beans, but he’s probably never tasted fresh limas, and besides, I like them and I’ve never grown them. Last year I tried the new heat-resistant rhubarb. (My husband loves rhubarb and I don’t care much one way or the other.) Total failure. It curled up and died and was a waste of space. Now I know not to bother with that again. I’ve tried tomatillos — yay! Hubbard squash — boo! And many things in between. It was all fun and informative and nobody starved.
Continue adding butterfly plants to your garden if you have room and some for the bees as well. A lot of critters pass through our gardens, and it is up to us to make their passage more rewarding for them and us as well. Milkweeds, pentas, sunflowers and many other nice flowers are all welcome sources of sustenance for the insects that pollinate and beautify our outdoor space.
Now that March is here, it is time to get outdoors and enjoy it. The most important task is to build a compost heap. That will ensure a spot for all those extra plants you can’t resist when you visit your local nursery, favorite community garden plant sale or the sales put on by Master Gardeners, garden clubs and garden centers. There are so many choices, so many temptations, so many wonders. Indulge a bit, but try not to overdo it.
Love the look of “Fixer Upper”? Now you can get Joanna Gaines wallpaper
“Fixer Upper” star and Waco resident Joanna Gaines now has a line of wallpaper through York Wallcoverings. The line features wallpaper that looks like newspapers, chalkboard, shiplap, magnolia prints, love letters and polka dots.
Gaines says in a press release: “I love that this art form is making a comeback.” She looked at York’s old wallpaper catalog to get inspired for her line.
She also mentioned that she was excited that York paper has the Sure Strip feature that allows you to remove it easily later. “For me and (husband) Chip, as renovators, we run into old wallpaper all the time, and the nightmare of removing it is something we deal with constantly,” she said.
Rolls range in price from $39.99 to $44.95. Sherwin-Williams stores and Roosters Paint & Decor carry York Wallcoverings in Austin. They are also available at yorkwall.com.
See Italian bath and tile brand Kreoo at Alexander Marchant party
Anthony Davani, the CEO of importer the Davani Group, will be in Austin on Tuesday to show off Kreoo Italian bath, plumbing and tile line at Alexander Marchant. See what Kreoo has to offer while enjoying food and drink in the showroom. 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, 1114 W. Fifth St., Building A. alexandermarchant.com