March is here, and now is the time to get our spring vegetable garden beds prepared and planted. If you had a vegetable garden last spring, take a look at your notes and records that you kept last year, or try to jog your memory of what you planted. Which vegetable crop varieties did well? Which crop varieties struggled in the garden? Use this information to make a decision about what to plant in your garden this year. If you have not purchased your seeds or spring transplants, this is the time.
Vegetables are typically divided into two categories based on how we plant them into the garden. The first group consists of crops that can be directly sown into the garden. These usually consist of root crops and inexpensive seed crops. The second group of vegetables are those that should be transplanted into the garden. This means the vegetable plants have been growing in pots before they are planted into the garden.
Vegetable crops that we directly sow into the soil in March include cantaloupe, collards, corn, cucumbers, lima beans, mustards, radishes, snap beans, Southern peas, summer squash, Swiss chard, watermelons and winter squash. Some vegetable crops do not do as well when we direct-sow the seed. In these cases, it is recommended to plant transplants.
In March, the transplants we can plant into the garden include eggplant, kohlrabi, peppers and tomatoes. You can produce your own transplants by planting seed into small plastic nursery pots. Be sure to start planting the seed of the transplant six to eight weeks before the plants should be planted in the garden. If this seems like too much work, vegetable transplants can be purchased at local nurseries.
Before planting any vegetables into the garden, be sure to add your preplant fertilizer. Vegetable crops can also be divided into three different categories based on their fertilizer requirements. The first group consists of the light feeders. This group requires two to four pounds of 8-8-8 per 100 ft. or 300 sq. ft. The second group is called the medium feeders, requiring four to six pounds of 8-8-8 per 100 ft. or 300 sq. ft. Lastly, are the heavy feeders where we add six to eight pounds of 8-8-8 per 100 ft. or 300 sq. ft. To determine how much to feed each crop, take a look at the “Louisiana Vegetable Planting Guide” pub 1980 on the LSU AgCenter website.
After prepping and planting your vegetable garden, be sure to apply 2 to 3 inches of mulch. Our live oaks typically drop leaves in February and March, so consider using live oak leaves or other leaves that have fallen through the winter to mulch your garden as a cheap alternative to purchasing mulch.
Like anything in life, you will only get out what you put in. Vegetable gardening is no different. You must have some planning, prep work and most importantly, fun to have a worthwhile reward.