March is the perfect time to harvest your bounty and plan for the cooler months. Here’s your guide for what to harvest, plant and sow
- Pick beans every 3-5 days so plants will keep producing more flowers. Cook the same day for the best taste (although they’ll still be fine in the fridge for a day or two more). If freezing, blanch for 3 minutes beforehand.
- Pick bok choy and other Asian greens when plants are young and tender. Use leaves and flowers in stir-fries or salads as soon as possible as they don’t last long in the fridge.
- Before the frosty weather starts harvest any late tomatoes and put them on a sunny window sill to ripen.
- Pumpkin and kumara can also be harvested as summer wanes. Leave a good thick stalk on pumpkins to help them store better. Kumara is ready when leaves turn yellow.
- Harvest the leaves of herbs such as chervil, lemon balm and marjoram for drying. Store in an airtight container.
- Don’t leave capsicum too long before picking; they should be firm, not soft. Green capsicum won’t change colour after harvesting so wait until the fruit colours.
- Net your grapes and other berries to prevent birds feasting on them. Pick grapes a few weeks after they start to colour to ensure they’re sweet.
- Pick up passionfruit as they fall so they don’t rot on the ground or get scorched by the sun. Give the vine a little shake as well to make sure you’ve got all the ripe fruit. Keep vines well watered and fed for best fruiting.
What to sow in the garden
- Soak beetroot seed for a few hours before sowing so the corky seed clusters can absorb plenty of water. Keep soil damp until seedlings pop up and sow successively every 3-4 weeks for
a continuous supply.
- If you want plenty of vitamins, minerals and calcium, you need cabbage in the vege garden. Red, green and savoy cabbage can be sown or planted in warmer areas throughout the year but not the European types if winters are very cold.
- For a more exotic-tasting member of the cabbage family, sow bok choy and other Asian greens. They’re much quicker to harvest (about 4 weeks).
- Brussels sprouts can be sown now but don’t leave it too late if you live in a colder climate. Transplant seedlings when they’re about 6 weeks old into a fertile garden bed and feed regularly with a nitrogen-based fertiliser.
- Get those seed trays out and sow broccoli, cauliflower, peas, spinach and turnip for planting out in autumn and early winter.
- If sowing leeks, do so in trays or punnets then transplant into the garden when they’re about 15cm high.
- Carrots can be sown now direct into the garden, as long as there’s no risk of frost. Light, sandy soil is best but avoid fresh compost and manure as this can make carrots misshapen.
- In warmer areas keep sowing lettuce and other salad greens every 3 weeks or so. Likewise for radishes as they can turn to seed quickly in the summer heat.
What to plant in the garden
- There’s still time to plant seedlings of climbing beans in warmer areas. Try the late-season cultivar ‘Mangere Pole’ which produces lots of lovely, dark-green, stringless pods.
- In cooler areas you can plant cabbage, spinach, leek, parsley and spring onion seedlings.
- Plant out established celery seedlings now, 30-40cm apart in soil that has been augmented with plenty of compost or animal manure. Water regularly; every couple of days in hot weather.
- Cavolo nero, also known as black leaf kale and black cabbage, is a wonderful statement plant to have in the garden and looks like a mini green palm tree. This highly nutritious vege is great in salads, soups or stews. In warmer regions it should be planted when temperatures are cooler in autumn. Further south it can be sown direct into the garden in spring if it’s not too frosty, or into trays first then planted out when conditions are warmer. Plant out when seedlings have 6 or more leaves, taking care not to disturb roots when transplanting. Use fertilisers with a high nitrogen content when feeding.
Not keen on the smell of cooking cabbage? Dropping a whole, unshelled walnut into the water when cooking is said to reduce the pong.
Words by: Carol Bucknell Photography by: Nick Scott/bauersyndication/com.au. Illustrations by: Pippa Fay.