Before the Last Frost (4 weeks)

by - March 09, 2018

There are 4 weeks left before our statistical last frost here in Raleigh, NC, which is zone 7b. I have trays of tomato and pepper sprouts that could use some liquid fertilizer. In another week they may need larger pots. Looking ahead at the weather forecast, there are still plenty of chilly nights so I'm not risking transplanting sprouts outside yet. It feels like winter has returned in Raleigh, so I was lucky to have that warm week to get some dormant perennials in the ground when I did. After last week's perennial planting, my arms are covered in poison ivy. Originally I thought I had been scratched up by a chicken, but then itchy blisters formed. They are finally healing up, but I never imagined needing calamine lotion at the beginning of March. Thankfully all those perennial transplants look like they are doing fine.

As for the seed trays, I've only got two going at the time. There have been late winters where I've set up stools and makeshift trays so densely packed around the corner windows I've had to move furniture. I'm hard at work expressing self-discipline with not over-planting tomatoes and too many varieties of squash and waiting to start varieties outside that could be starting indoors but don't need to be. 

Asparagus is worth the work

I'm happy to see asparagus coming up from the ground in the past two weeks. The other night, the kids got to eat some. Butter and salt make everything taste great to kids. Personally, at least before chickens, I'd eat asparagus raw from the garden without even rinsing it off. It is so crisp and slightly sweet straight from the ground.

The first time we planted asparagus, I was very careful to follow planting guidelines. I dug a deep trench and shelled out somewhere between $20-$30 for some good two-year old Purple Passion Asparagus roots. Since then we've moved our asparagus bed two or three times and added a green variety. We continue to move any new plants that pop up in the wrong space. When we first planted ours, roots were harder to come by, but this winter I've seen bundles of asparagus roots in multiple garden centers and in multiple varieties. They are a great crop to grow and will come back for many years. If you allow some to grow seed, it will even spread. There have been a few seasons where I've gotten a second crop in the fall. They can tolerate partial shade, so I may extend my beds further up under the blackberry trellis.

Tasks for this week

  • Check plant starts for growth. 
  • If seeds have sprouted, you can remove the dome from seed starting trays. You will likely need to increase the frequency of watering.
  • If true leaves have appeared, consider supplementing with liquid fertilizer. Be sure to check the concentration and not burn up plants.
  • Prune apple, plum, cherry, and peach trees. I cut out branches that were growing towards or across the center of the tree.
  • Garden centers locally are stocked up with bare root roses, berry vines and strawberries, so now is the time to grab these.

What to plant now

You can start the following outdoors: Asparagus, Beets, Carrots, Chinese Cabbage, Endive, Peas (English), Radish 

You can start the following indoors: Marigolds, Zinnias, Nasturtium, Morning Glories

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