Tonight the Full Worm Moon will illuminate the landscape, provided the clouds clear out to enable us to see it. Spring arrives officially this Thursday, and, coincidentally, Thursday, March 20 is one month prior to the average frost date (for my location), April 20. Rain began overnight and continues to fall, irrigating our raised beds, now bursting with green onion, leek, shallot and garlic tops from last fall’s planting.
Lettuces that were started in cells trays last week are now up and will soon have true leaves. I am growing them under the LED light I have mentioned previously. I note that the red-leaved varieties color up soon after germination, an indication they are getting plenty of photo-energy.
St. Patrick’s Day, Monday, March 17, marks the traditional time to plant Irish potatoes in East Tennessee. I also find this memory aid helpful in reminding me when to place a sweet potato root into a jar with water, so that I will have slips ready to plant around Memorial Day. Sweet potatoes require heat, so sprout them in the warmest, sunniest spot you can manage indoors. Otherwise, you will be better off to purchase slips, which will appear at better garden centers at the appropriate planting time. Two good bets for the Knoxville area are Mayo Garden Centers (several locations) and Knoxville Seed and Greenhouse Supply (Rutledge Pike).
This week is a good time to plant root crops, according to the traditional practices based on the moon. When the moon is waning, plant vegetables that bear below the ground: beets, carrots, onions, potatoes, radishes, and turnips. Note that Asian radishes are likely to perform better here if fall-planted, but salad radishes seem to do best in spring.
You still have time to transplant cabbage and broccoli, but the window is pretty much closed by the equinox. Spinach, also, will soon not have time enough to mature before the weather gets hot.
If you have not planted asparagus, you should get roots in the ground by the equinox, also. Otherwise, you may find the stock at the garden center has already begun to sprout. Not a good thing, because if you break one of those tender shoots, you rob your plants of vitality needed to establish a healthy root system. Good roots are crucial to productivity during the second season of growth. If you already have an established asparagus bed, now is the time to apply a balanced organic fertilizer, topped with an inch or so of good compost or composted manure, such as Black Kow™. Top that with an inch of mulch, such as straw, pine needles, or shredded bark. Doing so now gives the nutrients time to be decomposed by soil bacteria, making them available to the asparagus plants when they begin sprouting a few weeks hence.
Don’t forget to tune in to 94.3, WNFZ, Knoxville, for “Garden Talk,” every Saturday morning at 8:00 AM. I’ll be there to talk about vegetable gardening and other topics with Dr. Sue and Andy the Garden Guy. Our sponsors are Stanley's Greenhouse and Ellenburg's Nursery. Visit your local, independent garden center for plants, supplies and good advice!