March Tasks for the Colorado Gardener
Updated: Feb 12
Ahh, March. It’s the gardener's version of “are we there yet?” The days are getting longer and warmer and Spring is so close you can taste it. But, alas it is NOT Spring yet.
Don't be fooled by all that sunshine. Especially if you live here in Colorado. There are still many unpredictable weeks ahead of us where sunny days will turn to blizzard conditions without warning. Two weeks ago we were grilling on the back porch. The next week it snowed nearly a foot. Today was 50 degrees out, but more snow is coming.
There’s no rhyme or reason to a Colorado March. But if you, like me are itching to get that garden started, there are plenty of tasks to handle in March that will make your gardening season better!
If you haven’t started yet, now is the time to get planning. For us, we had an infestation of moles take out our garden at the end of last season. So we're using this spring as an excuse to rebuild it from top to bottom!
We also had our well run dry last Fall, so if we are to have any hope of a successful garden, we're going to need an extensive rain catchment system in place.
We've been using this time while the weather outside is frightful on an on-again-off-again pattern, to finalize all our big plans for the season. If you need a little help, and inspiration, check out the article below on garden planning!
Prep Your Seed-Starting Station
This is another task that should probably already have been done since some of the earliest crops can be started now, but if you haven’t done it, now’s the time. It’s much easier to work in a tidy space.
Round up all of the various pots you have laying about check that your tools are in order, and replace any necessary items you’ll need to get your seedlings started for the season. It’s also a good time to stock up on any things you may be low on such as seed starting soil. If you use grow lights, heat pads, or humidifiers, ensure that they are in good working order so they don’t fail when your delicate seedlings need them most.
Stock Up on the Materials You’ll Need Later
Once you have your plan in place and your seed starting station is tidy, it’s time to start stocking up on the supplies, tools, and equipment you’ll need for the season ahead. The best part about shopping early is that you’ll be able to score a few off-season or early-season deals that you won’t find once the gardening season truly starts. A few weeks ago, I got lucky at Home Depot and scored a whole new set of top-quality garden tools for $2 each since they were part of last year's stock. Some things to grab now include:
Replacement gardening tools
Empty Bird Boxes
March is the perfect time to go around and clean out any bird boxes you may have in preparation for new families this season. Very few bird species will accept a dirty box so cleaning them out will up your chances of having new feathered friends to watch during the season. Additionally, if you don’t already have bird, owl, and bat boxes in place, now is the time to add them to your property. Owls and other birds will help to keep your pest population under control and bats will help to keep mosquitos to a minimum.
Build Or Rebuild Infrastructure
Before you enter into the hectic months of planting and crop maintenance it’s time to take stock of your garden's infrastructure. Take time now to build new garden beds or repair last year's beds. It’s also time to repair any garden fencing, arbors, or trellises that didn’t weather heavy snows well. This is a project much better suited to pre-garden season so you won’t have to risk trampling delicate new plants to make repairs.
Build New Cold Frames or Repair Last Years
Cold frames are a great way to extend the short Colorado growing season just enough to get a harvest from garden varieties that need more time. Our area of southwest Colorado is Zone 6a and we have an average growing season of 55 days. If you’re not sure what zone you’re in you can find out here. By using cold frames the growing season can be extended by several weeks. If cold frames are in your garden plan, use the downtime in March to get yours built or repaired from last season. Here is a great post on some affordable DIY cold frames from morningchores.com stay tuned for our tutorial as we build ours this season!
Turn the Compost Pile
You’ll be ready for compost before you know it, but before then it’s time to start turning that compost pile and making sure it’s ready for use when Spring comes. For most people, the compost pile is left as is during the winter months to retain the interior “heat” of the pile. Now, as the weather warms up, it’s time to get back to a schedule of regular turning. Alternatively, if you don’t already have a compost pile you can get one started now.
Install Rain Barrels
We’re all familiar with the colloquialism “April showers bring May flowers” if you don’t already have a rain catchment system in place on your homestead, get ahead of the April rains by installing one now. Rainwater is a great way to keep your plants watered without putting strain on your existing well or water supply.
Maintain Your Tools
Everything from gardening shears to lawnmower blades can become worn down after a long season. If you didn’t perform seasonal maintenance before storing your tools for the winter, now is the time to get them ready for the busy season ahead. If you’re not sure how to manage this task on your own, many local gardening centers offer sharpening services!
You can also get a jump on next winter by throwing in a tune-up on your snowblower. We may still get more snow, but if you do your maintenance on every piece of equipment now, you’ll be able to put that snowblower and other winter tools to bed soon and they’ll need less work to get them ready when the first snowflakes fall next year.
Prune Existing Fruit Trees, and Bushes
If your property is home to fruit trees, it’s best to finish pruning this month before the spring buds swell. Remove dead, diseased, or crossed branches, and eliminate vertical branches to allow sunlight to penetrate the interior of the tree. Fruit is only produced on horizontal branches so don’t worry about minimizing your harvest.
Start Your Indoor Vegetable Seedlings
Before you start plants indoors, be sure to check when your last expected frost date is. If you’re not sure, davesgarden.com offers a handy calculator. But, for the most part, you can get started on cold-hardy crops like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, leeks, and lettuce now. You’ll want to wait for 6 to 8 weeks before your last expected frost to start other plants indoors. Indoor starts give your veggies a head start through their seedling phase without the threat of frost or pests.
Address Soil Quality
Healthy gardens start with healthy soil. Before you start planting, you’ll need to test your soil. It doesn’t matter if this is your first year in the garden or your fifth, you should still check in on your soil quality each year to see if any amendments are necessary. Each crop is unique in what it takes from your soil and what it adds so you never know when the pH of your soil can become misaligned. But, it doesn’t have to be a costly process, check out the article below for some cheap and free DIY ways to check your soil’s health.
Update Outdoor Lighting
If you are a homesteader, no other time of year are you as aware of the power of outdoor lighting as you are now. Days are getting longer and all of the critters including predators are just waking up. Now is the time to address any outdoor lighting issues you may have. Few things are more valuable at keeping away the things that go bump in the night (aka bears, mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, and foxes) as some well-placed solar motion detector lights. Additionally, as all the forest creatures begin to wake up, take the time to inspect any game cams you have in place to ensure that you never miss any of the wildlife activity on your property.
Evaluate Your Houseplants
If you’re anything like me, you currently have as many house plants as you do garden plants taking up space. March is the perfect time to give those indoor plants a new outlook by transplanting them into larger pots, or pruning plants that may have become “leggy” over the winter as pruning will encourage new, more compact growth. Plus, if you’re just bursting to get your hands in that soil, this task will take off some of the edge and scratch that itch while you wait for Spring.
How Does Your Garden Grow?
March can be hard on a garden enthusiast, you’re so close, yet so far away from Spring especially here in Colorado where there’s always a chance of snow into July! But, while you wait to switch out your mittens for gardening gloves, this list should keep you busy. Did we miss any essential tasks on our list?
Tell us what you have going on in the garden department for March in the comments below. If you missed our February Tasks for the Colorado Gardener list, be sure to check it out now and get all caught up! And until next time,