It's finally here. March is officially visible on the 10 day forecast and that in itself feels like the light at the end of a very icy tunnel. Winter was long, but the thaw is about to settle in and it's time to gear up to hit the ground running. As we come up on the one year anniversary of the first American lockdowns, there is no better time than now to set things in motion for an unbreakable food chain. The pantry is looking light on veggies and heavy in the meat and broth department, being as we can broths and meats all through winter, and eat down the previous season's harvests. Right now we are still picking lettuce, kale, mustard, chard, mache, choy, and mizuna from the winter garden, and it's nearing time to harden seedlings off to replace their aging forefathers.
Starting the month off from scratch? Here's you're to-do list:
Take note of your last average frost date. This will help you determine what frost-sensitive plants you can start right now.
Take inventory of your seeds and determine which are frost hardy, quick crops. As long as the ground isn't buried in snow, and your temperatures are facing a warming trend of about 30F and above with minor deviations, you can begin hardening off seedlings to plant out.
If you don't have an already established garden, this is an excellent time to choose the plot placement and get it covered in an equally sixed cut of silage tarp. The tarp will kill off any vegetation, seeds, and roots and allow you to plant directly into the ground weed free in a few months.
If you do already have a plot, start planning your crop placement, amendments, and succession sowing schedule.
Make a list of goals for the season. Do you want to grow enough beans to can? Crank up the pollinator habitats around your yard? Perhaps you just want to get your feet wet and grow a small salad or herb garden. Setting the goal and sticking to it is half the battle.
Here on our farm, we are completely redoing our growing spaces. We are growing from our small beds and mini rows into large, intensively managed rows. We used our American Guinea Hogs and chicken flock to completely clear out the entire old garden and most of a field to grow in. With a last frost date of May 1 here in our area, we still have about 10 weeks until our first frost-tender plant can hit the soil without worry. I can start longer season crops like eggplant, tomatoes, and peppers now, and for the next 4-6 weeks and still have a great harvest this summer. I can also start more lettuces, brassicas, and really any greens I want, to plant out and harvest long before mid-summer.
March is a great time in many areas to start the spring forage season off. Foraging is an amazing way to increase your food freedom, because it has the ability to be completely nomadic. This frees the practicer of the need for land or permanence. A few easy beginner foraged foods you can start with are dandelion, chicory, violet, sorrel, chickweed, and Japanese knotweed. During foraging season here I will be posting about each of those and more, so that more people can get to know the food that literally surrounds them.
If you're still harboring a freezer full of last season's harvest going into spring, it's also a great time to begin canning or dehydrating the lot. Not only will this free up space for the incoming glut, but it also ensures you won't have a freezer full of food to worry about in the heat of summer if the power goes out. It's a lot easier keeping things cool in winter outages.
Now that we are heading into the warmer seasons, it is also time to plan out any meat, egg, or dairy animals you'd like to use as a part of your food freedom plan. Spring chicks are shipping (4-12 weeks until meat harvest time, 20-30 weeks until they lay their first eggs), goats are kidding, and messes of piglets are being born. Get your name on the waiting list before they're all sold out!
I hope this mini list helps you on your path to food freedom this year and inspires you to get busy. I know it may seem daunting at first, but future you will be grateful!