People without a proper plant house can still cheaply and easily start seeds in March using clear plastic bottles. Bigger liter bottles are best, but little pint-sized bottles will give them a small start.
March weather likes to tease vegetable gardeners. It can seem like a beautiful spring day, but just around the corner, an evil destructive frost could be waiting to descend upon your garden. After March 10 in the Shreveport-Bossier area, the chance of a frost is about 50/50. If it does happen, there’s a good chance it will be brief and mild. However, it isn’t until April 12 that you can be almost guaranteed there won’t be a frost. So, until then, it’s best to plant cold tolerant vegetables.
A favorite cold resistant plant is Snow Peas, which can taste a bit pea nutty when eaten raw. Leafy green plants like spinach and mustard not only survive well in the cold, but are at their best. If you start having too many warm sunny days, it would be best to shade the greens. Excessive direct sunlight tends to make them stalky and go to seed. Garlic and onions can also help satisfy a gardener's need to play in the dirt early in the season.
The cold isn’t the only obstacle to planting in March. It tends to be wet, and tilling at the wrong time could just be churning up mud, which will likely harden into undesirable clumps. It’s a risky game, trying to wait long enough after a rain until the ground is dry, without waiting too long and it rains again. Gardeners will need to monitor the weather hoping to pounce on that perfect time. There might just be one day to till a few rows and plant. Then you can relax and welcome the rain as long as it doesn’t get so hard it erodes your work away. For that reason, it’s not always good to till too much ahead.
Gardeners with envy-causing green houses have likely already started tomatoes from seeds. This gives them a head start without having to buy young plants. People without a proper plant house can still cheaply and easily start seeds in March using clear plastic bottles. Bigger liter bottles are best, but little pint-sized bottles will give them a small start.
You will want a few small holes close to the bottom. If you have a wood-burning pen, it’s easy and a bit fun to melt some little holes. Heating an ice pick also works. You can drill or cut, but those are more likely to split than melted holes. Cut around the top at the wide part, fill about half way with good potting soil (preferably with perlite), put in the seed, water mildly, and tape the top back on with clear duct tape. These can be placed outside and will allow seedlings to start growing while protecting them. The plants will need watering, but try to prevent excess humidity. Too much heat can also be a problem, so during those surprisingly hot days, move them to the shade or remove the whole top and tape it back on when it’s cold again. Except in really harsh weather, it’s best to leave the screw-on lid off to allow some air circulation. Wholesale stores often sell snack foods in impressively large clear plastic containers. These can be used for a mini-greenhouse or placed over young plants already outside during a cold snap. Try not to leave them on or the plant will get too hot. Reusing trash is not just for environmentalists. It also saves money and helps make a great garden.
By Dori Herndon