There's a lot going on in the garden in March. Here's a quick list of what to take care of for your desert garden during this busy time.
Continue to set out tomato plants through the first 2 weeks of March. Begin to feed the plants once they are in the ground for 3 weeks with a quality plant food such as Miracle Gro® Water Soluble Tomato Plant Food, then stop once flowering begins. Avoid overfeeding for better fruit production. Water regularly to maintain even moisture. Be aware that sudden changes in soil moisture cause splitting and encourage blossom end rot.
Set out eggplant and pepper plants throughout the month of March. For any transplanted vegetable, cut off any flowers when you set them in the ground. For peppers and eggplant, begin to feed plants 3 weeks after planting with Miracle-Gro® Water Soluble All Purpose Plant Food, then every 2 weeks until the plants are blooming and setting fruit. At that time, stretch feeding to once a month, or less often if soil is well enriched.
For a number of warm season crops, early March planting is critical to a successful crop in the deserts. These crops include snap beans, cucumbers (especially Gherkin varieties), Armenian cucumbers and summer squash (look for heirloom desert varieties or those from the Middle East). Tepary beans, melons (try Ogen for great results) and okra do best when planted from mid-March to early April. All of these crops germinate best in warm soils and soil temperature is erratic in March. If the soil is still cool when you plant, cover the bed after planting with either black plastic or frost cloth. Check the black plastic daily and remove it as soon as plants have germinated. Frost cloth can be left in place after germination and until the plants are tall enough to push against it. All of these crops set fruit in warm, but not hot, conditions. Early planting is the key to a good crop before high temperatures set in.
Less traditional crops to plant in March include the delicious greens huazontle and amaranth, both of which also have edible seed heads, as well as chayote and jicama from seed. These 4 crops continue to grow and produce well into the summer months.
In small gardens, many of the winter vegetables are still producing prolifically in March and finding room for warm spring crops can be a problem. Interplanting is the answer for most gardeners. Mix the spring crops, either from seed or by transplant, among the still vigorous winter crops. By the time the warm season crops are large enough to compete for space and light, the winter crops are spent and it is time to pull them out anyway. Since timing is so critical for warm season spring crops in the desert, using the strategy of interplanting not only saves space but allows even a small garden to stay in virtually continuous production well into the summer.