March in South Africa brings further cooling and shortening of days and, in areas of summer rainfall, significantly less rain. However, it is a month where temperatures and precipitation can fluctuate significantly, as the country moves from summer to autumn, so be wary of hot spikes, dry spells and intense unexpected rain.
You can begin preparing for your winter garden by planting shrubs and perennials that attract beneficial pest predators, clearing away spent plants, pruning existing shrubs and perennials, and preparing or maintaining your composting area.
Cool weather crops should be planted as soon in the month as possible as they need warm weather to germinate and begin growing. Think beetroot, brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, endive, leek, parsley, parsnip, potatoes, and chard.
Onions also can be planted now as they need longer days for green growth and the shorter winter days to focus on bulb development. Tomatoes and mielies should be reaching their peak harvest period during March, as well as apples and pears.
If you plan to ‘rest’ areas of your garden this coming winter by leaving it fallow, consider planting ‘green manure’ crops like oats, lupins and broad beans which fix nitrogen into the soil. Once these plants have reached maturity they can be cut back and added to your compost heap or dug directly into fallow beds.