March means spring is fast approaching, even if you are still under snow. This March homestead to do list will help you know what should get accomplished in March to maximize your time, your effort, and help keep you from falling behind. March is time to start thinking ahead to planting, chickens, and plenty of other things that need doing on the homestead.
Not all of these tasks will apply to every homestead or every climate. This list is based on what should be done in a Mediterranean-type climate, specifically in USDA Zone 8b. Zones 9 and 7 will be very close, if not a complete match. The further away from zone 8 that your homestead is, the more you will have to adjust this March homestead to do list based on weather and seasonal cues, which are mentioned when possible.
Gardening Checklist for March
Add Soil Amendments
Based on the soil test you hopefully had done in February, it is time to amend your garden soil. A soil test does not have to be done every year but should be done every 2-3 years. Be sure to wait until your soil is “workable” to amend the soil. This means the soil is not saturated with water, covered with snow, or still frozen. To be sure it is not too wet, pick up a handful and squeeze it into a ball. If water comes out faster than a drip, it is too wet. When the soil is finally workable, turn in compost and whatever amendments suggested by your soil test.
Now is a good time to chop down or roll your cover crops. Cover crops should be cut down 3-6 weeks before planting, or when about half of the plants are in bloom. The key is to not let the crop go to seed while giving the cut crop time to begin decomposition. The timing is important because the decomposition process temporarily locks up some of the nitrogen in the soil and you want to get past the worst of it before sowing seeds.
For larger market gardens, rolling is probably a more time/cost-effective option but for smaller gardens, you can take a weed whacker/string trimmer to your cover crops to cut them down.
Begin indoor sowing long season crops
Long-season and/or heat-loving crops like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, tomatillo, leeks, and onions should all be sown by early March.
My favorite way to sow these is using soil blocks. I like them because I don’t have to worry about sanitizing pots or the extra garbage they create when they crack or melt after a couple of years. Since the seedlings aren’t grown in pots, there is no worry about having to transplant or seedlings getting root bound.
Be sure to read descriptions closely in your seed catalog and choose varieties that are best suited to your climate and the length of your growing season. Because of our shorter growing season, I usually choose tomato and pepper varieties with about 85 days to maturity.
Begin direct sowing of early greens and peas
If your soil is workable in March, it is a great time to sow some early greens. Depending on where you are, they’ll likely need a little frost protection at first. Cold frames and row covers are two ways to accomplish this. With a cold frame, you may be able to start early greens even if there is snow on the ground, as long as it isn’t frozen. Just don’t forget to water them.
Livestock Checklist for March
Kidding, lambing, and calving should be wrapping up. Enjoy those babies!
Need to add to your layer flock this year? Chicks are usually available in feed stores starting in March. Start setting up your brooder and have everything ready and in place except food and water. Keep in touch with your local feed store and know their policies about special ordering chicks, when they arrive, and what breeds they are ordering. Then, do your research and find out what breed you want to try this year!
Planning to raise some meat birds this year? It is time to start thinking ahead to when you want chicks to arrive, how many batches you’re going to grow, and how to time them based on how long their grow-out period is.
One good rule of thumb is to order your first batch of chicks to arrive just after the average last frost date. Many hatcheries will let you order all your birds for the season for multiple deliveries. Schedule deliveries so your last batch is processed before your average first frost date in the fall.
When choosing a shipping date, keep in mind that some breeds (especially Cornish Cross) are very sensitive to heat and cold. This is one of the reasons to wait for delivery until after the last frost date and be done by the first frost in the fall. If you tend to have hot, dry spells like we do, avoid growing out broilers during this time.
General March Homestead To Do List
March is a great time to walk the homestead and check all the infrastructure.
Walk/Ride the perimeter and check all the fences. Depending on the size of your homestead, you may want to take tools and supplies with you and make repairs on the spot when you find them or make a detailed list of where the problem is and what you need to fix it so you can come back.
Assuming temps are no longer routinely below freezing, check irrigation lines. Flush lines to locate problems such as clogs or holes in hoses, missing emitters, and such so it’ll be good and ready when the rain stops. I like to do this early because I never know when we have to start watering. Sometimes it is late April and other years we can go as late as Memorial Day or even into June. It is best to be ready so you aren’t scrambling when your seedlings are parched.
Check gutters on the house, barns, and outbuildings. Leaves have been sitting all winter and now is a good time to get them all cleaned out before the gardening and preserving seasons take over.
Check water filters and clean/replace if necessary. We have an in-line filter in our well house and a separate filter on our house. Maybe you have sediment filters on your hoses? All things to keep an eye on and make sure they’re flowing freely.
March is a great time to put fresh mulch around trees or on flower beds. Mulch, particularly wood chip mulch, is a great way to suppress weeds and slow water evaporation in the garden. As long as you use it on the surface and don’t mix it into the soil, it does not lock up nitrogen in the soil.
Be careful when mulching trees that you don’t wind up with a ‘mulch volcano!’ A mulch volcano is when mulch is piled up against a tree trunk (it is shaped like a volcano). Mulch against the tree’s trunk can cause the trunk to start to break down. Also, when the mulch starts to break down, it heats up, further damaging the tree’s vascular tissues. Ultimately, mulch volcanoes can kill your tree. Just don’t do it.
Weeding is pretty self-explanatory. You have to get a jump start on that weeding because they’ll take over in no time. One good way to reduce the need for weeding is to NOT till your garden. Tilling exposes those weeds to sunlight, allowing them to germinate.
Tree pruning should be finished up in March. Hopefully, you started it earlier if you have a lot of trees. Contrary to popular belief, trees can be pruned at any time of year but if you wait until after bud break, it will negatively affect production on fruit trees.
March is a great time to propagate plants by dividing perennials and grafting fruit trees. Most perennials are very easy to divide with a shovel. Not only do you get free plants, but it helps keep older plants healthier and more attractive. Over time, older perennials tend to die out in the middle. Dividing them allows you to cut out that dead portion and have multiple healthy new plants. Rhubarb is the first plant that comes to mind that needs dividing often, as much as every 2-3 years.
Grafting combines tissues of 2 (or more) different plants. For example, you could take a piece of your favorite apple tree and graft it onto rootstock, and voila! you have a new tree. This is how you get those 5-in-1 or 3-in-1 trees at the nurseries. Raintree Nursery has a great video on how to graft trees.
Journal About Your March Homestead To Do List
Keep a homesteading journal. It is a great way to look back and remember things like when the first frost of the year was or when you started harvesting beans. It is also a great way to keep track of when and how you amended the garden soil or when you pruned a particular tree (or if it didn’t get pruned at all!). You think you’ll remember all that stuff, but you won’t. As one of my favorite productivity gurus David Allen says, “Your mind is having ideas, not holding them.”