The Dutiful Homesteader: March

 First chore: Pull weeds and add compost to soil

The best thing you can do for yourself and your garden is to clean up the beds and add compost. In our area, this is the month to do it. The rainy weather will ease up while the ground remains soft, making it the best time to dominate weeds. And when you immediately follow that with a slathering of compost, you convince the worm population to stick around a little longer, while replenishing your beds with much needed nutrients. Your garden will thank you for it.

To mulch or not to mulch

For many, mulching your vegetables seems strange if not unnecessary. Yet I’ve found that this method works so well, that I have to recommend it. Whether using leaves from your yard or wood chips that you purchased, it has its benefits and should be considered as we get closer to springtime.

 Next chore: Build more bed covers (hoops) or cold frames for early spring beds

We have such a long growing season here and that has to do with the amount of sunshine we get. But even though we have sunny days, we still get freezing nights this time of year. Enter covered beds. Any kind will do. You just want to keep the baby plants warm at night and then be able to open it up during the daytime so they can soak up the rays. Way to extend the season!

 Next chore: Organize your garden tool bucket

Buckets around the garden are a handy thing. I use mine mostly for carrying things to and fro, and of course to keep my tools organized and with me. Any pail or bucket will do but you can buy organizing kits as cheap as $15.00. Or you can be really cheap like me and use what you already have – a tool belt strapped to a paint bucket wins me over every time. Some things you may want to keep with you include:

2 hand trowels (different sizes)
Hand rake and/or fork
Hand pruner/trimmer
Hand saw
Dibbler
Measuring stick
Waterproof knee cushion
Gloves
First aid kit

Make sure to leave room for a spray bottle and water container.

 Next chore: Edit your home storage

We all use them… closets, bins and drawers to hide the clutter. But they can turn you into a hoarder if you don’t take the time to keep it organized. This is the month to toss out the old, the unused and the unnecessary. That’s it, now you’re getting into the swing of spring!

In the kitchen: Clear out that utility drawer. Are you holding onto a set of keys that don’t open anything? Toss ’em! Do you store unopened bills from a year ago? File ’em! Don’t let these things fill up that space because before you know it, you’ll be using a second utility drawer or worse – the countertop.

In the bedrooms: Get the kids together to help you make decisions about the clothes, shoes and toys they’ve outgrown. Ask them what is okay to store in the garage and what can be donated to Goodwill. Take that same decisive attitude into your own bedroom closet. We all love to shop so unless we learn to edit, the closet will just keep filling up.

In the bathrooms: The medicine cabinet is often overlooked when it comes to cleaning. Medications and vitamins don’t last forever you know. Check dates and get ready to toss anything that can’t be used anymore. Under the sink is another strange place to tackle. Is that rock-hard box of Epsom salts back in the corner of the cabinet really necessary in life? Can you use it or toss it already?

Inside armoires and other standing cabinets: On occasion, I open up the entertainment center to find a big ol’ mess, tossed around any which way and we can’t find anything. It’s just our nature to be messy. When I finally organize it all I find movies and music CDs that we’ll never watch or listen to again. It’s a garage sale in the making so in a bin it goes with a sticker that says “50 cents each” on it.

In the entryway: Take a good long look at the catchall basket that catches more than just money and keys. Yuck. Now go through it, edit and clean. Do the same in the entry closet and/or cubbies.

In the office: Don’t be like me and poke your head in, then turn around and run. File, stack, organize. A little effort goes a long way.

 Next chore: Stick to a house cleaning schedule

The entire cleaning schedule that I use breaks it down to a daily, weekly, monthly, biannual and annual schedules; it helps me to look like I’m organized and on top of things! This is the once-a-month portion that will help you to stay ahead of it all.

Monthly: Clean out the microwave, oven and fridge. Wipe down the kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Wipe down towel racks, toilet paper holders, hooks and other fixtures. Dust the laundry area/room. Vacuum upholstered furniture. Dust behind TV. Wipe down doorknobs, light switches, windowsills and baseboards.

 Final chore: What to plant this month

This planting schedule assumes you are in zone 8 or 9 and practice succession planting… so you may also see the same items listed on other months.

Seed or plant the following: Fava Beans, Beets, Carrots, Celery, Chard, Collards, Kale, Leeks, Leaf Lettuce, Mustard, Peas, White Potatoes, Radishes, Spinach and Turnips.

Start in pots: Eggplant, Peppers and Tomatoes.

Resources

The Farmer Fred Rant
The Weekend Homesteader Series (amazon.com books)
Real Simple
Martha Stewart Living