What to do on Your Arizona Homestead in March

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March is the beginning of Spring here in central Arizona. While February 15th is the last frost date, March is definitely the time when the temps are warming up and so much is blooming. This is prime outdoor time.  That means camping, hiking, gardening and foraging for the homesteader. What better time to celebrate all things green. St. Patrick’s Day and the Spring Equinox give us opportunities to gather and honor the season.

Morbi vitae purus dictum, ultrices tellus in, gravida lectus.

GARDEN

FORAGE

PRESERVE

CELEBRATE

Each month has its own special offerings as well as it’s own requirements. These are categories of things that I can keep in mind when planning my month. It’s so disappointing when I miss out on a foraging or planting opportunity because I have to wait an entire year to have again. Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen.

The contents of each category are ever-growing, but here are the basic things I keep track of:

  1. What to do in the garden.
  2. What to forage.
  3. What to preserve.
  4. What special days to celebrate.

What to do in the Garden in March

Flowers to Sow or Transplant: African Daisies, Ageratum, Alyssum, Bachelor Buttons, Carnation, Clarkia, Delphinium, Everlastings, Gaillardia, Globe Amaranth, Gloriosa Daisy, Godetia, Gypsophilia, Helichrisum, Hollyhocks, Larkspur, Lupines, Nasturtium, Nicotiana, Pansy, Petunia, Phlox, Pinks, Poppy, Salpiglossis, Shasta Daisy, Snapdragon, Sunflowers, Sweet Peas, Sweet Sultan, Sweet William, Verbena, Viola

Sow Herb and Vegetable Seeds: Arugula, Basil, Beets, Bush Beans, Cantaloupe, Carrots, Corn, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Fennel, Kale, Lettuce, Onions, Peppers, Potatoes, Radishes, Sage, Spinach, Summer Squash, Swiss Chard, Tomatillo, Turnips, Watermelon

Transplants: Artichoke, Eggplant, Kale, Lettuce, Marjoram, Melons, Mint, Multiplier Onions, Oregano, Peppers, Rosemary, Sage, Spinach, Summer Squash, Swiss Chard, Thyme, Tomatoes

Weeds: Continue to pull weeds like Stinknet before they bloom so you don’t have so many next year. Doing so after a rain is much easier and satisfying. Be sure to compost them before the go to seed.

Rooting Perennials in water

Propagate: Take softwood cuttings of perennials like rosemary, lavender and marjoram. Be sure to not use stems that have flowers on them or they may not root well. Rosemary and lavender do best when rooted in potting soil or sand. Marjoram roots quickly in water and can then be potted up or planted in the garden. You can also divide lemongrass and other clumping perennials.

Mark the Sun: The Spring Equinox is one of 4 times in the year that you should take note of where the sun rises, where it is at noon, and where it sets. Get out a map of your property and mark it. This will help you know what kind of sun your garden is getting at the various times of the year.

What to Forage in March

March is such a great time to be outside. This is the time when many plants are budding or blooming. It is a great month to forage for roots, shoots, buds and flowers. Berries, nuts and fruits will be later in the year.

Spring is my favorite season to collect fresh leaves after a rain. I like collecting Chaparral at this time, even though it can be collected any time of year.

Backyard weeds that are in their prime right now are: 

  • London Rocket: Eat leaves in salad or cooked
  • Wild Mustards: Eat leaves in salad or cooked
  • Amaranth: Eat the leaves like spinach. Seeds are highly nutritious.
  • Common Mallow: Eat the leaves fresh or dried. Highly nutritious.
  • Chickweed: Eaten raw or cooked. Tinctures and salves for medicinal use.
  • Common Yellow Wood Sorrel (Oxalis stricta): Leaves have a tart lemon taste.
  • Cholla Buds: Carefully remove thorns and dry, cook, or pickle.
  • Morel Mushrooms: Found at the edge of woody areas near the base of trees. Cook or dehydrate.

As you forage, be aware of what plants you can forage for later on. Consider what is flowering and what will be producing fruit or seeds for harvesting later in the year. Mark these on your maps and calendar.

NOTE: Be sure to correctly identify what you are foraging for. Use a book like Charles Kane’s Medicinal Plants of the Desert Southwest. Also make certain that the plants you are collecting have not been sprayed with pesticides or other unsavory things.

Preserved brittlebush

What to Preserve in March

Preserving goes right along with gardening and foraging, because if you aren’t going to eat it or use it right away, then you’re going to either compost it or preserve it. Take a walk in your neighborhood to see what plants are growing. If you don’t know what it is, use Google lens to identify it and start your research.

Here is a list of things you can forage, harvest, and preserve right now.

  • Cholla buds: These are the buds of the flowers before they bloom. find these in your backyard or on a hike. I haven’t preserved these myself, but have eaten them pickled. Here is a link to Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook for the harvesting and drying process. As always, bring some metal tongs and bags on foraging trips.
  • Calendula: Just keep harvesting and drying the flowers for teas and salves.
  • Red Dock: Dry the roots and store in slices or powdered and ready to go. Keep the powder in small containers in your backpack and medicine cabinet for immediate use.
  • Herbs: Keep picking your herbs as they grow in order to dry by hanging or in the dehydrator. You can store them in your spice cabinet or in vacuum sealed bags for longer storage.
  • Citrus: There is still so much citrus out there to use. Every part of citrus is useful. Leaves can be dried and used to infuse flavor to dishes. Peels are made into candy, dried for teas, or used to make pectin for jelly. Juice can be frozen and concentrated (HOW TO). Seeds are collected and frozen to be used in making pectin for jams and jellies.
  • Chickweed: Dehydrate and store or infuse into oil.
  • Spring weeds like Mallow and London Rocket and garden greens like chard, beets, spinach, and brassica leaves can be dehydrated, powdered and stored for a super greens powder.
  • Beets: Slice and dehydrate or preserve by canning. Pickled beets can be waterbath canned, but beets without vinegar must be pressure canned.
  • Borage: Dry the flowers and leaves and store for teas and salves.
  • Brittlebush: Dehydrate flowers and leaves for teas or salves
  • Desert Lavender: Dehydrate flowers and leaves for teas and salves.
pressed bur clover in dictionary

Special Days to Celebrate in March

Learning to celebrate special days is important for anyone who is connected to the land. Whether it is a religious holiday, a birthday, or seasonal observance, welcoming it into your life is a beautiful way to honor life and connect to time and place.

This month is one of my favorites. From St. Patrick’s Day to the Spring Equinox, the celebration of green and new life is everywhere. We practically breathe green this month. Maybe living in the desert makes this extra special, but I think we all feel the new energy of life springing us forward. Let it envelop you and your family. Fill your home with green and gold and rainbows. Enjoy the childlike sense of wonder (and the adultlike draught of Guinness.)

Here are some fun ways to celebrate the season.

  1. GREEN: Try making your own green dyes using weeds and garden plants like spinach and chamomile. Use natural fibers like cotton and silk and simmer them in 8 cups of water to 1/2 cup vinegar for one hour before cooling and adding the dye (water that has been strained from boiling leaves). Check out this book for more about natural dyes from foraging.
  2. CLOVER: Hunt for clover-like plants to press for art projects. Here in Arizona you can use Oxalis stricta (Yellow Oxalis) or Medicago polymorpha (Bur Clover). These are easily found in parks and lawns.
  3. GOLD: Paint rocks with gold tempura paint and hide them in the yard for a fun scavenger hunt game.
  4. RAINBOWS: Go for a rainbow hunt while hiking. Look for wildflowers in every color of the rainbow. Collect some petals to dry or just take photos to frame and make a rainbow display on the wall.
  5. LEPRECHAUNS: Make little leprechaun traps to catch those naughty fairies. Just do a Google search and your mind will be spinning with ideas.

Enjoy the season with your family or by yourself. Breathe in the fresh green life. Find ways to bring the green indoors with flowers and branches in a vase of water and crafts using everything that nature has to offer.

To learn about what to do in your hive this month, read this article in Garden Variety Bees.