The days are getting noticeably longer, giving us more time to be out in the garden and on the allotment. Time spent now getting your beds, borders, garden and plots in good shape will reap rewards later in the year. So make the most of any dry days. The risk of frost is still high, so think twice before putting any tender plants outside.
WHAT TO SOW NOW!
The most frequently asked question over the past couple of weeks has been ‘What can I sow now?’ And that’s not easy to answer!
So briefly, having gone through my seed packets the following can IN THEORY be sown outside now:
Radish Carrot Beetroot Spring onions
Chard Cabbage Broccoli Other brassicas
Peas Mange tout Broad beans
But it would be far better to warm the soil first using a cloche, or even a compost bag with black side up, and wait until mid-March at the earliest, particularly given the cold weather that we’ve had. And if patience is not not your forte, temper it with restraint, hedging your bets by sowing sparingly now, saving at least 2/3rds of the seeds for later sowings
The following can be sown indoors in a propagator, heated greenhouse, or on a warm windowsill:
Aubergine Tomato Celeriac Chilli
Cornichon Kale Broccoli Brussel Sprouts
But be aware that you’ll have to keep them indoors until the end-April/early May unless you have a greenhouse or decent sized cold frame, so sow sparingly unless you have a lot of space, and do a later sowing in April.
Towards the end of March you can start sowing sunflowers and courgettes, but as they germinate and grow quickly, personally I’d wait until April.
Onion sets can be planted out now, and early potatoes in mid-March but be prepared to earth them up as the shoots come up.
WAIT TO SOW
Climbing beans Runner beans Butternut squash
START OF THE GROWING SEASON
Remove any remaining perennial weeds from your beds and cover with well rotted manure, home-made compost or other organic matter. This is what will help our sandy soil retain moisture in the summer as worms will take the organic matter into the soil.
Asparagus plants have shallow roots so weed the beds by hand to keep them weed free. They are also hungry feeders so be generous with the mulch!
Chit seed potatoes in an egg carton on a windowsill to give them a head start.
Encourage the strong growth of chives by dividing the clumps, trim back sage to encourage new growth.
Keep harvesting kale and purple sprouting broccoli through early spring
Use any forced rhubarb, be careful to mulch the rhubarb, but avoid the crown otherwise the stalks will suffer from mould and the crown is at risk of rotting.
Protect the blossoms of early bloomers, such as apricots and peaches, from frost with horticultural fleece.
Keep the trunks of fruit trees weed free, and mulch around them with well-rotted manure or compost, Take care not to mound mulch up around the trunk.
Sort out strawberry beds to ensure good cropping later in the year.
It’s the last chance for planting soft fruit such as gooseberries and raspberries to get fruit this season.
IN THE GARDEN
Hopefully you’ll be enjoying the first of many spring flowering bulbs in your garden. The snowdrops seem to have been particularly floriferous this year. Crocus are in abundance and the mini-narcissus are coming through. Take of note of any colour gaps in your garden now, or take photos, to remind you of what to plant in autumn.
The garden has suffered significantly this winter season with the three prolonged cold periods that we’ve had. Cut back herbaceous perennials and check for any dead shrubs, Do remember that some plants will need replacing, unless you divide regularly, some herbaceous plants become woody and past their best. Small shrubs look their best for 5-7 years, and medium ones perhaps 20.
March is the final month for planting bare-root trees and shrubs, pot grown plants can be planted anytime,
March will probably be the first cut of the lawn this year. Mid-March is a good time to do a lawn feed and weed. Hold off scarifying until April.
Prune mop and lace cap hydrangeas, roses and buddliea.
Wildlife has had a hard time during this cold weather. Watch out for toads which will be hibernating under the soil and leaf piles. Solitary bees will be out and about on warm days, retuning to their resting places at night, so try not to disturb obvious hibernating spots. It’s fairly easy to put a small section of your allotment and garden aside for wildflowers and the natural word. Pile up any logs, leaves and pruning for insects and small mammals to shelter. And perhaps plant a small fruit tree on your allotment or something larger in your garden, if you have one, to commemorate the Coronation.
Bird nesting season has started so check for any nesting activity before you start any late pruning. Birds nest in areas of thick ivy, brambles, hedges as well as trees. Check over bird boxes for damage, fix new ones to a suitable tree or wall away from predators and out of direct sunlight.