Sunday, 6 March 2011

Getting a head start

It's so very nearly safe to start sowing seeds and planting out but there is still the risk of a frost. So, what can we do to stem this interminable itch to get out and get growing?
Well, most hardy seed can be sown ,as the packets say, from mid to late March. This means with some clever trickery we can maybe grab an extra week or three and get some head way.
We have a small mini greenhouse which we have used to harden off the seedlings my wife raised on a sunny windowsill. By starting them indoors and then, essentially, hardening the plants off, I have been able to plant them out when I should, according to the seed packets, be thinking about sowing.
Like a lot of gardeners, I have been chitting seed potatoes for a few weeks. The soil was very friable, that is it was crumbling easily, and so I managed to prepare a couple of trenches and planted my salad and first early potatoes.
I am still harvesting the leeks I planted out last year but due to the long growing season I have the next crop already sown and saw the first hair pin shaped seedling peaking through the soil in the make shift cold frame today. That's encouraging.
Likewise, Purple Sprouting Broccoli takes forever to come to its full potential but that may just be my impatience playing up when it comes to delicious soups.
That reminds me, I need to check my stock of Squash seed. Man cannot live by bread alone, he needs Butternut Squash!
If you fancy trying something unusual like a Squash or Sweet Potatoes, it's a good idea to look at the family first.
Squash for example are the family that includes many every day easy to grow staples, the Cucurbits. This means , if you know how to grow Courgettes, or you forget to check one day and find you know how to grow Marrows, you can grow Squash.
Sweet Potatoes however, are a surprise. They are not, as one might expect, relatives of the Potato but are much more closely connected to the Bindweed family. As any allotment grower can testify, all you need to grow Bindweed is a tiny sliver of root to grow masses and masses. So if you want to grow Sweet Potato, you start with rooted slips not tubers.
Anyway, time for some suggestions for things to do this month.
If you need to dig, beds or borders, now is the time to get things finished before the drying winds and warmer sun bake the soil and also to allow the freshly turned sods to settle.
If you have cloches or covers warming the soil already, you can start to sow early crops under them now, if you haven't, now is not too late to start warming the ground. Don't worry if you don't own a cloche or greenhouse, black polythene or cardboard will suffice.
Prune Apple trees,Pears and any other hardy fruit trees or bushes.
Continue planting out container grown Trees
Prepare your soft fruit beds, strawberries need a good well manured clean base. Any existing strawberry beds will benefit from a good tidy up.
Start thinking about preparing a trench for Runner beans. Digging a good trench now and filing it over the next few weeks will provide a good water reservoir and food store for these hungry climbers.
Despite the cold winter, some lawns will have grown enough to warrant a light trim if the grass is dry. Just be sure to make it a light cut, only taking a little off the top please Barber!

1 comment:

Paul and Melanie said...

Like you I'm having to hold myself back from sowing stuff like a crazy person. However, I'm going to give in and start off some stuff in my greenhouse this weekend and see what happens... :)