‘Stronger warmth from the sun, lengthening days and shortening nights mean that soil temperatures begin to increase appreciably during March. As a result, plant roots react to the warmer conditions, and signs of spring can be seen in the garden. coming first to the coastal areas in the south-west.’ (Frances Perry)
‘Crops that have been dormant right through the winter will now begin to show new green shoots, responding to the light and warmth‘. (David Mabey)
Traditional gardening books always advise: never work the soil when it is wet and sticky, and never trample wet clay soils. In the modern organic raised bed kitchen garden, however, those rules do not apply, as the soil is never walked on in the first place. The first sign of spring comes with the rapid growth of annual weeds on the beds. Such weeds should be regarded as treasure: having acted as valuable ground cover and protection for the overwintering soil, they will now be harvested as green manures and a free source of compost. Dig them carefully out of the beds with a hand trowel or fork, leaving the deeper levels of soil as little disturbed as possible, so as not to compromise the structure of the soil and its mycorrhiza (friendly fungi). Collect weeds in a plastic tub or trug, shake any soil off the roots, and add to the beginnings of this year’s compost heap.
Traditional gardening books also warn against sowing seeds in cold wet soil, or alternatively warn of the dangers of cold March winds drying out the soil and being a danger to tender plants. Again, with raised bed gardening, such problems are largely irrelevant, as every vegetable seed you sow, and every seedling that you plant should be handled with care and covered right from the start of its life with horticultural fleece. The raised bed offers good drainage and prevents water-logging, however much it rains, whilst the fleece acts as a mini-cloche of light and warmth, whilst protecting seeds and young plants from the ravages of frost and freezing winds.
Parsnips can be sown outdoors in the root beds from this month onwards, with turnips and carrots towards the end of the month. Cover the planted seeds with horticultural fleece, held down around the edges of the bed by canes or battens to protect the germinating plants from adverse weather conditions, and from pests.
Onions and leeks
This is a good month for planting onion sets. The traditional problems of birds pulling them out, and the wind disturbing them before they have formed proper roots, do not arise with the use of fleece from the beginning. As with onions and leeks grown from seed this month, it is important to raise the fleece above the tender and vulnerable green growing tips as they appear, to prevent them from growing bent under the fleece.
Cabbage, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower can all be sown in the brassica bed under fleece this month, as well as a first sowing of lettuce.
Traditional cautions about protecting potatoes from wet, cold, damp, frost and slugs are all overcome by the the use of fleece stretched over the potato bed from the beginning. ———————————————————————————————————————–
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Tel 01803 328055 Leaflet No: CAL3