March and the Vegetable garden begins to jump.
It all kicks off this month in the vegetable garden.
So have you got your gloves ready, your spade sharpened, and your special slug detecting goggles on?
If we get mild weather you could find yourself sowing anything from this long list… broad beans, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, parsnips, beetroot, radish, peas, spinach, summer cabbage, leeks, lettuce, onions, Swiss chard, kohl rabi, and turnips.
Those of you gardening on lighter soils (non sticky) should definitely be able to pop a few seeds into your vegetable patch, although be guided by the information on your particular seed variety packet.
Should you be lucky enough to have a glasshouse or polytunnel then you can expand that vegetable sowing list even further to encompass aubergines, cucumbers, sweet peppers, and tomatoes.
If you are without glasshouse or polytunnel then just commandeer a bright corner of your conservatory or sunroom for pampering these sun lovers.
Go for smaller varieties if growing in the house, for example with tomatoes you should try to select patio or cherry tom plants.
No more tears.
Onions and shallots from sets allow you to skip the seed growing step altogether as you begin by planting immature bulbs.
Visit your local garden centre or farmers co-op and select heat-treated sets for their resistance to bolting (premature flowering), then plant them in late March.
Select rich soil if you have it or incorporate a fair quantity of compost into any free-draining soil, a bucket or two to per square metre should do.
Rake the soil out to the texture of cake crumbs, relatively level, and then create shallow valleys along it to accommodate the young onions or shallots.
The valley or drill should be just deep enough that the bulbs tip peaks above the surface when pushed down lightly and soil replaced (1/2 inch deep usually).
Keep the drills as straight as possible as this will help you identify the weeds from the veg, weeds are stupid and give themselves away by not growing in straight lines.
Your drills can be 9 to 12 inches apart, with bulb spacings of 4 inches for the onions and about 6 inches for the shallots.
After that, to grow well your young onions will require regular weeding, watering during dry weather, and a bit of net protection if birds begin to lift them out of the ground. In return for all this the onions will still make you cry when you cut into them, but I have it on good authority that if you pop them in the freezer for 30mins before cutting, you will cry no more.
Also known as sprouting, chitting forces the seed potatoes to produce buds before they are even planted, an encouragement that results in earlier and heavier cropping.
So first of all get your hands on some seed potatoes, then simply lay them in a container to produce buds for a few weeks before sowing.
The part of the potato with the most bud producing eyes is commonly called the “rose” end and it is to be found at either of the two blunter ends of the spud.
Maintaining the upright position of the rose end for chitting is where careful container selection comes in.
You can use a box or seed tray filled with hay or straw, and screw the potatoes into it right-side up. Or if you are an egg eater, save your old egg boxes, rip the tops off, and plonk your potatoes into them right side up.
A windowsill without direct sunlight in a cool room or garage (8-10°C) is a perfect location for chitting.
Chitted in this way, it normally takes about four to six weeks for your seed potatoes to produces buds approx 2.5cm (0.5-1in) long, ready to be planted out as soon as the soil is workable during Late March and into April.
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