It's seed sowing time

Torbay Weekly

It's hard to believe we're halfway through March already with little sign that winter is in the rearview mirror. There is hope in the form of rainbows and sunshine but I’m not putting anything tender in the ground just yet.

Keeping the borders clear at this time of year will give you a head start on the fight against weeds. I’m always careful not to hoe away any forget-me-nots before their tiny powder blue flowers burst on to the scene before disappearing as quickly as they came.

Early flowering daffodils that have gone over will need dead heading now, so they can start to store energy for next year’s effort at cheering us up.

Whilst you’re having a mooch around in dry weather, it could be your last opportunity to move flowers to what might be a better place if they haven’t done so well for a few years. You can give away anything you don’t want, have separated or have too much of.

It really is the seed sowing time of year and looking at the price of young plants, I’d suggest you sow as many as you can now. The current cost of living will only serve to sharpen gardeners’ appetites to demonstrate how we can tighten our belts and still have a fantastic display in the summer. Sweet peas are a good example of this, as are nasturtiums. Both are easy to grow from seed, while they can be expensive to buy.

You might want to build a rockery if you have any spare stone you need to get rid of. This includes builders’ rubble if you have some you’ve hidden in a dark corner and forgotten about.

Plant alpines within dotted pockets of compost and, when kept watered, they will flourish in a sunny spot. You could even plant alpines on top of a log store or bike shed. They’ll help soak up the moisture and might even lengthen the life of the shed as a result.

On the Plot, I’ve decided to have a dedicated raised bed for spring onions (and Marshmallow strawberries), so I’ve been preparing this in between the cold showers and listening to the cricket from the West Indies.

Raking over the ground to ensure a fine breadcrumb like surface, or tilth, will help keep them weed free and in tip top condition. I plan to succession sow, which, in theory, means I can replace the ones I pull up for the noodle or salad bowl without any great drama and keep this going for most of the year.

This is part of my concerted effort to only ever grow what we like to eat as opposed to previous botanical experimentation, or what my wife feels needs to be firmly placed under the heading of ‘messing about’.

You can start to dig potato trenches and fill them with leaf mould you’ve carefully saved from previous years, as well as homemade compost you can keep throwing in. Even grass cuttings will provide nutrients for spuds, so you can dispose of some of that in the trench before planting the spuds when you’re absolutely certain the frost has gone.

Anywhere you had cabbages or potatoes last year, you could prepare that bed for this year’s crop of root vegetables. Rake over it and you’ll be planting carrots, parsnips and beetroot there on a sunny weekend before too long.

I always try and think a month ahead if I can. The saying about March is a reliable guide. In like a lion and out like a lamb. To my cost, I’ve spent many a late march kicking myself for planting too early and losing a crop. This year the plot will play a more pivotal role in many households, so it’s imperative we get it right first time.

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