Even with variable weather there is one thing that growers can be sure about – the increased daylight hours and the opportunity to get on the vegetable patch into the evening.
On the good days turn the soil over in your vacant plots and warm up the soil by putting down fleece.
On unsettled days check out the Marshalls March catalogue featuring new power tools to make your life easier and a reminder of the great and varied fruit and vegetables you can try your hand at this year for delicious home-grown harvests.
Jobs to do...
Plant your onion, garlic and shallot sets now if you couldn’t plant bulb vegetables in autumn. Plant themstraight into the soil outdoors with the ‘thin end’ facing upwards. Space them at 6in (15cm) apart in a row. If you want to plant 2 rows space your rows at 12in (30cm) apart in an open, sunny site in fertile soil that is well-draining.Top tip- plant onions and shallots so that their tips are just showing above the surface of the soil. Plant garlic so the top of the bulb is 2in (5cm) under the soil surface.
Prune now to get the best out of your blueberry plants. If your plants are younger than 2 years old just prune out any stems that are crossing over and rubbing on bigger stems. If 2 years old or older prune out any dead or diseased branches. Take out the smaller stems that provided fruit the year before and cut to a strong bud facing outwards further down the branch. Take out a quarter of the oldest stems at the base to keep the shrub well-ventilated.
Now’s the time to put your seed potatoes in the ground ready to grow in earnest.Collect your potatoes which you have kept in a cool, light position. Make a V-shaped trench in your plot to about a depth of 4-6 in (10-15cm)(this is about half the depth of the spade blade) along the width of your planting area. Place your potatoes in the trench about two hand-spans apart. Place the soil back over the potatoes and level the row evenly with the back of your spade or a rake.
If the weather is warming up in mid to late March you can sow broad bean varieties if you give the seeds a bit of cover. Simply follow the instructions on the seed packet which will tell you when to sow and how to sow. Expect a harvest of wholesome, tasty beans grown fresh from your garden from June onwards. A great crop to harvest with children or grandchildren as the beans appear relatively low down to the ground.
Plant strawberry runners of strawberry plants like new and exclusive Marshmelts. In spring they’ll really take off producing healthy stems that will flower and fruit in mid-summer. Expect 1 plant to give you about a half punnet of strawberries in its first year, then a full punnet in its second year and a full punnet in its third year. This equates to 25 punnets of delicious strawberries from just 10 strawberry runners.
Give your stalwart greens a boost now so you get a great harvest in time for Easter. Feed spring cabbage and kale with a seaweed-based fertiliser like Westland Seaweed Enhanced Plant Growth Stimulant. Great for your crops and great for conditioning the soil too for future tasty crops.
Give your soil a pre-spring dig
On a clear day dig over the soil in preparation for sowing and planting in spring. Pour some nutrient-rich organic matter like Organic Extra over the soil and dig it in.
This job- perfect for keeping you warm - adds nutrient-rich matter to the soil making the soil better for your vegetable plants, and exposes slugs and slug eggs to the surface of the soil. Once the weather warms up in earnest in spring you can apply slug-killing Nemaslug to attack the slugs in your garden.
Grow one of the best dessert ingredients for yourself in your own garden or allotment. Just 1 rhubarb plant produce edible stems year after year and you can even grow a rhubarb plant in a pot if you’ve just a back yard. So hardy, rhubarb comes back year after year whether you go for forced, sweet blanched stems or established stems with a full mature flavour.
Rhubarb Timperley Early This variety is the perfect ingredient for so many delicious desserts. Loved by our growers, we believe it’s one of the best for stewing and for pies, crumbles and preserves.
Rhubarb Champagne Often considered to be the ultimate variety for forcing. Plant the crowns and place a large pot over the plants to exclude the light. The result? - tender, blanched and super-sweet stems.
Rhubarb Rosenhagen Much sweeter than a normal rhubarb making it perfect for a rhubarb crumble, pudding or tart. Great for children as it’s sweet, nutrient-rich yet low in teeth-damaging oxalic acid.
10 ½ oz (300g) castor sugar
1 x orange
1 x lemon
1 lb (450g) rhubarb
1 x root ginger (peeled)
Pour the castor sugar in a saucepan with 10 1/2 fl oz (300ml) water. Boil and simmer then add the zest and juice of both the orange and the lemon. Add the rhubarb and the ginger.
Boil on a medium heat until the rhubarb starts to stew and comes apart.
Place the mixture in a sieve with muslin into a heat-proof jug then pour into jars and bottles. Keep in the fridge for up to 1 month.
Serve the sweet mixture with 3 ½ fl oz (100ml) of carbonated water, or to personal preference.
Aphids and greenflies
Sap-sucking aphids may start making an appearance in the garden and in the greenhouse if the weather is particularly warm for this time of year. Now’s a good time to nip the problem in the bud and protect your prized flowers, fruit and vegetables.
For the organic grower introduce aphid-eating ladybirds into the garden. You can do this by growing pollen-rich flowers.
If you want to use an aphid-killing chemical treatment try Resolva Bug Killer Concentrate. This concentrate formula is effective, long-lasting and quickly reduces the number of sap-sucking aphids.
Marshalls March catalogue landing on your doorstep this month
Now it’s time to get yourself armed with the best tools for gardening and growing tools as well as stock up on more seeds and plants so your productive plot is thriving with the tastiest of fruit and vegetables this season. Take advantage of our new Greenworks power tools, self-watering and stylish containers and ‘protect-against-pests’range and much more.
Vegetable shortage in the supermarkets
Supermarket giants have restricted shoppers from bulk buying salads grown in the Mediterranean on account of the bad winter conditions and serious production losses in countries such as Spain and Greece. Such crops include staples like lettuce, tomatoes and aubergines. Make sure you’re not victim to the shortages by growing your own crops at home. Read the ‘solutions to vegetable shortages’ blog to give you the answers.
Patio fruit trees perfect for small spaces
Take a look at the NEW varieties of patio fruit trees; the perfect solution for growing your own tasty, sun-ripe tree fruit if you have the smallest of back yards or even no garden at all. Patio-fruit trees are easy to grow in pots and give you fruit each year that’s well within reach for picking.