Well March is here and things are really starting to take off. Seed sowing is going strong and the weather is picking up too. In just a few weeks we’ll enter spring and everything will burst into life. Amazing! This month we’ve got some more tips for you to help you on your plot like what to plant and sow now how to grow Asparagus and how to entice kids into the garden. Finally, to give you that extra help, don’t forget to enter our competition to win 30 strawberry plants.
If the ground is workable, i.e. not too wet and definitely not frozen, you can get out and plant your onion, shallot and garlic sets. Our Heat Prepared Onionsets are delivered in late March to early April, the ideal planting time, so if you’ve not ordered them already why not take a look and order them today. Heat treatment helps prevent bolting, increase the growing period and produce a higher quality yield.
Onions are a great crop to grow for exhibiting and by far the best variety to choose is Marshalls Showmaster Onions asthey can reach up to 4lbs each! If you’re new to exhibition growing you could grow our Module-grown Onion Plantswhich have been raised early under carefully controlled conditions, producing strong young plants that will be ready for potting up into 9cm Pots and growing on. Before you plant them out into your plot at the end of April to early May, harden them, to help you produce some of the biggest and best onions.
Varieties to try:
New Fen Globe - Individual onions can weigh up to 1lb and, with careful culture, will make excellent show bench specimens.
Fen Early - keeps much better than other early types and can store until the end of winter.
Red Fen – Was a clear winner in our trials. It has a round shape, deep-red colour and a good flavour.
Rumba - A top performing main crop variety that’s ideally suited to growing in the UK.
If your plot suffers from bad drainage, add in lots of compost and organic matter. This helps create a better structure to your soil providing good drainage and aeration. At this stage you can apply a good multi-purpose fertiliser too. Marshalls Organic Extra is a super concentrated farmyard manure which slowly releases nutrients over a long period, helping you to produce a better crop. If you have Fruit Trees and Fruit bushes you can also use it as a top-dressing.
By finishing your seedbed preparation now you’ll be able to sow seeds such as Carrots, Parsnips,Beetroot, Broad Beans, Peas, Spinach, Swiss Chard, Lettuce, Summer Cabbage and Cauliflowerwhen the weather improves. If you live in the north you can still sow now but be prepared to protect your seedlings from frost using the protection of a cloche.
By the end of the month you need to ideally have your bare root fruit trees and bushes planted. This helps them establish before the hot weather arrives. Strawberry Runnerscan be planted out now but if you already have strawberries in the ground cover them with Cloches or Fleece to help push for an earlier crop. The blossom of Apricots, Nectarines and Peachescan be damaged by frost and prevent fruiting later in the year so you should protect them with fleece or a polythene frame at night and uncover during the day to allow bees to pollinate the blossom.
Pruning needs to be finished soon as well. On established Morello Cherries and Apricotsprune out old wood as well as any dead, dying or diseased wood. By removing these old stems that are less productive, you’ll encourage younger stems to flower and subsequently fruit. If you have new Blueberries don’t prune them, instead wait for at least three years.
Gardening is a great hobby for anyone, young or old, and spring is the perfect time to get children into gardening. For anyone who isn’t into gardening, it can seem like a lot of effort and a really long wait to see any results. So the best thing to do is to sow quick turnaround crops that will germinate fast and not take to long to harvest.
Cut and come again Lettuce and Salad Leaves is a great example of this. They’re quick to germinate and when through have a great mix of colours, shapes and textures. Lettuce Amaze is a small Little Gem type that kids seem to love. Carrotstoo are great for intrigue because the edible bit is underground and kids won’t know how they’ve done until they pulled them out. Carrot Purple Haze,is a fun purple colour with an orange middle, a little different from the norm.
If you’re going to grow Asparagus this year, you need to really prepare your ground because it’s a permanent crop. Asparagus will grow in any soil as long as the drainage is adequate, although they perform much better on light sandy soils with a pH of neutral to slightly alkaline. The site should be sunny, sheltered from strong winds and incorporated with lots of compost. Avoid ground that has been previously planted with asparagus or potatoes as this can encourage pests and diseases. All perennial weeds must be removed.
The trenches should be 30cm (12in) wide, 20cm (8in) deep with an 8cm (3in) mound running along the bottom of the trench for the roots to be spread over. Space crowns 30cm (12in) apart and cover with about 5cm (2in) of soil, filling in the trench in autumn after the season has finished. Each row should be 45cm (18in) apart. Hand weed regularly to avoid damage from hoes, water in dry weather and remove berries to prevent self seeding. Once the ferny foliage has turned yellow in autumn cut it down to 3cm (1in) above ground level. In the spring before the spears appear, make a ridge of soil over the row and apply a general fertiliser at 100g/m2 (3oz/yd2), this treatment can be repeated after harvesting in.
Plant of the Month – Spring Cabbage
Cabbages are the most popular and widely grown brassica and are perfectly suited to our climate here in the UK. There are several types, roughly grouped by season, most forming dense heads but some, such as spring cabbages, can be eaten as spring greens. This range means that they can be harvested all year round making it an invaluable crop. Let’s take a closer look at spring cabbages.
How To Grow
An open, sunny spot with moisture retentive, rich soil is ideal. It’s advisable to use a 3 year crop rotation to reduce the risk of pests and diseases and acid soil can cause clubroot so it’s best to lime in winter. For sprouting broccoli avoid overly exposed sites.
There are four ways to grow cabbages from seed; Seed trays, cell trays, seed beds or in situ 1cm (0.5in) deep. For tray sowing plant out to final position when plants have at least three true leaves. For seed bed and situ sowing, thin out to required spacing. All cabbages grow well when spaced equally and in general the more space given the bigger the head. In periods of dry weather water regularly, especially before head maturity.
Sow in situ from July to August in situ in rows 30cm (12in) apart or sow in seed or cell trays and plant 10cm (4in) apart. When planting give extra support by mounding up soil around the base of the plants. In adversely cold regions provide protection. In spring weed regularly and apply a top dressing. Remove two plants, keeping every third plant to heart up.
Varieties To Try
Sennen - a wonderful Spring cabbage. This is a new frost-hardy ball head cabbage that is the earliest cropping Primo type especially if given a little fleece protection during the harshest weather.
Pixie - a mid-green, compact cabbage, producing small well-hearted heads with few outer leaves. A very early variety suitable for close spacing.
Winter Jewel – Agreat spring cabbage. It has fantastic disease resistance giving a consistent crop throughout the year, left to mature it produces a head which can be eaten like a sweetheart cabbage.
There are loads of things to do with spring cabbages but this recipe in particular is a great side dish to have with pork.
- A drizzle of olive oil
- 1 tbsp mustard seed
- A finely sliced onion
- 1 crushed garlic clove
- 1 tbsp grated ginger
- 500g of shredded spring cabbage
- Heat the oil in a pan
- Fry the mustard seeds until they starting popping
- Add the onion, garlic and ginger and fry until golden
- Add the cabbage and stir
- Cook for 5 minutes, season and serve.
Once your crops start to shoot you’ll find that one certain pest will be all over them. Slugs are the UKs number one garden pest but fortunately there are some precautions that you can take to protect your crop. Biological Controls are really effective, especially against slugs and Nemaslug in particular is particularly effective. They have an added bonus of not harming any other wildlife, children or pets. It’s also very easy to use.
Slugs love potatoes and if you grow them you’ll know that they can ruin your crop. The little grey ones that live in the soil will be highly active soon and will nibble away at your crop. So to protect them water the ground around your plants with Nemaslug. It contains millions of naturally occurring nematodes which kill slugs above and below ground.
Sow and Grow Now
Things are well on the way now but there are still loads of seeds to be sown. It’s fairly mild outside which means your greenhouse should be warming up nicely. Here’s some of the thing you can be sowing this month.
As well as sowing, there are still harvestable crops to enjoy. If you grew these last season now is the time to reap the rewards of your hard work.
Our new 2015 catalogue is out now! If you’ve not had it land on your doorstep yet please visit our site and order yours for free or view our interactive catalogue online. Like always it’s crammed with great products at fantastic prices and if you spend £20 or more on vegetable seeds you’ll receive a free propagator.
Results Are In!
A while ago we were nominated by you for Best Online Garden Retailer and Best For Customer Service in the Great British Growing Awards. We were thrilled! Unfortunately we didn’t win, however we did come 3rd in both categories and considering how many other great companies were nominated we were delighted with the result. Thanks to everyone who voted for us!
We’ve launched a few new products for our new spring catalogue this month. Strawberry ‘Snow White’ is an unusual white variety with vivid red seeds that will make a refreshing change to fruit salads and ice cream. This popular novelty crop produces fruit with a lovely flavour, often likened to pineapple and will be the talking point of any desert.
Strawberry ‘Red Gauntlet’s a mid season variety that produces a heavy crop of large fruit, which are held well above the ground, from June often producing a smaller second crop in autumn. If you prefer to grow under cloches or tunnels then this is a good variety to choose. Strawberry ‘Red Gauntlet’ also has some resistance to Botrytis.
Strawberry Heritage Collection is a new collection that includes Cambridge Favourite, Royal Sovereign and Red Gauntlet. These are some of the most widely grow strawberries and are loved for the intense flavour and good all round cropping. You’ll receive two mid season varieties and an everbearer.
Sweet Potato ‘o’Henry’produces cream coloured smooth crops with less string and a nutty flavour with hints of honey. Has a slightly drier texture making them better for baking. A high-yielding variety, ‘O'Henry’ looks a little different from regular dark-skinned varieties. It’s a white-skinned variety with cream-flesh inside that becomes drier when cooked.