To Do Jobs:
March is the start of the sowing season especially if the weather has started to warm up and the soil is warmer. You can still short cut an area by covering with cloches or fleece/plastic on hoops covering an area for sowing. Crops as follows:
If you didn’t get your onion sets in, it’s not too late now. There are many varieties to choose from. My choice is Turbo or Sturon and the old favourite Stuttgart Giant. Both store well. Plant in rows 25 / 30 cm apart and 7/ 10 cm in the row. Depending on the size of onion you wish to harvest. On a bed system you can plant each set 8/10 cm apart in staggered rows.
1st earlies only. I plant on or around the 14th of March. But first remove the plastic sheet or your warming cover of the area. Plant your tubers in the ground 15cm deep 25 cm apart. Either in rows 60 cm between rows (4 foot beds) or 70/75 cm on a standard system. Geoffrey Hamilton also suggested a sytem for beds that you keep the bed covered with a black sheet and cut a cross hole where you plant the tuber through. Also you can plant 3 across a 4 foot bed on a staggered diamond formation. Each tuber the same distance apart. The reasoning is that there is less weeding, better moisture preservation, and when you come to harvesting all you need to do is put your hand under the sheet and take out ready potatoes for your dinner allowing the plant to continue and the smaller potatoes to grow on. I tried the system with reasonable success but prefer a more conventional 2 rows across a 4 ft bed.
Planting. I haven’t dug out a trench for very many years and prefer to plant on the flat and ridge up later as the plant grows. It’s easier and faster to plant and it works.
Like many crops plant through the season. I’m great believer in successional sowing. Like many others a wide choice of varieties but Bolthardy is reliable or Chioggia an attractive with pink skin with white and pink rings, looks good as a salad variety. Sow in a line made using a cane or broom pole to make an indent in the soil and sow 3 seeds every 10 cm . Remember these are multiple seeds and you can have a number at the germination point. Sow 2 cm deep, cover and water. The reason for making the indent and rain water will gravitate there. An alternative which I do is sow on 2.5 cm modules or small pots and put in a propagator or in the greenhouse for a more constant germination and plant on when well rooted and you do not get a miss in the row.
Continue sowing them but you can grow varieties like the Longpods but our preference is Green Windsor as the green coloured been has a softer skin and looks good on a plate. But plenty to choose from the Spring sown ones which are heavier croppers. Sow 2 cm deep in rows 10 x 30 cm. Remember these can grow 1m tall, so I prefer to grow in blocks so I can run a string around them for support from side winds.
Sow same as for Beetroot but 5 seeds per station. However despite it’s a tap root vegetable, to ensure germination I do that at home same as for Beetroot. Then plant the block into its station later. No need to single out as they tend to move apart in the row. The great advantage is you don’t attract carrot root fly. The more you try to single out you make the smell which attracts the fly. I also plant in blocks with other vegetable breaks eg onion, beetroot. There is evidence to combat carrot root fly sow carrots successional through the season. When we do as most books say sow in March or early when everyone else is growing Carrots this is when the fly is most active. So sowing over a longer season spreads your harvesting and less susceptible to the Root fly damage. Varieties. My first one is Early Nantes and later on Autumn King. However there are many short rooted varieties which have a more uniforms root and attractive like Paris Market or similar and can grown in large pots on the patio.
As over many years of trial and error and many disappointing germination. The first golden rule use only this years seeds. Germination direct in the row can be 6 weeks and then a varied success. Despite all the books say you cant transplant this tap root. Yes you can but you must not damage the tap root. For 4 years now I sow a couple of seeds in a 10/12 cm root trainers per module in compost at home in constant conditions. Usually the seed shows germination in about 3 weeks. When the top shows growth and more importantly there is roots established you can then plant on station at 10 cm apart in a rows 20/30 cm apart. For my beds the rows are 20 cm apart. Varieties. There are many I use White Gem a short stubby root, the edible part where you want it and easier to dig out in frosty condition. But whatever you grow use a Canker resistant variety.
You can sow this vegetable normally thought for autumn or a winter veg but Golden Ball or Purple Top Milan harvested at golf ball sized can make an excellent addition to a casserolle. Sow in shallow drills and expect the crop to show in 21 days. Keep in blocks as you may be wise to cover with fleece against Flea Beetle.
Other veg to sow
This is the month to start of the following preferably in seed trays at home. Cabbages eg Primo white small round type, Red Cabbage, Red Drumhead which has a solid head and last a long time. Weve just eaten today 7th Feb. Ones from our allotment today. Kale, Green or Scarlet, Brussel Sprouts, Cauli Flower and Calabrese. The latter we prefer and will grow over a longer period as you keep harvesting the plant . The advantage over a Cauli which has just 1 head the Calabrese or Autumn broccoli keeps throwing edible spice shoots even after cutting out the top head which can go on for many months .
Then there is Early Purple Sprouting. Sow now and eat in Jan / Feb the next year. But well worth the wait. Leeks. I sow a few seeds in small 10 cm pots or dishes, placed in an area suitable for germination for transplanting later.
Sow a selection of lettuce either direct or my preference in seed trays for transplanting later. Varieties. Suggest if you want a single head go for Little Gem (Cos type) or All Year Round or Suzan. But if you want a lasting leaf type ie just cut leaves as you want. Go for a Cut and Come type eg Lollo Rosso (red) or Salad Leaf (green) or mix of both. To add flavour to a Salad sow a row a Rocket (add a spicy taste) and a small square of Radish. The first of a regular sowing.
If you have ongoing protection you can sow a few tomato seeds in pots for transplanting later. I will go through that procedure at a later letter. Varieties. You should choose want you want. Bush or/and Cordon. For an early variety which we have on our patio is Red Alert, a Bush type.
If you can protect against the Wood Pigeon sow Meteor which is a short variety ideal for early showings. Swiss Chard can be sown, same as Beetroot.
Happy sowing and see you next month.
John Young (Chair)