On your marks, get set, GO!
It's hard not to get giddy with excitement in March. Finally, we’re here! Putting winter firmly behind us, March promises a new start, new growth, new warmth, new allotment adventures.
Things are starting to heat up, but whilst the weeds are springing into action our less hardy, more fussy crops will demand more favourable conditions than even March has to offer. Those of us lucky enough to have a greenhouse will see them bursting with seedlings, those of us without will quickly fill every inch of every windowsill of every room throughout the entire house with those precious little trays of promise.
The highlight of March is probably getting our potatoes into the ground. Diligently chitted, they will be sprouting and positively itching to get themselves into some soil. Bursting into life, the plant above ground starts immediately harvesting the suns energy to form this year’s tubers. Home grown potatoes, is there anything more rewarding?
There's lot of things that can be sown in March, but not planted out. I don't have much space (just one windowsill and two small upright cold frames) so I have to mindful not to bring on too many seed babies as I won't have anywhere to keep them before setting them free. So many things can be sown successionally and that small and regular approach to sowing seeds really helps with my space issue and it keeps a nice steady flow of food through the season.
I will sow indoors some more tomatoes. Towards the end of March I will also so cucumbers, squash and courgettes.
The ground is starting to warm up, so I will begin direct sowings in March too. A good way to tell if the ground is ready is to sow cheap and plentiful radish seeds - if and when they germinate I know I am good to go. I love sowing direct as it saves time and space. Seeds that do well from direct sowings are carrots, parsnips, chard, beetroot, radish, spring onions, lettuce, peas, turnips.
Flower wise I start zinnias indoors, sunflowers in a cold frame and cornflower, nasturtiums, calendula, scabious direct in the ground.
With the warmth of March, all plants will be springing into action including the ones you don't want! It really helps to keep on top of them. I hoe weeds off the second I see them. With experience I have become really good at recognising tiny seedlings and identifying them as a welcome self-seeded plant (such as orach, sunflowers, leeks) or a weed (such as nettle, bindweed or dock). I feel slightly bad talking about weeds in this way, as a weed is only a plant but in the wrong place. I welcome nettles round the compost bin or along the hedge as they make fantastic organic plant feed and dandelions provide very early food for the bees.
I lift and divide my chives, moving them to the bed that will be growing carrots this year. Carrot fly are supposedly repelled by the smell.
Many a happy morning will be spent pricking out and potting on plants during March and into April and May. I love it.
March sees the lawn at home and paths around allotment get it's first cut of the year. I adore cutting grass as I just love the smell! This first cut I make sure not to take it too short and the clippings all get scattered back over the grass.
I will also plant my potatoes at the end of the month. I have a shocking confession to make. I don't chit them. Shock horror! But they always grow and produce crops bumper enough for my needs. While I am making confessions, I also don't plant them in a trench. Because I want to disturb the soil as little as possible, I simply make a hole and poke them in. Then instead or 'earthing up' with soil I pile on a thick layer of grass clippings which does the same job of excluding light and keep the plant warmer, but also rots down and feeds the soil. I always have fleece at the ready because they do not like frost and things can still freeze into early May even here in balmy Devon.