In my last article for the Chronicle I made the comment that spring was just around the corner and we would all soon be beavering away in our gardens. Well, it currently seems to be further away than just around the corner, what with the bitter east winds and freezing weather we have endured. If you didn’t need to go outside it was far more comfortable to stay indoors and use up more expensive fuel keeping warm!
Anyway, hopefully it can’t last and we will soon be up and running. I said last time to get on with planting shallots and onion sets, and this still applies, although it’s a bit late for garlic now. I planted some shallots and onion sets last October/November. The shallots are literally just starting to grow, and of the one hundred onions, Jan and I counted nineteen that have survived the wet winter. A salutary lesson I shall not repeat!
My seed potatoes have duly been placed in egg boxes to chit, but again, I think due to the cold, they seem very reluctant to start chitting. Also, I had trouble with a mouse making a meal of some – it wasn’t content with nibbling just one, but had to try several before I got him!
But enough of my problems! What to do when we can get going?
Well, the first peas and broad beans need to be sown as soon as possible, and parsnips, carrots and spring onions can also be sown this month. If you grow your greens from seed, rather than buying young plants as the time arises, late March is the time to sow Brussels sprouts, calabrese, kale and summer cabbage. Next month beetroot and salad crops can be sown. The list goes on and on – if I list every crop that can be sown in late March and April there won’t be space for any other contributors in this issue of the Chronicle!
As I said optimistically in the last article, it is all beginning to happen – and not just in the vegetable garden, the flower garden needs attention too!
Sow sweet peas, if you haven’t already done so, two seeds to a pot, and first soak the seeds in water for a few hours to split the seed case to help germination, as these seeds have a very tough outer case. Hardy annuals, such as Californian poppy, night scented stock and love in a mist, when sown in the borders, will give a great show later on.
Roses need pruning, but do be careful and wear thick gloves – try as I might, I always seem to get attacked by the roses fighting back! Cut to an outside bud and remove any branches that are crossing or weak, and clear out the centre of the bush to allow air to circulate.
Buddleia can be cut back pretty severely, again cutting out any weak growth. This is a shrub that flowers on new wood so the growth it makes this year will bear flowers, unlike forsythia and mock orange (Philadelphus) which flower on second year wood and so must not be pruned until they have finished flowering this year.
It’s pretty much time to be looking out for hedgehogs. I haven’t seen one yet, and Ella, our spaniel, hasn’t either -or if she has, she hasn’t told us. She has, however, spotted a blackbird’s nest in a winter flowering clematis we have growing against a wall, so we’ll have to fence that off or not only will she try to get to it, she’ll destroy the shrubs and plants under the clematis as well, lovely little dog that she is!
Hope that’s enough to keep everyone going!