Winter is making way for brighter, warmer spring days and the ground is getting warmer. The days are getting longer – there’s even time now to visit our plot in the evenings. It’s time to prepare our seed beds for the coming year and starting to grow plants under cover, In April the first seedlings start to appear and established plants will need feeding, seeds need to be sewn, and young seedlings will require potting on. But there is still a danger of frost and pests are on the rise.
There’s not much to harvest – April is the so-called ‘hungry gap’ when there is little to harvest (and not much is growing!).The most important job is getting the ground ready: dig over beds; lift any weeds; apply organic matter (compost/manure) and apply plant feed. There is also a chance to make some early preparations by erecting climbing frames, preparing cloches and cold frames, and re-establishing borders and edges.
March is not only when most of ramp up our activities on our plots but it’s also when plot inspections start.
It is also in March that we cut the grass for the first time in the year, bringing with it that very British smell of freshly mown grass (and some green growth to add to our compost heaps or to apply around rhubarb as nitrogen-rich mulch).
broad beans, peas, early chitted seed potatoes, onions, root and stem vegetable, cabbages and cauliflowers, lettuce and salad crops.
Weed, remove large stones and rake seedbeds and apply fertilisers.
Dig bean trenches.
Early rhubarb, kale, sprouting broccoli, leeks and spring onions.
A well planned plot will have some well-developed brassicas as we head towards winter: various types of kale, cabbage, sprouts and broccoli. Give them a helping hand by:
Salad crops develop quickly, and there are a wide variety – sorrel, lettuce, endive, kale, radicchio and mustard leaves - to suit various conditions.
They can be grown in seed drills, broadcast over an area of ground or grown in containers. Either way, they offer a fresh and tasty alternative to bags of supermarket salads.
As salad crops can outgrow weeds, watering and pests are the main concerns for salad growers. Watering every two days may be necessary during long dry spells if salad crops are grown in compost rich beds (daily watering may be necessary if they are grown in small pots).
Slugs are the main pest, and can be treated with pellets, nematodes, or regular picking off. Ants and aphids can also be a problem – ants can be kept in check if the surrounding soil is kept moist. Aphids can be squashed by hand if they are not tackled by ladybirds or beetles.
Regular collect leaves when they are ready to harvest. If leaves start to sag after harvesting they can be recovered by soaking in cold water.
February is time to prepare seed potatoes for planting by ‘chitting’ them – storing them in such a way that they start to sprout before being planted in the ground.
The potatoes should be spread out over a single layer in a cool, dry place which is free from the risk of frost. Large, unused egg boxes are ideal for this, allowing air circulation between each seed potato.
Ideally the storage area should be bright but the seed potatoes should be out of direct sunlight. After a few days the potatoes will then grow short stubby shoots which will help the potato plants to grow when they are planted out to get them off to a fast start when planted out. St Patrick’s Day is the traditional day of the year to plant potatoes.
There is some evidence that you can grow larger potatoes by breaking off the weaker shoots just before planting, leaving only the three or four stronger shoots to grow.