The Vegetable Garden in Early Spring
Well, it's been a while. I always have great intentions to write more articles every month but time seems to slip by so easily with the day to day business at Quickcrop. Yes, I am the same person who sends you weekly mails on fascinating seasonal products but I do prefer to give a mix of products and information, that's sort of the deal isn't it? I do have a bit of an excuse though. I get monthly gardening newsletters myself and must admit I always cringe a bit reading the Winter ones, don't you? I mean, there isn't much to do outside, it's wet and cold and there's nothing growing. Apart the usual advice like cleaning the inside your polytunnel or greenhouse I think the best one I read has to be 'clean the blades of shovels and spades and rub with burnt engine oil to protect'. Even if you had reached the point where standing in a cold shed rubbing a spade was your only option where do you get burnt engine oil? Unless you've just serviced your Austin 7 or De Dion Bouton you might yourself in a bit of a spot. But enough of that, we're nearly in March now and there's plenty you can do so here's my seasonal list: What to sow now? Unless you have been stubbornly avoiding opening my earlier mails you will know our new seed catalogue is out. Everything in the catalogue is available on the website and can be ordered from our seed shop but if you'd prefer a copy of the list in your hand we'd be delighted to post you a copy. Just send us a mail or give us a bell on the phone (01 524 0884). We advise sowing almost all vegetables (except carrots and parsnips) indoors in modular trays. You can read about sowing in modular trays here or germinating seeds in a heated propagator here as you'll need some heat this early in the season. Up until now you could sow Aubergines indoors but if you're advanced enough to grow them I figure you knew that already. All the varieties below can be sown in March with celery and cabbage best left till the end of the month. N.B. All seeds should be sown in low nutrient seed compost. Leeks Bluegreen Winter, Hannibal, Musselburgh. Sow 2 seeds per cell in an 84 cell modular tray and plant them out in 2's 6 - 8 weeks later at a spacing of 30cm between plants and 30cm between rows. Approx germination temp: 18˚C, expected germination time: 7 days. Early Cabbage Greyhound, Golden Acre Sow 2 seeds per cell in an 84 cell modular tray, if 2 germinate remove the weakest seedling by snipping with a nail scissors. Plant out 4 weeks later at a spacing of 4ocm between plants and 45cm between rows. Approx germination temp: 18˚C, expected germination time: 4 days. Spring Onions Ishikura Bunching Sow 10 seeds per cell at a depth of 1.5cm in an 84 cell modular tray. Plant each cell out without separating them 4 weeks later at a spacing of 25cm between plants and 30cm between rows. Approx germination temp: 18˚C, expected germination time: 7 days. Celery Victoria F1 Broadcast in a seed tray or large pot. Do not cover seeds as they need light to germinate. Water gently with a bottle top waterer every week, they may take up to 3 weeks to germinate. Prick out the seedlings 2 weeks after germination and pot on to 6 cell modular trays using a multipurpose potting compost. Plant out 12 weeks after sowing at a spacing of 27cm between plants and 27cm between rows. Approx germination temp: 18˚C, expected germination time: 14 days. Broad beans Masterpiece green longpod, Witkeim Manita Sow directly if conditions allow or indoors one seed per cell in 6 cell modular trays and plant out 4 weeks later at a spacing of 15cm between plants and 45cm between rows. Approx germination temp: 18˚C, expected germination time: 4 days. Garlic Solent Wight, Tuscany Wight Plant individual cloves direct at a spacing of 20cm between plants and 25cm between rows. Cloves are planted with the pointed end facing upwards with the tips 2cm below the surface. Jerusalem Artichokes Fuseau Select the least knobbly tubers and plant direct at a depth of 15cm in drills 90cm apart at a spacing of 30cm between tubers. We don't have artichokes on the site but I have plenty from my garden last year if anyone's looking for them. Drop me a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll get you sorted. Get going with early potatoes Early potatoes will have to go in a little earlier this year as there is a problem with seed stocks coming out of dormancy too early as a result of a mild Autumn and Winter. Stocks are also very low everywhere so we advise ordering as soon as possible as we can't be certain of getting more. If you haven't done so already get them chitting (sprouting) by leaving them on a bright windowsill or in the tunnel or greenhouse. Chitting isn't really necessary with maincrop potatoes but very helpful with earlies to bring your harvest date forward. Preparing Your Soil The weather has been so wet it's best to avoid walking on or cultivating your soil as you can do more harm than good. Digging wet soil (especially heavy clay soil) causes compaction and leads to poor aeration and drainage. If your soil is light or has dried out sufficiently later in the month you can start removing any weeds before your sow. The 'stale seed bed' technique involves hoeing a few weeks before you sow and letting any weed seeds germinate. Hoe any weeds which come up the second time and give it a final flick before you sow. This method is particularly well suited to carrots or other crops which are poor competitors with weeds. If your soil needs a good feed it's not too late. As always I recommend Envirogrind, especially at this time of year, as it's fully composted so can be worked in and planted straight away. If you haven't fed your soil in the Autumn add a 2 inch layer to the surface of your beds and gently mix with the first few inches of soil.