March on the Allotment Garden
March 14, 2018
By Richard Chivers
For gardeners, the arrival of March arouses a sensation others savour only at Christmas.
Winter is always a long season for us allotmenteers. Dark, cold and when the distraction of the December festivities have passed, it remains as an obstacle in the way of meeting our desire to sow and grow veg.
March hosts the start of the Astronomical spring twenty days into the month. This is when the dark finally gives way to the light and we leap in to action with the forward movement of the clocks. Wellies donned and a sack full of seeds in hand.
However, it pays dividend to hold back and kerb the enthusiasm. Just a little.
I’ve been caught more times than I care to remember by a late cold snap and have twice seen the green growth of the early potatoes suffer the destruction caused by a frost as late as May.
Despite the show of restraint with some crops, there are others that are perfectly fine to crack on with in what is still a cooler part of the year. It’s all about choosing suitable crops that will germinate in these lower temperatures while enjoying the extra hours of daylight provided.
I’ve already sown a few seeds of Listra, a modern variety of Broad Bean into toilet roll tubes, more sweet peas and some cauliflowers too.
For many of us, the early part of the month might be too cold and wet outside on the plot. Therefore, I’m choosing appropriate crops and providing accommodation in a mini greenhouse in the garden.
Last year I started off that old favourite and hardy variety of beetroot Boltardy into modules inside the greenhouse too. A few weeks later I transplanted them into the allotment. They performed terrifically and we enjoyed our first crop of beetroot at the end of May!
Spinach has also been sown early, this cool weather loving crop germinates well undercover and thrives in the cooler period of the year. It tends to bolt in the heat of summer and we enjoyed a feast of spinach in early summer that provided for the kitchen for weeks. I’m looking forward to picking more of the delicious, dark and flavoursome leaves in late May.
As we journey further into the month of March, I will slowly expand on the seeds I sow of the crops we are looking forward to enjoying from the plot this year. It’s all about patience and holding back the urge to rush into popping seeds into the soil. I know it’s hard, I feel it too.
Soon I’ll be sowing leeks and at the end of the month I’ll sow tomatoes which I’m excited to grow alongside other heat loving crops in the new polytunnel. I’ll also so parsnips directly into a bed on the allotment to allow them the long growing season they need. We had such a fantastic crop of parsnips last year and I was proud to serve them for out Christmas dinner.
A new and exciting thing for me on the allotment this year is growing flowers. I always was a fruit and veg guy but I’ve been influenced by the beautiful flowers grown by other plot holders and certainly through the fantastic gardening community online. Later this month I’ll be potting up some dahlia tubers which I’ll grow under cover until the final frosts have passed. I can’t wait to see these bloom.
I’d love to know your plans for the allotment and kitchen gardens in March. Drop me a comment below and tell me what you are excited to be doing on the plot this month.
Richard Chivers is passionate about growing fruit and vegetables on his family allotment garden. His blog, Sharpen your Spades aims to inspire anyone to pull on their wellies and join in the movement to grow their own. You can also follow Richard on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.