March sees the start of the busiest time in the gardening year. There are seeds to be sown, onion sets to be planted, winter weeding to complete, bare root trees to plant, lawns to mow and oh so much more.
But this is all weather dependant. February was kind to us, with record temperatures being reached in some areas however, remember last March, when many of our gardens were under a big dump of snow? Well, they all recovered well, and a bumper gardening year was enjoyed by all. So, don’t worry if a cold March means you are late to start, your seeds and plants will quickly catch up.
- Carefully remove the top 5cm of soil from your container grown plants and replace it with fresh compost.
- On warmer days leave the greenhouse door open. Not only will this allow essential pollinating insects access it will also reduce the risk of fungal disease. Do remember to close it up at night though!
- Slugs and snails will be out and about this month looking for something on which to munch. The sad decline in hedgehog numbers has been much reported lately with slug pellets being given as one of the reasons so instead why not try Advanced Slug Killer – harmless to birds and hedgehogs. But not to slugs!
- Get on top of weeds now before they take hold. It will make your life easier later in the year.
- During a dry spell set the mower blades high and give the grass its first cut of the year.
- Finish planting new fruit trees and give existing ones a mulch.
- Plant up any over-wintered dahlia tubers or treat yourself to some new ones from the Dobies range.
- Deadhead faded daffodil flowers as this will strengthen them for next year, but the leaves should be left for about another 6 weeks.
- Plant chitted early potatoes from mid-March but keep that fleece handy to give protection against frost.
With a bit of luck some of you will have been harvesting parsnips since November but by now they will be coming to an end. After late March parsnips tend to be a bit tough and woody so enjoy them now while you can.
Once used as a sweetener when sugar cane arrived in the UK, parsnips were relegated to the role of livestock feed. But at some point, they were rediscovered and enjoyed for their earthy sweetness in soups, the stockpot and of course roasted alongside potatoes and other root veg.
Small parsnips can be grated and eaten raw in winter salads or cut into matchsticks and combined and steamed along with carrots julienne. Dice parsnips up small and they make a wonderfully sweet, creamy risotto.
When lifting your parsnips don’t be tempted to scrub them up until you are ready to use them. Any mud will provide a protective coat and if kept somewhere cold and dark they will be good for 2 to 3 weeks. Don’t worry if they go a little bendy as this will not have any impact on the taste.
Friends of parsnips include:
Apples Cream Butter Onion Garlic Ginger
Cinnamon Chickpeas Cumin Chilli Almonds Bacon
Venison Thyme Rosemary Orange Lime Honey
What’s so Special about Grafted Veg?
Browse through your latest Dobies spring catalogue and you’ll see we offer a wide range of grafted vegetable plants. Grafted and grown in our own UK nursery, these plants are designed to produce up to 75% more fruit.
Grafting is when the fruit bearing part of one plant is attached to the roots of a different one. After careful research we choose a rootstock that is strong, vigorous and resistant to pests and disease and attach it to a tasty fruiting plant. It really is a way of getting the ‘best of both’ in one plant.
For many years commercial growers have used grafting as a way of overcoming pests and diseases, however it does also have a significant extra benefit as it produces a much more vigorous plant which will be healthier and crop for longer. Currently over 60% of tomatoes grown commercially in the UK have been produced on grafted stock
Grafting was first used commercially in Japan around 1914, when they found that the soil in which they grew their Watermelons had become badly infected by Fusarium root rot disease. Rather than lose the whole of their crop they grafted their best watermelon variety onto a rootstock that was Fusarium resistant.
Not surprisingly the most common form of grafting is called ‘Japanese Top Grafting’. This is when both the fruiting variety and the rootstock are cut at a 45% angle when they are a few inches high, the ends dipped in rooting powder then clipped together. After a couple of weeks in humid conditions and protected by fleece the join will have completely fused and the clip taken off.
Grafting delivers many advantages to the home gardener:
- Earlier and longer cropping periods
- Grafted veg will grow when the days are shorter and the weather is cooler, meaning the plants are easier to grow out of doors and in an unheated greenhouse.
- The stronger root system helps the plants to make better use of the nutrients in the ground and so grow bigger and healthier, needing less feeding.
- Increased resistance to pests and diseases.
- And finally, perhaps the best reason of all which is up to 75% more fruit from a grafted plant than a normally grown variety!
Villages and small towns across the country will be holding their spring shows this month. Armfuls of daffodils, pots of houseplants and baskets of veg will be carried into village halls for arrangement, alongside jars of marmalade, pickle and home baked bread.
If you are involved in organising such a show, then you are no doubt struggling to drum up the army of volunteers needed whilst also worrying about getting all the judging completed before the doors are opened to the interested public. This is where Dobies can help. Our Show Pack includes all the stationery needed together with a system for keeping the administration to an absolute minimum. Contact us now for details.
Plant of the Month
Compared to last year, the weather recently has really felt that the arrival of Spring is right around the corner. Flowering now, the three beautiful fresh and trendy colours that make up this Primula Candy collection will welcome in the Spring and are ideal for beds and borders, patio pots and containers, hanging baskets.