Fancy growing your own veg? Then this is the time to start, says our gardening expert, Karen Murphy
The long wait is over! Just as the wildlife wakes up, beautiful bulbs sprout and the sun peeps through some more, we gardeners are chomping at the bit to get going. It’s this month that a lot of your veg patch can be fully prepared and sown and the soil will be warming up nicely. Help it along beforehand by covering veg beds with a roll of fleece, or black plastic sheeting to create a warm covering and keep out damaging winter rainfall. Depending on where you live, your soil will be warm and workable sooner rather than later.
Once frosts have subsided and the ground is spring-like, fresh and warm, it’s time to create seedbeds. Choose a dry day and scatter some Growmore or blood, fish and bone fertiliser over the soil, raking it over, making sure it’s level and worked in. Add well-rotted manure or garden compost for extra nourishment, then weed it as best you can.
There are many crops to get started off and sown outside now, such as spring onions, early carrots, lettuce, broad beans, beetroot and cabbages. This is prime time to plant garlic and shallot bulbs, though. Plant them in rows, but don’t push the bulbs into the soil, dig little trowel holes putting garlic about 5cm (2in) below the surface and shallots with their tips just showing and cover them to protect them from birds.
You might always plant onions, but grow a few different sweet, tender shallot varieties and you’ll be converted – try huge, lengthy banana shallot ‘Zebrune’, or torpedo-shaped pinkish ‘Simiane’, which come as seed to sow now.
Put early potatoes in a cool, light place until they sprout (chit) in readiness for planting in a couple of weeks and start off a few tender things in the greenhouse, like peas, aubergines, cucumbers and tomatoes.
New aubergine ‘Patio Mix’ from Suttons includes a few different coloured varieties of compact container plants and you can sow the seed now, keeping it at 15-20°C to aid germination. Start tomatoes off early to ensure a long cropping period later on.
For something unique, try ‘Kalettes’ from Johnsons seeds, a crop that combines Brussels sprouts and kale to create an attractive, nutritious, novelty. Sow now and plant out in about 5-6 weeks, leaving them to mature before harvesting in autumn and winter.
3 of the best snowdrop gardens to visit
- Nymans, West Sussex
One of the best early spring gardens, with seas of snowdrops as well as camellias and magnolias.
- Fountains Abbey, Yorkshire
There have been snowdrop displays here since the 19th Century that flank miles of footpaths.
- Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire
See more than 300 varieties of snowdrop, including 20 that were actually discovered at the Abbey.
There's more gardening in every issue of Yours magazine, out every fortnight on a Tuesday.
Karen writes for Garden News magazine which is packed full of tips, inspiration, plant and product news and great money-saving offers! On sale every Tuesday or subscribe and try your first 4 issues for just £1 – Call 080858 438884 and quote YFIG, or visit www.greatmagazines.co.uk/YFIG. T&Cs apply.