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A cautious start to spring - the garden in March

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default A cautious start to spring - the garden in March

Post by Chilli-head on 1st March 2015, 9:48 am

Yes, in my book spring is March,  April and May.  But it is still very early days. Back in February Tamara wrote:

I've never done anything before april... Should I? You guys have a lot going already!

I think this is quite wise ! It is always tempting to sow too early,  and that is pitting yourself against nature somewhat.

So far I have growing just the very hardy things that can be planted or sown directly on the ground in autumn and survive the winter - garlic,  onions sets and broad beans.  I have learned from experience that although these don't put on a lot of top growth,  they do develop a root system that will give them an advantage in my soil if we get a dry spell in spring.

For greenhouse growing it is a different story.  To plan my sowing I go by this calculation.  6-8 weeks from sowing to planting in the final position.  And, last frost for my part of the UK,  late May/early June.  So, for tender stuff going outside eventually (climbing beans, squashes,  sweetcorn, outdoor ttomatoes...)  mid April is quite soon enough to sow.

For stuff that will grow on on the greenhouse,  allow an extra month for an unheated house.  If you can heat it to protect against frost, allow an extra month or so, and you can sow mid February.   Much earlier than that and you will need to put a lot of energy into heating and lighting.  The only things I make that sort of effort for are tomatoes and chillies.  But even then there are drawbacks,  they may be flowering when it is too cold to get good pollination,  and growlights trigger suspicions looks from the neighbours Laughing

The only problem with this plan is that April gets hectic .. so I will chance it with a few early sowings this month.  And as it is a sunny morning here - time to get on !


Last edited by Chilli-head on 1st April 2015, 1:10 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Post by Chilli-head on 2nd March 2015, 11:21 am

I was up North on Saturday, and my original plan for Sunday was to spend the day walking on Win Hill, near to Ladybower.  Forcasts of -1C and sleet suggested this was not the best plan, so I retreated home and spent the day in the garden instead.  And what a lovely day to be in the greenhouse, out of the wind it really did feel like spring.  And a good few of my chilli seeds decided it was spring too, so I now have a good showing.

 I set about re-building the big propagator, which I'll need when the tomatoes are potted on.  It is a rectancular wooden frame, 2'6" x 6', lined with polythene (had a new matress delivered last week, so plenty to re-use), then a layer of re-used polystyreen packaging for insulation, another layer of polythene then a bed of sand with a heating cable in it,  Over that goes a tall lid I made from rescued twin wall plastic roofing sheet.  Once that is on, I'll be sowing trays of pea shoots, salad leaves and other micro-herbs as the chef types call them, to make my first crops of spring.
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Post by FloBear on 5th March 2015, 9:53 am

Well, definitely a cautious start here. Had a bit of a tidy-up in the GH yesterday and washed up some forgotten plant pots. Now have to decide what seeds I want to sow!
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Post by TamaraNicole on 5th March 2015, 12:35 pm

Well, i have gone out today to get some tulips and violets to plant in my container in front of the house. The weather seems to be on the 'spring' side now!
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Post by Chilli-head on 5th March 2015, 2:19 pm

I went to the builder's merchant to get more sand for the bed of my big propagator. Horticultural sand is way too expensive; concreting sand seems to be fine though and quite cheap.

Later on in the year, when the tomatoes want to go into their final positions, I'll take the lid off this big propagator, and put the tomatoes in bottomless pots straight onto this sand bed with its warming cable; that cable will be enough to protect the tomatoes a bit during April onwards. I can get ten plants on there, and with some more outdoors that will be enough for us.
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Post by TamaraNicole on 5th March 2015, 2:28 pm

Can we see picture CH? It is not very clear to me sorry.

Also, has anyone ever grown asparagus?
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Post by Ploshkin on 5th March 2015, 2:45 pm

Tamara, I think Freebird grows asparagus, she will probably drop in before too long. I bought some seed potatoes and a few shallots today so I feel as if I have made a start even though they're just sitting in a bag.
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Post by freebird on 5th March 2015, 9:57 pm

Yes, Tamara, I grow asparagus, and I think Chilli Head does too. Is there something you want to know? I harvested for the first time last year, so I'm not an expert, but I was very happy with my first crop.
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Post by Chilli-head on 6th March 2015, 7:41 am

I do have a few asparagus crowns. They have been in for well over 10 years now, and I have not had a great crop off them for a year or two now - perhaps they are on the wane or perhaps the weather has not suited them lately. They used to do really well, producing really thick spears - they are a commercial variety; we planted 200 crowns at work for a project on robotic asoaragut harvesting that never happened, and mine were the spares.
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Post by TamaraNicole on 6th March 2015, 6:54 pm

Well i was thinking about growing some. I read you have to prépare the bed in autumn, plant them in the spring time and you Will only get the first harvest the year after that, right?

What kind of earth do you guys have for them?
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Post by Chilli-head on 7th March 2015, 7:23 pm

As I understand it,  asparagus needs good drainage.   I have very varied soil,  but the garden veg patch is light and sandy.  It is also next to a compost heap and I'm sure benefits from the leachate.   I rake off the top, and mulch with garden compost early in spring.

The other 194 crowns were planted at work,  an agricultural research institute (now disbanded).  The soil there was clay, that had grown repeated brassica crops for my work.   Pig slurry had been added regularly for fertility,  but this had made the ground very acid.  This made ideal circumstances for club root to develop,  ending the brassica growing.  It took a huge amount of lime to get it back to near neutral.   The asparagus still grew in that soil, but the spears were not so thick and strong.
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Post by freebird on 8th March 2015, 7:45 am

I garden on clay, Tamara. When I dug out the bed for asparagus, I mixed in plenty of garden compost and spent potting compost, to help improve the soil. I mulch early winter with the coarse material I sieved out my garden compost, then use some fertilizer and another mulch in spring.
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Post by Ploshkin on 8th March 2015, 12:35 pm

I did try asparagus once & got a lot of ferny growth the first season then never saw it again after the first winter. It's probably too wet here. I gave up & haven't tried again.
I have some early potatoes chitting and I'm thinking about clearing out & cleaning the greenhouse (does thinking about it count?)
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Post by Dandelion on 8th March 2015, 12:49 pm

Oh yes Ploshkin - thinking about it is all part of the process. Then comes 'putting it on a list'. Actually doing it is some way down the line in my experience...

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Post by Chilli-head on 8th March 2015, 8:53 pm

Done in.

I have done one of my least favourite jobs of the year- digging out the compost heap.  My heap is a slow one that gets built up continually through the year.  The less rotted stuff at the top has gone into a bean trench for the Kew blue beans from the seed swap, amongst others.   The slightly better stuff served as a mulch for fruit trees,  asparagus, artichokes and shrubs.  The best stuff - bout 150L  of it - I've sieved to make potting compost.  Then I came in for coffee and cake, most definitely fully deserved.
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Post by Dandelion on 8th March 2015, 9:00 pm

Well done! How much of the compost heap did you bring back into the house with you? I wear gardening clogs when I'm working outside, and usually manage to trap a lump of compost between clog and heel when I'm sorting out a heap! (It was chicken poo yesterday - thank goodness for Dettox!!)

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The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly in the air like birds and swim in the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers and sisters.

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Post by Chilli-head on 9th March 2015, 12:22 pm

Always makes a mess doesn't it. I use my old walking boots - I hate wellies. Usually tread mess into the greenhouse, over the patio ... I try to take my boots off before trailing too much into my workshop, but still it gets in there. Best just leave it and sweep up when dry.
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Post by TamaraNicole on 10th March 2015, 7:04 pm

(Ok think i've waited long enough)

Well i have been busy cleaning my raised beds and am looking forward to planting some early potatoes by the end of the week.

Then into starting seeds.
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Post by Chilli-head on 11th March 2015, 7:51 am

Yes, nearly potato time.  I have a slightly odd tradition of planting my potatoes on my birthday each year, which is mid March.  I think it came about because I take the day off work,  go lut to lunch,  then need to work it off in the afternoon.

I normally plant them all at the same time - a small ~15 tuber pack of each of earlies, second earlies and a floury maincrop type -these are best for potato cakes.  I've changed how I grow my potatoes a bit after some discussion with an old boy on Kitchen Garden magazine forum, who convinced me that ridging up a bit does improve yeild.

Difficult weather at this time of year for the seedlings in the greenhouse.   Yesterday it reached 40C in the propagator and things were wilting,  last night we had a fairly serious frost.  Need a lot of vigilance opening up the propagator and closing it at night - perhaps I should contrive an automatic vent...
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Post by gunners71uk on 12th March 2015, 12:50 pm

over last week we hoed a whole allotment part orchard part veg sowed broad beans in ground weeded two rows spring cabbage and put grow organic on weeded and hoed and put grow organic on 10 rows of garlic and onions, dug in a manure ready for spuds ,sowed shallots that just a bit we been up to Smile

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Post by gunners71uk on 12th March 2015, 12:53 pm

Chilli-head wrote:Yes, nearly potato time.  I have a slightly odd tradition of planting my potatoes on my birthday each year, which is mid March.  I think it came about because I take the day off work,.
last year we had ours in 7 march we nr sheffield but it was milder last year think there go in the earlys when the clocks go forwarded approx Smile

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Post by TamaraNicole on 12th March 2015, 6:08 pm

Started my seeds in my little greenhouse, fingers crossed!
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Post by Dandelion on 12th March 2015, 6:10 pm

I've probably said this before, but round here the farmers say that you shouldn't plant potatoes until the soil is warm enough to sit on with a bare bum. I look out of the car windows on the way to work every day, but never see this method being tried...

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Post by gunners71uk on 13th March 2015, 10:53 am

chitting spuds i done it for years but i never knocked dome of shoots off are we suppose to what the advantages and disadvantages help pls

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Post by freebird on 13th March 2015, 1:07 pm

I never did that either, gunners. But I was watching Beechgrove Garden last year (Scottish version of Gardeners' World) and the presenter said to leave just one or two of the strongest shoots. The potato will put all its energy into making those grow, instead of the energy being spread between several shoots.

I didn't grow potatoes last year or this, so haven't had a chance to try it. I think I would do half and half and compare at harvest time.
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