Here’s an urgent reminder to anyone reading my diary early in the month. March is at the extreme end of the planting season for bare rooted trees and shrubs – field grown plants that are not sold in containers. They are traditionally planted between leaf fall and bud burst so when the weather starts to warm up, the planting season draws to a close. Ornamental trees and shrubs were traditionally sold like this, giving us the traditional and still the best season for planting but with the advent of container production, only hedging and fruit trees and bushes are now sold this form. I’ve just scanned the web site’s of several specialist fruit growers on the internet and as expected there are some excellent end of season discounts. The choice is not as great as it was earlier in the season but if you have space in your garden, there’s money to be saved! If there is nothing among the varieties that appeals, make sure that you check the websites from mid to late summer to ensure that you have the greatest selection of plants.
At this time of year it is worth sowing a few beetroot, they germinate readily in cool conditions but not where soil temperatures are below 7C (44F), so warm the soil under polythene before sowing early in the year. They are ideal for harvesting at the size of golf balls, adding welcome taste to early salads. The first sowings can be made under cloches in early March for harvest in late May or early June; round varieties can be started off in modules, the continue sowing at monthly intervals. The first outdoor sowings without cover can be made later in the month. It is worth investing in a soil thermometer to check soil temperatures for all your early sowings. Do try varieties other than ‘Bolthardy’, good though it is ; ‘Pablo’ has excellent flavour and ‘Monokel’ is pretty tasty too.
Aubergines need a long growing season can be sown now in a heated greenhouse or propagator. Always buy fresh seed compost at the beginning of each season, turning the bag ‘end over end’ to ensure that it is well mixed and keeping it in the greenhouse to warm up for several days before use. Alternatively, fill and water several seed trays of compost then put them in to propagator for twenty four hours to warm before sowing.
At this time of year, take note of the growing conditions before sowing seeds out doors, it is much better to wait until the soil is warm, even if it is later than the recommended sowing time, then germination will be much more successful. Warm the soil by covering it with clear or black polythene; clear polythene has the advantage that weed seeds germinate and can be hoed off before sowing, so they don’t compete with your germinating crops. It is also worth covering the ground with horticultural fleece afterwards to protect emerging seedlings from pests and diseases and chilling winds. It is so exciting to see bulbs in bloom, it’s the first sign that winter is almost over – bring on the spring! Happy Gardening!