Posted by David Domoney, on February 28, 2022.
As we step into growing season, it’s an exciting time in all areas of the garden. Beds and borders are bursting with flowers, and foliage is looking gloriously glossy in the spring sunshine. The veg garden is getting to work, to produce an abundance of crops ready to add to your dishes. Here are some tips to get you out and gardening through spring and summer.
Seeds to sow
There’s plenty to get growing this month to get spring off to a great start. For beginners and keen gardeners alike, broad beans are a wonderful and delicious crop to grow. Another reason to grow them is that they don’t take up much floor space, so can be grown in raised beds or large containers if there isn’t much ground to spare. Sow the seeds 20cm apart, and in 6 weeks, pinch out the flowers to keep them growing their best and fend off aphids. When the plant has produced pods that are around 6cm long, they are ready to be harvested.
A nutritional hero, kale is a worthwhile addition to the veg plot too. Sow the seeds into a spot that’s been prepared with organic matter, any time from March until June. Once germinated, mulching will help to retain moisture and nutrients. It can be grown as a cut-and-come-again crop, so young leaves can be harvested for salads and left to grow and harvest again.
From March it’s time to sow carrots, cauliflower, artichokes, parsnips, peppers, strawberries, and tomatoes – so there’s lots to keep busy with.
In the ground
Just before growing season gets into full swing, raise the soil temperature ready for early sowings and for forcing early crops. Use black plastic or cloches like SUNNY growing tunnel to warm the soil. The raised dome shape means that air trapped inside warms up and gently percolates down into the soil. It also protects crops from pests and from harsh weather, creating its own protected microclimate for plants to grow well. This is ideal for sowing beetroot seeds which can be sown every 2 weeks from March to April for a succession of delicious harvests. Go for bolt-resistant varieties such as ‘Boltardy’ which is easy to grow and very reliable.
This is also the time to continue forcing rhubarb, which means using a large dustbin or rhubarb forcer to exclude light which leads to plants making early growth. ‘Timperley Early’ is a great variety for forcing and produces tender pink stems, lined with green.
Onions are grown from sets, which are immature bulbs that develop into fully grown ones ready to harvest. From mid-March to mid-April the sets can be planted in an open site with well-drained soil. Prepare the soil beforehand by working in plenty of organic matter to improve soil structure and retention of nutrients and water as onions have a limited root system. Plant the bulbs so the tip of the bulb just shows above the surface and firm in place. Ensure the area is kept weed free to reduce competition for moisture and nutrients. In June, feed with a sulphate of potash fertiliser to help ripen the bulbs. Come August, the foliage will begin to yellow and flop over, when this happens the bulbs are ready to harvest.
Raised beds are a versatile addition to the garden, bringing height to suit individual needs and allowing a range of plants to be grown with the perfectly suited soil. Though they are commonly used for growing vegetables, put a spin on your ERGO Quadro S raised bed system to incorporate both vegetables and ornamentals. Not only will it look striking, but it’ll be a productive space too.
For bountiful colour, Swiss chard ‘Bright Lights’ produces a rainbow of coloured stems with red, pink, yellow and orange harvests. Sow the seeds directly outdoors from March to July in a moist but well-drained spot in full sun and in just over 2 months, you’ll have a harvest of Swiss chard that looks stunning whilst it’s growing. Then carry on the vibrant theme by growing Tagetes patula (French marigolds), compact annuals that thrive in a sunny spot with shelter from strong wind and rain.
Companion plant these with Allium tuberosum (garlic chives) which are easy to grow from seed and have that distinguishable garlic scent and flavour. In spring, the white flowers provide more colour to the bed too.
This is an exciting time of the year in the garden, with ornamental plants and the vegetable plants bursting to life. Get gardening this spring, whether you’re opting for productive beds or want to incorporate other colours within your crops.