March in the Garden
From the end of February an increase in day length and light levels have led to much more rapid growth of salad and herbs in the tunnel. It always happens at this time of the year and is a sign that we can start harvesting our salad more heavily for the restaurants, as it grows back very quickly after being cut. Outside the overwintered broad beans that survived the bird attack are putting on much more growth and the garlic is looking very strong. There is not much else outside at the moment, but sowings of further broad beans and peas will be made very shortly, and a further 100m of jerusalem artichokes will be planted.
We received our strawberries last week, a few of which are planted in one of the polytunnels and the rest planted outside. All of our soft fruit bushes also arrived and have been planted.
Last year we had a big problem with creeping thistle in the garden, so we decided this year to plough the worst affected areas to try and bring the roots to the surface. Creeping thistle is a pernicious weed that is very difficult to get rid of, but can be done over a few years. It creeps underneath the soil and can spread up to 12m a year and so if left unchecked can become a real problem. Although it produces a lot of seed, much of this is not viable and much of the thistle down that is seen on a breezy summer day contains very little seed, and of that most is not viable. Its greatest way of spreading is by its underground creeping roots that will re-grow if hoed off at the wrong time of the year. On areas that are not being planted until later spring we are planning to cultivate the ploughed area and sow a fast growing green manure such as mustard or phacelia to try and compete with the thistle by shading it out. This will then be cultivated back in to the soil, which will add organic matter before being planted into. Fingers crossed for the 2012 battle against the creeping thistle!
So, the most obvious thing that has happened so far in March has been the ploughing which has been done a month earlier than the previous two years due to the dry weather allowing us to get onto the land with a tractor without causing too much compaction.
In the propagating house all of our onions and shallots are germinating, as are the tomatoes, peppers, chillies and aubergines and the lettuce are all growing well. We will be sowing french beans for growing in the polytunnel very shortly as well as beetroot, chard, spinach, celeriac and a sowing of some of the oriental leaves before the flea beetle come along in the summer.
March always feels like the garden has finally woken up and is a critical time for sowings, plantings and cultivations. It is an exciting time for us – lots of hope as seedlings emerge and very few weeds are about!