Tomatoes: Sow the Seeds of Deliciousness
If the enticing prospect of homegrown tomatoes has yet to grace your gardening calendar, the time is ripe for action! Whether your palate yearns for sweet cherry tomatoes or hearty beefsteak varieties, now is the perfect moment to sow the seeds of these luscious delights. You can embark on this journey by simply placing the seeds on your kitchen windowsill or within the snug confines of a propagator.
Among the myriad options, a few personal favourites stand out. 'Crimson Cocktail' is a reliable choice for outdoor cultivation, boasting blight resistance to safeguard your harvest. For those who adore the sweet allure of cherry tomatoes, 'Honeycomb' is a star performer, with its delightful orange colour and remarkable resistance to cracking. If you seek larger tomatoes for culinary prowess, 'Buffalosteak' and 'Gourmandia' take centre stage, excelling in creating sumptuous sauces and hearty soups. With your tomato seeds sown, you're well on your way to a season filled with the vibrant colours and irresistible flavours of homegrown tomatoes.
Cucumber Seedlings: The Half-Pot Method for Success
For those growing cucumbers from seed, mastering the art of the "half-pot method" can be a game-changer. Here's the secret: when sowing cucumber seeds, resist the temptation to fill the pot to the rim. Instead, fill it only halfway. This simple but strategic approach yields robust, stocky seedlings rather than the leggy ones that can be prone to damage.
As your cucumber seedling begins its upward journey, gradually top up the compost to the pot's rim. This careful progression encourages the seedling's stem to produce more roots and grow more vigorously, producing a more resilient plant that grows better.
Transplanting Garlic: From Pots to Garden Beds
If you started your garlic growing adventure by planting cloves in pots to circumvent frozen or waterlogged soil, now is the final opportunity to transplant them into the garden plot before they start to form bulbs. When you inspect your potted garlic, you'll likely discover a profusion of roots, a testament to their vigorous growth.
To ensure these promising starts flourish in your garden beds, take the time to gently tease apart the tangled web of roots. This delicate operation helps prevent the development of stunted plants and ensures healthy growth.
Pea Planting: An Abundant Approach
When it comes to sowing pea seeds, there's more than one route to a thriving crop. While options like old toilet roll tubes and root trainers have their merits, my personal preference lies with a wide seed pan for spring-sown varieties. This method offers several advantages worth noting.
By sowing peas generously in a seed pan, you can maximise the number of plants within a limited space, making it ideal for gardens where real estate is at a premium. Plus, it provides a bit of insurance—should not every seed sprout, you won't be left with gaps in your garden rows.
Once these pea seedlings reach a height of around 10cm, they are ready to embark on their journey to the garden bed. Simply remove them from the pot, shake off the soil, and plant them as bare-root seedlings, right where they're meant to grow. This method has proven its reliability year after year, a testament to its effectiveness.
When it comes to choosing varieties, consider 'Blauwschokker' and 'Champion of England' for impressive climbers, while 'Douce Provence' and 'Vivado' are my personal favourites among the shorter varieties..
Guarding Tender Seedlings: A Must for Brassicas
As you embark on the exciting task of transplanting your early brassica sowings into the garden, it's essential to remember that those tender young plants are prime targets for various garden critters. Pigeons, ever-vigilant from above, can quickly turn your prized greens into a feast, while lurking below, slugs lie in wait, ready to devour from the ground up.
To ensure the survival and success of your March plantings, protection is paramount. Equip yourself with a range of defensive tools such as netting, crop cages, or cloches. These safeguards will shield your plants from the aerial raids of birds and the nibbling attentions of rabbits. For the stealthy ground-dwellers, consider enlisting the help of Slug Rings, which provide a formidable barrier against these munching molluscs.
In my Kitchen Garden, you'll spot cloches and crop cages sourced from reputable suppliers like Harrod Horticultural and Crocus. By employing these protective measures, you'll safeguard your precious brassicas, setting the stage for a thriving harvest and a bountiful garden.
Potatoes: The Path to Early Harvests
As the gardening season unfolds, the prospect of growing your own potatoes beckons, and for those eager to enjoy an early crop, the time is ripe for action. While mid to late March marks the start of planting for early potato varieties in the garden, there's a clever way to gain a head start. By planting a few spuds in large pots and nurturing them in the greenhouse until April, you can accelerate their growth. However, it's essential to shield these tender shoots from frost by draping them with protective fleece once they venture outdoors.
When growing potted potatoes, begin by filling the container a quarter full with soil or compost. Then, place your seed potatoes with their eyes facing upward. If you notice more than three eyes sprouting, gently rub off the excess with your thumb. Cover them with 5-10cm of soil or compost and be diligent about earthing them up as the shoots break through the surface. This not only safeguards the shoots from frost but also encourages the plant to produce an abundant bounty of tubers.
For those seeking a top choice for early potatoes, 'Charlotte' stands as a firm favourite.
Victorian-style Rhubarb Forcing: A Delicate Harvest
If you've ventured into the art of forcing rhubarb in the manner of Victorian gardeners, you're now in a position to reap the rewards of your patient efforts. Forcing rhubarb is an intensive process that swiftly saps the plant's energy, which is why prudent harvesting is essential. When the forced stalks reach a length of 30-40cm, it's time to pick them, savouring their tender pink glory.
Yet, as we get further into April, it's time to change the strategy. Once this period arrives, uncover the rhubarb plant and allow it to grow freely for the remainder of the year, abstaining from further harvesting. This respite gives the plant the opportunity to recover from the rigours of forcing, allowing it to rejuvenate and store energy for the seasons to come.
A word of caution: refraining from forcing the same plant in consecutive years is crucial. Forcing places considerable strain on the plant, and it needs a year of recuperation to regain its strength. So, as you savour the spoils of your rhubarb harvest, remember the delicate dance of nurturing and patience that defines this time-honoured gardening tradition.
Greenhouse Cleanup: Clearing Out Winter Growth
As the increasing strength of sunlight ushers in a new season, it's time to bid farewell to the winter leaves and mustards that have been sheltered in the greenhouse. These resilient plants have served their purpose, but with flowering and toughening on the horizon, it's time for their final cut. Don't let their efforts go to waste; those yellow flowers can add a delightful touch to salads before you retire the plants to the compost bin. If you happen to have some feathered friends in the form of chickens, consider sharing the bounty – they'll relish the opportunity to pick over and munch on these green offerings.
Unheated Greenhouse Lettuce: A Swift Spring Crop
For those who kickstarted their lettuce journey with a cut-and-come-again approach back in January, there's an opportunity for a swift harvest. You can transplant a few of these lettuce plants into an unheated greenhouse, capitalizing on the space between winter leaves and the imminent arrival of tomatoes and other heat-loving crops in late April or May.
With the increasing sunlight, lettuce plants in the greenhouse will thrive, rapidly producing a wealth of fresh leaves that can be harvested continually from each plant. Alternatively, if you prefer a more traditional approach, you can let these plants heart up and enjoy whole heads of lettuce in early April. This versatile strategy ensures a steady supply of crisp, homegrown greens as you transition from winter to the eagerly anticipated growing season ahead.
Sowing Beetroot: Early Steps to Delicious Rewards
When it comes to sowing beetroot early in the season, a little protection goes a long way. Consider using cloches to shield your early beetroot sowings, not just from unpredictable weather but also from the inquisitive birds that may scatter the seeds as they search for worms in the freshly turned soil.
Sowing a few rows of beetroot seeds at this juncture offers multiple advantages. You'll have the flexibility to either transplant the thinned seedlings next month, allowing them to flourish, or you can opt for a more immediate gratification by harvesting them as delectable salad leaves.
Beetroot enthusiasts will be delighted to know that there's a wide array of varieties to choose from. Golden and white varieties are particularly appealing as they possess a less earthy taste and spare your hands the telltale stains.
Cultivating Wild Garlic: A Woodland Gem in Your Garden
While the UK offers plenty of spots for foraging wild garlic, growing this aromatic plant in your garden is both convenient and rewarding. If you're looking to create a flourishing patch of wild garlic, choose a shady location, such as behind the compost bins or any shaded area of the garden. Wild garlic thrives in damp, shaded environments with rich soil, mirroring its natural woodland habitat.
The versatile leaves of wild garlic can be used in various culinary ways. From crafting delicious pesto to enhancing salads, stir-fries, and even soups, these leaves bring a unique and delightful flavour to your dishes.
However, a word of caution is in order. Wild garlic, under the right conditions, can exhibit invasive tendencies. To keep it in check, consider growing it in large pots sunken into the ground, which helps contain it.
Supporting Resilient Broad Beans for a Bountiful Harvest
Autumn-sown broad beans are a testament to nature's resilience, enduring the harshest of winter conditions. As spring beckons, it's time to offer these sturdy plants a helping hand in staying upright and strong.
A practical approach to supporting your broad beans is to introduce a couple of pea gates or a few well-placed canes connected with sturdy string. This simple arrangement provides the necessary structure to keep the plants standing tall, even in the face of brisk spring winds. Alternatively, you can opt for robust sticks strategically positioned in the outer corners, forming a protective boxing ring with ropes that keeps the plants securely upright.
By investing in these supportive measures, you reduce the risk of your precious bean pods touching the soil, a scenario that often invites unwanted slug damage.
Savoring Salad Greens: The Joy of Spring-Sown Lettuce
For a steady supply of fresh salad greens throughout the year, spring-sown lettuce is the gardener's secret weapon. The key is to sow a pinch of lettuce seeds every two weeks, ensuring a continuous harvest that keeps your salads crisp and colourful.
Kickstart your lettuce plants by sowing them in modules within the shelter of a greenhouse or cold frame. This early start allows your seedlings to establish themselves before braving the great outdoors.
Maximize your garden's potential by interplanting lettuce among other crops or in various garden nooks. This clever strategy not only optimises space but also allows you to enjoy double the yield from a single bed.
When it comes to choosing lettuce varieties, 'Bronze Beauty' and 'Speckled Trout' stand out for their delightful blend of taste and visual appeal, adding a burst of flavour and colour to your salads.
Discovering a Gardener's Secret Harvest: Kale Shoots
As the winter months wane, and you contemplate removing your kale plants for compost, here's a gardeners' secret worth holding onto a little longer. If you've been cultivating Cavolo Nero kales, a delightful surprise awaits in the form of flower spikes that resemble miniature sprouting broccoli spears, yet exude the distinct and hearty flavour of kale.
This unexpected bonus crop is nothing short of delicious and offers a unique treat that only flowering kale plants can provide once a year. Before you hastily dispose of these plants, consider savoring the kale shoots, which can be prepared much like broccoli. A quick sauté in butter and garlic brings out their full flavour, delicious!
Creating a Fragrant Kitchen Garden with Autumn-Started Sweet Peas
Few things rival the sheer delight of a fragrant kitchen garden adorned with the graceful tendrils of sweet peas. The irresistible allure of their blooms and the intoxicating fragrance they impart can transform any outdoor space into a haven of beauty and aromatics.
If you took the foresight to sow sweet pea seeds back in autumn, your patience is about to be rewarded as your plants are ready for the great outdoors this month. Before you transplant them, ensure you've provided sturdy supports for these climbers. Adding supports beforehand avoids disturbing the fragile roots of your sweet peas when you insert canes or trellises.
If you notice your sweet pea plants are reaching for the sky, appearing a bit leggy and tall, don't hesitate to give them a trim. Snipping the top portion encourages the plant to branch out, resulting in a fuller, more abundant display of those delightful and aromatic blooms that make your kitchen garden truly special.
Celery vs. Celeriac: A Gardeners' Dilemma
When it comes to choosing between celery and celeriac for your garden, personal preference often takes the lead. For many (including me), the allure of celeriac is irresistible, with its roots transforming into delectable roasted dishes and rich, hearty soups. This earthy vegetable adds a unique touch to your culinary repertoire.
Whichever path you choose, it's time to sow the seedlings for both celery and celeriac if you haven't already begun. Starting them in modules is a preferred method, and a handy tip is to place them on a bed of HortiWool to maintain optimal moisture levels. Consistently keeping these plants well-hydrated is the secret to success, ensuring they don't dry out, which could result in stringy celery or undersized celeriac roots. With the right care, your garden will yield the delicious rewards of your choice, be it celery or celeriac.
Caring for Overwintered Chillies: A Recipe for Early Harvest
If you're one of the gardeners who opted to overwinter your chilli plants, now is the time to set the stage for a bountiful early harvest. Start by generously topping up their containers with fresh compost, ensuring they have ample nutrients to thrive. Alongside this, gradually increase both water intake and temperature to encourage rapid growth.
This trifecta of care measures will work wonders, pushing your chilli plants into a vigorous growth spurt. In just a matter of weeks, you can anticipate the appearance of delicate flowers, soon followed by the coveted fruit. Growing chillies this way offers a remarkable advantage, granting you the pleasure of enjoying ripe fruit several months ahead of those started from seed in the current year.
A word of advice: While overwintering chilli plants is rewarding, some species are more amenable to this process than others. Among them, capsicum pubescens tends to be the easiest and most cooperative, making it a prime choice for this gardening endeavour.
Potting on Tomato Seedlings: A Recipe for Lush Growth
When it's time to pot on your tomato seedlings, remember the golden rule: go deep! Tomatoes possess tiny "hairs" on their stems that can transform into roots if covered with soil or compost. By planting them deeply, burying them up to the first set of true leaves or even beyond, you'll encourage the development of robust root systems, resulting in healthier, more productive plants.
Before transplanting, ensure you remove any leaves that will be situated below ground level. This method not only promotes increased cropping but also shifts fruit production lower on the plant due to the extended stem in the soil.
Furthermore, if you've acquired leggy tomato seedlings from a garden centre at a bargain price, this technique works wonders. In fact, you can go a step further and lay the seedling down in a trench, reducing the amount of exposed stem above the ground. With this approach, your tomato plants are poised for a season of lush growth and abundant fruiting.