March is upon us but it doesn’t much feel like it. Although I quite believe Vladimir Putin has a track record for disruptive interference in other nation states I don’t think he has anything to do with the current bitter chill and snow that has come our way from Siberia.
Before its arrival I made my first sowings of the year. As always I start with broad beans (Aquadulce Claudia) and leeks (Musselburgh). Both can be sown early because they can stand the cold well. I sowed them in pots and modules in the greenhouse for planting out later. I rarely do autumn sowings for an early crop in the spring because seedlings and young plants stand still over winter and need a bit of care to see them through. In any case spring sowings soon catch up and I can bear to wait a couple of extra weeks for fresh broad beans.
There are a couple of exceptions. I sowed some Little Gem lettuce in the autumn in the greenhouse border which have grown well. They are ready to pick now. The other exception is garlic. I find garlic does better for me if planted in the autumn rather than the spring. This year I’m trying something new which is to plant the cloves in pots rather than straight in the soil and they will be soon planted out. I planted the variety Wight Cristo which is generally reliable and commonly available in garden centres. This year I have also planted some ordinary supermarket garlic. The horticultural magazines and gardening books advise against this. But a smallholding friend has had regular and enviable success going this route (and saving money too) so I’m going to see how it does for me. Another friend has given me some cloves of Elephant garlic which she grows to an impressive size.
It’s still too soon to sow tomatoes, peppers and other tender crops in my view unless you have a heated greenhouse. The problem, if you aspire to quality plants, is to be able to produce good stout plants that have not had their growth checked along the way before they are planted in their final positions, whether that is sooner in the greenhouse or later outside. The temptation to sow early often results in lanky plants with lots of stem between the leaves. Also, its not enough to protect them from frost. Tomato plants don’t like the cold even if frost free and you sometimes see their leaves developing a purple tinge in response. I’ll be hanging on for a couple more weeks.
I’ll be sowing hardy annuals in the next few days for the cutting flower beds and half hardy annuals in a couple of weeks time. I’ve also got a selection of summer flowering bulbs, corms and roots to plant out when the Siberian weather passes by.