Spring Equinox signals the start of this wonderful season and is generally celebrated on 21st March, although as with all astronomical feasts it is movable and fell this year a day earlier. Nonetheless March undoubtedly means Springtime, the time when sowing starts in earnest!
Most vegetable varieties can be started in March and continued through into April and May. If you haven’t already started your tomatoes, peppers and aubergines from seed, now is the time to do it. These plants need to be started “under cover” which basically means you must start them in a greenhouse, or mimic greenhouse conditions. See my seed-sowing guide in February’s i-Grow for more detailed information about how to do this.
Outdoors you can now sow beetroot, beans and peas, carrots, parsnips, radishes, spinach, Swiss Chard and a variety of lettuces and other green leafy veg direct where they are to grow. Make a drill (an indented line or row) into the soil and sow your seeds into the drill, covering the seed with the soil from the sides. Sow pumpkins, squashes and courgettes in small pots or modules outdoors so that they develop a good strong rootball before being planted into their final growing place. You can use this method for a variety of plants including spinach and Chard, beetroot, peas and beans, and then transplant them later, by which time they will have developed into sturdy little plants and will stand a better chance against slugs, snails and other predatory critters.
If you’ve been chitting potatoes they should be just about ready for planting in March or April. If planting into the ground be sure to thoroughly turn the soil over and break up any lumps beforehand and plant the potatoes, chit side up, about 4 inches deep. You can plant them individually into separate holes or you can dig a trench and space them along it. I’ve tried both ways and have found them to be equally successful so it’s just a matter of what suits you best. If you’re planting potatoes in pots, large sacks or dustbins firstly ensure there is enough drainage in the container and make extra drainage holes if necessary. Approximately half fill the container with soil or compost and pop your seed potato in, covering it with about 4 inches more compost.
As the potato plant grows you need to “earth up” which means ensuring that the spuds developing under the soil are always kept in the dark. Bring soil around the plant from the edges to form a mound if you’re growing in the ground. Top up with shallow layers of compost if you’re growing in a container. Earthing up needs to be done slowly and regularly to ensure a good crop. If potatoes are left in the light they become green and toxic. Potatoes, along with tomatoes and aubergines are members of the Solanaceae family of plants, or Solanum as I usually refer to them, the Nightshade plants.
If you’re sowing this spring I wish you a bountiful harvest ahead.
Text: Scarlett Cannon