Now is the best time for sowing your seeds directly into your veg beds.
If you haven’t already done so you can dig in some well rotted manure into your beds, making sure you’ve dug it nice and deep, and sprinkle some fertilizer and potash onto the soil and then gentle rake it in. Not too much or your little seed may burn when they are first put in.
You can put in leeks and parsnips, spinach, peas and brassicas directly outdoor.
If you don’t have a lot of greenhouse or indoor space you can wait till April and May and buy plug plants that have already been grown on from seed.
If you have a greenhouse you can start your tomatoes, chilles, aubergines and peppers. This gives them enough time to grow before you consider planting them outdoors.
Before you begin you can think about the structure of your area. At Glorious Gardens we will always put most of our design energy into creating clean, often formal shapes of raised beds and paths before we think of what vegetables we will plant or what combinations to use.
Fruit trees are considered a structural plant as they take up particular spaces and offer a relatively unchanging shape.
March is your last chance for planting new, bare-rooted apple and pear trees, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and hybrid berries, as well as gooseberry and currant bushes. By April it will be too late for any but container-grown plants. You can also consider buying small espalier fruit trees to create borders for your path which then become edible later in the year.Prepare your planting hole really well and your fruit trees will get off to a great start.
Most fruit trees will come as two year olds which is generally preferable to buying bigger trees as the small ones will develop stronger roots and be more robust in the longer run.
A walnut will get for big so it is a beautiful tree for the back of large gardens, but you can buy small hazelnut trees that only get to three metres so you can make your own Nutella, no excuse. Believe it or not there is also a dwarf sweet chestnut that only gets to 3-6 metres in height.
Plant out ready-bought, cold-stored runners, as soon as they become available; they will crop in their first year. If you can grow them in pots or hanging baskets that will reduce slug damage. If you have them from last year you can plant the little runners separately.
Towards the end of this month, sow seeds of herbs such as chives, coriander, dill, fennel, oregano, and parsley that can tolerate low temperatures, but cover with fleece at night if frost is forecast. Curly parsley is in particular an amazing plant and these days, with warmer winters, can be grown as a lovely front of border evergreen. In addition, begin planting out any young, ready-to-plant specimens of hardy herbs you’ve bought from your local garden centre or nurseries – mint, rosemary, and thyme.Keep your fast spreading mint in a pot if you ever want to sell your home.
You can sow lettuce seed either indoors or outdoors, under cover if necessary.
Sow outdoors spring onions, radishes, salad mixes, rocket, summer purslane, and Oriental leaves under cloches or in cold frames.
As well as mixed salad seed combination you can consider rocket, which will last all year and into the next as well as the mustard family of edible greens.
Mustards are easy plants to grow and young leaves sown now will be ready to harvest as a cut-and-come-again salad crop in about four to five weeks’ time.
If you have enough room you can sow a coupe of rows now, and then new rows every two weeks so by the time May comes you have a continuous drop for the rest of the Summer.
It’s still possible to sow onion seeds and shallots outdoors, but both are better grown from commercially produced “sets”. Shallot sets can be planted in February or March, onion sets in March or April. You can buy the ready to go bulbs on line or from you garden centre. If you sow leeks now they will be ready by early Autumn.
Peas and broad beans
Sow both pea and broad bean seeds outdoors, protecting them with cloches if the weather is still cold. If it is your first time growing beans try runner beans as they are pretty indestructible as long as they have plenty of light and water.
It’s possible to grow asparagus from seed but much easier to buy ready-to-plant rootstocks known as “crowns”. Plant them in pre-prepared trenches this month or the next. they will come back each year so make sure they are not taking up room for anything also that is more important.
Broccoli, cabbages, and other brassicas
This month sow Brussels sprouts indoors, and sow sprouting broccoli and summer, autumn or red cabbages either indoors or out if it’s not too cold. In West Sussex the temperatures are milder than the north so you will probably be ok. Early summer cauliflowers raised from seed indoors can probably be planted out, but may still need protection under cloches.
If you started chitting a batch of first early potatoes at the start of the year, and if the ground is not still frozen, you should be able to plant them now. Dig a shallow drill about 15cm (6in) deep and lay your seed potatoes in it at intervals of 30cm (12in). Make sure the “chits” or shoots are pointing upwards. You can always buy them pre chitted from your garden centre.
Root and stem vegetables
Carrots and turnips can be sown outdoors. Celery, celeriac, Kohl Rabi, and Florence fennel are not so hardy and if you sow seeds now you should keep them indoors or in a heated greenhouse. Jerusalem artichokes can be planted as corms now and are one of the few vegetables that don’t mind dappled shade though they won’t get as tall. Again, these come back each year so plant in an otherwise unused part of your growing space.
What to Do this Month
Try and finish any large-scale pruning or tree removal by mid March as bird nesting season will be well under way. Check for nests before you begin work.
Apart from being busy in the vegetable patch you can give shrubs like Cornus, Salix and Cotinus a hard prune back- look on the RHS website to see how ruthless you can be!
If the water starts warming up you can start feeding the fish.
If you haven’t finished pruning your roses now is the last time to do them before they come into leaf.
Lastly, look up summer flowering bulbs and tuber plants such as Dahlias. They can be planted now. Also have a go with Nerines.
Where to visit in March
High Beeches Gardens, Sussex
This is a 25 Acre garden which is a botanical treasure trove that includes historic magnolias.
Laid out by the Loder family, but inspired by Victorian horticulturist William Robinson’s wild garden style, is it really worth going to when all the plants are coming into leaf.
It is open every day except Wednesday, 1pm-5pm. 01444 400589. Best to do a check for Covid policy before you go.