Get your garden summer-ready and reap some delicious rewards!
Could that be a glimpse of pale sunshine on the horizon, or is it just my wishful thinking? Spring often begins to show signs of raising its head (albeit cautiously) around this time of year, and I’m sure we’re all more than ready for that first daffodil sighting of the year, the bold yellow standing out against a grey horizon and heralding all the good stuff that’s on its way at the end of a miserable winter.
There are plenty of jobs you can be getting on with in your garden in March to make sure you’ve got a good head start preparing for the bounties of summer and autumn.
This is a great time to prune your shrubs, bushes and roses that might have been damaged by frost or growing past their best. Keep hold of any finer trimmings and leaf matter that you get rid of and add them to your compost pile (if you’re not currently composting, you can check out my blog on getting started here).
The time is also nigh to start sowing vegetable seeds so that you have tasty garden produce available for harvesting in summer right through to autumn and winter – saving money and getting some real satisfaction in the process! It’s important to stick to sowing frost-hardy veg at this time of year, as frosts can continue well into June and less hardy plants probably won’t thrive – a frustrating waste of effort. You might want to consider looking into fleecing or cloching your soil or seedlings to keep them warm – there are loads of tutorials online for this.
Here are a few ideas for some hardy veg you might like to invest in:
These flavoursome little beauties are great roasted in the oven with a little oil and some crisp pine nuts. So much more than Christmas dinner leftovers!
Sprouts are a relatively slow-growing brassica, but once they’re going they’re hardy and versatile. They like a firm soil, enriched with plenty of compost forked through before you sow.
Harvest: Plant Peer Gynt variety in March for a September crop.
Beetroot is good for so much more than pickling! Its earthy flavour is great with goats’ cheese, or for adding depth, colour and richness to soups. To avoid that vivid pink dye staining fingers, meals and clothes, try a variety like Babieto di Chioggia – a vibrant orange beet that keeps its colour and really livens up a table.
Beetroot likes a fertile soil, so again use plenty of compost, and consider using fleece to protect your seedlings if it’s frosty. Once the seedlings are around an inch high, thin them out to one every 10cm or so.
Harvest: June – November.
They’re cheap and easy, but you’ll need a good number of broad bean plants to get a respectable harvest. The good news is, they’re totally worth it! Broad beans are the hardiest of the bean family – tasty, nutritious and a great source of potassium as well as L-dopa, a compound which helps our brains produce the feelgood chemical, dopamine. Sow your broad beans in a sheltered, sunny spot and make sure you support the growing seedlings with a bamboo wigwam, as they’re prone to flop over as they become weighted down with pods.
Harvest: June – September.
Chard is less well known, but really delicious. This strikingly colourful plant has dark green, spinach-like leaves and vibrant, colourful stalks that are great when steamed like asparagus with some butter and pepper. Chard likes a fertile soil, so fork through plenty of good compost a week or so before you sow, then place the seeds around an inch apart, separating as the plants grow. The young seedlings might require fleecing for protection from frost.
Harvest: summer and autumn.
This is a great crop to grow if you have kids who are interested in gardening. Salad radishes are crisp, colourful and tasty, as well as fast-growing and so a very rewarding veg growing project! They like light soil but are fairly unfussy, so sow seeds wherever you have the space – about 3cm apart and topped with 1cm of good soil. Water well, and harvest before the plants get woody, and you’ll have a colourful addition to salads and a great ingredient for pickling and use in Asian-inspired dishes.
Harvest: About 4 weeks from sowing, dependent on the weather.