March is a very busy month in the garden for me. I spend every available minute spring cleaning my beds ready for the summer season. I begin the month intending to work around all my beds, weeding, pruning, cutting back and splitting perennials – although I never quite make it around everything the garden is looking a much tidier place than a month ago.
Whilst I am working I can enjoy the sights and sounds of early spring that are all around me. This weeks highlight has been the arrival of the cherry blossom. This cherry tree was in the garden when we arrived, but was a very young tree. Gradually, year by year, she is maturing and this year has a very fine display. She is always the first tree to blossom, followed closely by the forsythias. Although she does produce a crop of cherries, these have always been eaten by the birds long before they are ripe enough for me to pick.
When I am not outside preparing the borders, I have been plugging on (excuse the pun) with seed sowing in the greenhouse. All the sweet peas are growing away nicely and I have just put up a support in the greenhouse so that I can try growing a handful of plants in the greenhouse bed. I am hoping that these will flower a few weeks before the outdoor plants, so giving me a longer sweet pea season.
The first sowings of all my hardy annuals for the Cutting Garden have now been finished and I will be moving on to the half hardy varieties next week. I now have lots of little plants including cornflowers, nigella, english marigolds, salvia patens, blue clary, larkspur and ammi majus coming up. These will be moved into the cold frames at the end of March and planted out into the beds around mid April. Hopefully the first flowers will appear in May if I am very lucky. I always plan to make a second sowing of hardy annuals in May or June to ensure that I have fresh plants for late summer when this batch will be starting to flag.
In the Vegetable Garden the garlic planted before Christmas is growing strongly. In the same bed I have added the early potatoes (which are the only type of potato I grow). This bed is now full, but will be harvested towards the end of June when I will then fill it with spare dahlias that have not made it into other beds.
The broad beans sown last autumn have survived the winter and I have uncovered them from their fleece tunnel. In the cold frame there is another tray of baby plants sown in February, which I will plant out in the next week. I will sow another row of broad beans direct into the soil at the same time. It will be interesting to see which of the three sowings of broad beans crops first. I also have young pea plants ready to plant out and I will start sowing the peas directly as well.
As the soil is quite warm and moist for the time of year I am going to try some early sowings of carrots, beetroot and spinach. I will cover these with the fleece tunnel and hopefully have a very early crop in late May/early June. Often these early sowings fail as the temperatures can be too low and the seed rots. I still think it is worth a go as very early crops are such a delight in the years that they do succeed. I will sow another batch in April, which will have more certainty of success.
The crop of the moment is my rhubarb. That started to sprout very early this year and is now ready for eating. One of my favourite uses for rhubarb is too make Rhubarb Syrup. This pale pink liquid is beautiful diluted with sparkling water as a late afternoon drink after a long day in the garden. I also love it mixed with prosecco for a more decadent evening refreshment. I am planning to make my first batch next week, so will try to include photos and the recipe here for you.
You will remember that I bought a rhubarb forcer in the winter in the hope of encouraging an early crop. That has proved unnecessary as I have so much rhubarb without it this year. We will be taking it off this weekend, so it will be interesting to see what has happened to the plant it has been covering. I am hoping for long thin pale pink stems – I will let you know.
As I have been writing this I have just noticed a new post from Belinda Gray on her blog The Grower pop into my inbox. Her news this week is that a new series is starting on BBC2 in April called The Big Allotment Challenge – it sounds very interesting! The Grower is a fantastic weekly resource for anyone growing their own vegetables. It is full of tips, recipes and inspirations to keep your growing year on course and I highly recommend subscribing.
I hope you have a lovely weekend!