The allotment or vegetable garden in March is gearing up to be a busy place, at this time of year I’m either about to sow seeds or I’m looking after early sown seedlings.
What seeds to sow & when to sow them can be confusing, I have a couple of guides.
Grow what you like & what you have room for:
This sounds obvious, but I have to really bear it in mind every year at this time. So often I’ve become giddy at the thought of home grown vegetables & planted far too many seeds.
The last frost date:
Most of my vegetable growing revolves around this, the date when the last frost is likely to happen. After this we’ve got the all-clear to plant tender vegetables outside, & there are plenty of vegetables that won’t survive a frost.
I sow tender seeds 6-8 weeks before this date, then they’re just the right size to go outside without risk of frost. It saves having small plants loitering around growing tall & spindly for lack of light, & trying to find space to keep them, because it’s remarkable how much space a few seeds take up when they’ve grown into small plants.
I’ll keep an eye on the weather forecast, our last frost date is the 10th May, which means I could start sowing tender seeds to plant outside, from the middle of March.
Tender seeds I’m growing are:
- chillies- I would have liked to sow these in February, but we were away, so I’m chancing a late sowing.
- salad leaves – sowing inside keeps them safe when they’re small & vulnerable from slugs & snails.
- peas & beans – they can be sown directly into the ground, but get off to a quicker start if sown in pots inside & planted out as small plants.
Hardier seeds that I’m planting directly into the ground are:
- swiss chard
April isn’t far off, so unless we have a really warm spell, I’ll wait till then before I sow hardy seeds. I remember sowing beetroot seeds in March a few years ago at the allotment. They sulked for ages before they decided to grow. since then I’ve been wary of planting seeds too early, & later plantings catch up when the weather is warmer.
Early varieties can be planted this month, though they’ll need covering with fleece if there’s a frost at night. They can be encouraged to produce shoots before planting by placing them in an egg-box on a light-filled window-sill. Though this isn’t strictly necessary.
I’ve been preparing the vegetable beds, weeding & scattering organic chicken pellets over the soil. They release their nutrients slowly, & I don’t feel guilty about using chemical fertilisers with all the energy they use up to produce.
Weeding pays dividends at this time of year. Just run a hoe over soil where tiny seedlings are emerging & leave them to shrivel.
Covering the beds with fleece to warm up the soil for quicker seed germination is next. Horticultural fleece or compost bags turned inside out, so you get a black cover instead of a garish multi-coloured one, are ideal.
I’ve been dithering about getting step-over apple trees, they’re pretty little trees growing horizontally only a foot or so off the ground. They make a nice edging & produce a fair amount of fruit. March is the last month for planting bare-root trees.
This is the first year I’ve grown vegetables in this garden. I’ve got 6 raised vegetable beds, a large galvanised, container – that used to be a neighbours water tank & the greenhouse, & some space in a couple of borders nearby. It’ll be interesting fitting it all in, I hope to have an interesting variety. I’ll take some pictures to show you soon, when there are some plants to see.
This website is useful for finding the last frost date in your area of the UK, it also covers parts of mainland Europe.
More here about general gardening in March.
Enjoy the rest of the month in the garden.
all photos: Jill Anderson.