Garden Gnome: Spring

Get ready, get set, GROW! Join our wise gnome as he helps us put our best organic gardening foot forward this season and walk with a happy spring in our step.

It will SPRING upon us any minute now: don’t panic! We need to pace ourselves and prioritise: first the broad beans, early spuds and onion sets can be planted in mid March and we can start tomatoes and peppers indoors. It’s time to clean and tidy and prepare everything: dig in the green manures and sharpen that hoe and get it moving before the weeds can take hold. Empty the compost bins onto the veggie beds and then put some well tethered cloches in place to warm the soil before sowing later in the month. When you sow make a drill, very shallow for small seeds which mustn’t go more than 1cm deep, then water it, sow the seeds thinly, cover with dry soil and firm, then pop the cloches back and leave them in place until the seedlings emerge, re-water only if the weather is very warm and sunny. If they don’t come up, due to lack of warmth perhaps, they can be sown again in April or May. [Seeds will just rot in cold wet ground.] The reasons for covering with dry soil are to deter molluscs, prevent evaporation and increase warmth. If you are using fleece for protection, make sure it’s well tethered and supported as March is often very windy. Finish planting and pruning trees and shrubs, [fruiting and ornamental,] then feed and mulch them. Things to sow in March: summer cabbage, lettuce, peas, parsnips, beetroot, chard and carrots, radish and turnips, and hardy annuals. Local forecasts are a useful indicator of suitable sowing times, don’t sow if it’s less than 10*C. Wait until May before sowing sweet-corn, French and runner beans, courgettes and squash out doors, but you can start them indoors in April.

Modern farming methods have destroyed natural habitats like hedges, ditches and ponds; the chemicals used damage and destroy both flora and fauna monoculture of crops provides a depleted source of food to wild-life; pollen from one crop doesn’t give bees a balanced diet. By planting a little native hedge, [go to Special Branch at Stanmer Organics for local organic baby trees], growing some climbers like ivy and honeysuckle, digging a small pond with gently sloping sides and plants at the margins, making a miniature woodpile, a stone-pile,  sowing a petite wildflower meadow, and leaving seed-heads and stiff stalks on plants until spring we can go a long way to providing diverse habitats for a variety of wild-life: food, water and shelter.

Plants for birds, bees, butterflies and diverse bugs: honeysuckle, hawthorn, holly Rosa rugosa, Cotoneaster, Pyracantha, Mahonia, crab apple, cherries, blackberries, currants and Berberis all have berries for birds as well as flowers for bees; Buddleia, Viburnum,Valerian, Sedum, teasels, catmint and honesty attract butterflies, and several lay their eggs on nettles. Bees love ivy, asters, aubrietia, borage, heather, cornflower, wallflower, crocus, broom, gaillardia, hardy geranium, hebe, hypericum, busy lizzy, red-hot poker, lamium, lavender, rosemary, lavatera, grape hyacinth, poppy, Philadelphus, alyssum, thyme, marjoram, mint, mignonette, monarda and phacelia; hoverflies come to fennel, sunflowers, calendula, limnanthes, Californian poppies, Cosmos, yarrow, candytuft, wild strawberries, golden-rod and convolvulus tricolour. [Those in bold attract more than one type of insect, those underlined feed three or more.]

So if we couldn’t think what flowers to sow amongst our veggies I hope we have some ideas now. The longer the seasonal range of flowers the better.

Got a question for GG? Or perhaps some sage gardening wisdom of your own? Just post it below or email us

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