Nights are getting lighter with around 12 hours daylight per day, so I think spring may have finally sprung. Already the blossom is bursting out from tight buds on trees and hedgerows around the village where I live in Suffolk, but caution must still be taken, because once the blackthorn starts to bloom and all around appears spring-like, the weather usually changes and the cold north wind does blow.
My flower borders are bursting into life as bulbs come into flower and perennials that have been dormant all winter are starting to poke through the soil. Winter-flowering pansies and violas have more flowers than in previous weeks and the polyanthus are bursting out from previously tight buds. With all this activity a quick tidy through with a 3-pronged cultivator will loosen the soil and remove any tiny emerging weeds before they get the chance to spoil my display.
Despite having over 1½ inches of rain earlier this month my vegetable plot has started to dry out. I have been busy on the allotment pulling the autumn-dug soil about with my crome, which is a fantastic tool I inherited from my uncle (basically this is a fork which has been bent at a right angle by the blacksmith and had a long pole handle inserted). Pulling this backwards and forwards through the soil breaks the soil cap of dug soil and transforms it into a crumbly structure. We had a good layer of snow (poor man’s fertiliser, full of nutrients) and some heavy frosts this year, which have broken the clay soil down so well that many of my fellow plot holders think I have rotovated the ground, but instead I have achieved the same, if not better, results by working it by hand, even if it has made my arms ache a little.
As the soil is still quite cold I have made a test sowing of some radish seed to see how quickly they germinate. Another patch of soil will be warmed up by covering with polythene before sowing any more small seeds like carrots, parsnips or beetroot, which will be sown by the end of the month, weather permitting.
Onion sets have been planted direct outside and large seeds like peas and broad beans will be sown direct into the soil in the next few weeks. I have already made a sowing of these under glass in trays and they are germinating nicely and should be ready to plant out early next month and provide me with an early harvest.
Seed potatoes laid out last month have already started to chit, so I have planted up 3 large pots in the greenhouse of Maris Bard for some very early new potatoes. The remainder of my potatoes will be planted out on the plot towards the end of month.
In the greenhouse, brassicas sown last month have been pricked out and are growing on the glasshouse shelving so they get maximum light and remain short and stocky. At the same time of sowing these I sowed a few ‘Little Gem’ and ‘Lettony’ lettuce seeds under glass. These have been pricked out and will give me an early salad; I will continue to sow a few lettuce seeds every 2-3 weeks throughout the year to ensure I have fresh salads to pick.
Begonia corms are shooting nicely in the heated propagator and can soon have the plastic lid covering them removed so they get acclimatised to the cooler greenhouse temperature. Flower seedlings are germinating and are keeping me busy as they all need pricking out. Plugs of 'SunPatiens®' and geraniums have already arrived and have been potted up.
But there is no time to rest on my laurels, as there are seeds still to sow this month like ageratum, petunias, nicotiana, salpiglossis, salvia and dahlia for my bedding displays and begonia semperflorens plugs should be arriving any day soon to be potted up.
Andrew croming his allotment
Begonia tubers bursting into life
Seed potatoes starting to chit