Gardening Tasks for March – Veg Garden
Beetroot can be sown near the middle of the month in drills about 2.5 cm deep. Take care to choose cultivars that are suitable for early sowing. ‘Avon Early’ and ‘Bolthardy’ are both good, as most other varieties will bolt if sown too early.
Beetroot needs an open site, free from shade. Soils manured the previous year suit them better than freshly-manured ground.
Other cultivars, such as ‘Crimson Globe’ and ‘Little Ball’ can follow the early sowing at intervals of three weeks throughout the summer, ensuring a continuous supply of young, succulent roots. If sown thinly the seedlings will not need to be thinned.
Sow early cultivars of carrots this month. For early roots, draw a shallow drill, 2.5 cm deep, choosing an open site and soil that has been manured the previous year. Be patient, as carrots are slow to germinate, taking three to four weeks at this time of year.
‘Amsterdam Forcing’ and ‘Nantes’ are well-tried cultivars for early sowing. They provide nice, finger-shaped carrots. As with beetroot, thinning is unnecessary if they are sown thinly.
Make small sowings of lettuces in the open. For preference, choose one of the Butterhead types, round, smooth-leaved lettuces that offer a wide choice of cultivars. Sow them in shallow drills, 2 cm deep, with 30 cm between rows.
Ten weeks from sowing is the earliest one can produce lettuces from an outdoor sowing. Sow little and often for continuous supplies.
Reliable cultivars for sowing now include ‘Fortune’ and ‘Unrivalled’. When the seedlings are large enough to handle, thin them to 23 cm, transplanting some of the thinnings for successional harvesting.
It is now safe to sow broad beans in well-manured, fertile soil. For best results, sow in double drill, 23 cm apart and 5 cm deep, with the beans placed alternately and 23 cm apart. This minimises the need for staking.
Excellent long-pod cultivars are ‘Hylon’, ‘Imperial Longpod’, and ‘Relon’. If space is limited, the dwarf-growing cultivar ‘The Sutton’ is a good choice.
During a dry spell, water once the beans start to flower, continuing throughout the pod-forming period. When at least four trusses of flowers have set, pinch out the tips of the plants as this helps the pods to form and also discourages blackfly.
Pick the pods regularly for continuous cropping. Broad beans are often the first fresh vegetables of the season.
Parsnips sown now will germinate much quicker than those sown much earlier. They may have slightly smaller roots but they will be less prone to canker.
Cultivars that have some resistance to canker include ‘Avon Resister’ and ‘White Gem’.
Heavy rain will sometimes expose the shoulders of the roots. If this occurs, cover them with soil from between the rows, mounding it up slightly with a draw hoe. This will minimise te incidence of canker, which can render the crop unusable.
Garden peas do best in deeply-dug, well-drained soil, with plenty of organic matter worked into the top. They do not grow well when the soil is compacted or waterlogged. Peas have root nodules containing nitrogen-fixing bacteria, so they can make some oof the nitrogen they need. As garden soils usually have plenty of phosphate and potash left over from previous crops, additional fertilizer may be unnecessary, unless the ground is very poor.
Peas grow well in spring and during cool, moist summers. They can also withstand slight frosts.
Self-blanching celery sown this month should be ready for planting out in early June. Sow the seeds thinly in a pot and place them in full light in a warm spot in a greenhouse. Prick the seedlings out when they are large enough to handle and keep them moist at all times.
Recommended cultivars include ‘Avonpearl’, Golden Self-Blanching’ and ‘Lathom Self-Blanching’.
Although one of the easiest crops to grow, radishes can cause problems if they are sown too thickly, too deeply or kept short of water. Any of these conditions will cause plants to produce excessive top growth and small roots.
Sow the seeds in a broad drill, 15 cm wide and try to space them 12-20 mm apart. Radishes may be sown in the open from March until August.
Some recommended varieties include ‘Cherry Belle’, ‘French Breakfast’, ‘Saxa’ and ‘Sparkler’. Harvest the roots while they are quite young, as they become tough and woody if left too long.
Sow basil under glass near the end of the month. a minimum temperature of 13oC is needed. Prick out into a tray. Af