After a week without significant rain the soil is in good condition for raking down into seedbeds and sowing. Almost all the digging is now done, but with a quarter of the plot put down to crops for winter and over-wintering for spring cropping there is still much clearing and subsequent cultivation to do before the end of April.
The soil is still a little colder than I would like, about 5C rather than the desirable 7C, but by mid-March the risk of seeds rotting in the ground is much reduced and the forecast is for day temperatures to rise above 10C at last.
· For now the priority is to get shallot and brown onion sets into the ground. A black plastic mulching sheet with pre-made holes was placed over the allocated ground last weekend, so all that remains is to insert the sets. Red sets (Red Baron) being prone to bolting, will wait until the first week in April
· Asparagus plants are ready to set out as well.
· Early peas and broad beans were sown last weekend, but it is now high time to start sowing carrots and parsnips on the root plot that has been waiting under clear plastic for the soil to warm up a bit.
· The new brassica plot has been largely cultivated and the early brassicas; June cropping calabrese, cauliflowers, kohl rabi and cabbages has were recently sown in heat. These will be set out between the slow growing Brussels sprouts that have also been sown indoors. Club root resistant sprouts are offered this year and I am trying these out: http://www.molesseeds.co.uk/flower_and_vegetable_seed_store_uk/Products_F1_Crispus_3771.html
· Between where the Brussels will go, there is also space to sow lettuces, radishes, turnips, bolt-resistant beetroot and other 'small crops' that will mature before the brussels meet over the row · Early potatoes can also be planted, with fleece protection
· Early crops of all sorts will be covered with fleece to provide a little extra shelter and warmth, keep off vermin and protect birds from the mousetraps necessary to preserve peas and beans from rodents
· Leeks too need to be sown as they have a long growing season. I usually sow some salad onions alongside as they need similar treatment and, like leeks, are very easy to raise from seed outdoors on my light soil: http://mygarden.rhs.org.uk/blogs/rosemoorgarden/archive/2009/07/29/leeks-follow-potatoes.aspx
· Back in the propagator small seeded tender plants for planting out in June must be sown; tomatoes, including bush tomatoes, aubergines ( I have some seeds claimed to be resistant to verticillium wilt, the bane of soil grown crops under fleece: http://www.molesseeds.co.uk/flower_and_vegetable_seed_store_uk/Products_F1_Giotto_3694.html#aVAU15_20_20_2003 ), peppers (dwarf ones for cloche cultivation and Cape gooseberries
· Plants for indoor use will be bought from nurseries next month. It is time to sow celery and celeriac too
· I have long used peat-free potting media for my potting, but for propagation I am going to try peat-free for the first time. Because if can be rather rich I am going to dilute it with 30% by volume with perlite and vermiculite
· Once the first batch of seeds have been sown, there is a delay for some weeks until they emerge and hoeing and thinning can start, and follow-on sowings made. During this time the netted enclosures for the peas and beans and the cabbage patch will be built and cultivations and general maintenance finished off. With soil dry underfoot and better weather as well as lengthening evenings, this is the time to get the plot up together for the next rush period in mid-April