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Allotment last weekend in March:

Posted by Guy Barter on 27 Mar 2010 at 03:24 PM

Spring is here - weed seeds are germinating which a sure sign that the soil temperatures are above 6-7C at last.  Naturally, this being Britain there will be plenty of stinging frosts, lashings of hail and driving rain before June arrives but they won't last long and hardy crops will grow through these.  Sowing and planting can now begin in earnest.

- Despite rains, soils are drying out and final cultivations after clearing spent crops are being done quickly.  Cultivations in April tend to lose precious moisture and must be avoided where possible.  Digging is omitted where possible with the soil being lightly stirred with mattock and rake, just enough to take out compaction, remove weeds and leave enough loose soil to sow seeds and plant out transplants.

- Seeds sown three weeks ago are on the cusp of emerging - these must be checked as any failures of slow growing crops such as leeks and parsnips will need prompt replacement sowings.

- After a week of reasonable growing weather it is time to think about potato planting.  Some early potatoes have already been planted, and the remainder can begin to go in.  Gardeners with cold heavy or northern soils might be safer leaving this until mid-April.  In frosty sites covering plantings with fleece is prudent.

- Where previous sowings are developing well it is worth making follow-on sowings.  Naturally it is tempting to sow much ground now that conditions are right, but this can lead to early season gluts so a measured and planned approach to sowing little and often is more likely to avoid periods of dearth followed by over-abundance.

- Seedlings in pans and trays can now be moved on to pots and cell trays.  Cabbages, calabrese, cauliflowers, Brussels sprouts, kohl rabi and lettuces all need attention.

- So far all seeds in the propagator have emerged although the celeriac took so long another packet of seed has bought and sown, after which the original sowing came up like mustard and cress.

- No early veg seedlings in the local garden centres have tempted me - in fact the plants on offer are very poor.  I feel suppliers take advantage of the relative ignorance of new growers to sell substandard plants, but perhaps they have found growers unwilling to pay realistic prices for plants that have had to be mollycoddled with plenty of heat.

- As ever preparation is everything;  clear plastic is laid to warm soil ready for tender crops, black landscape fabrics is laid through which to plant crops that are hard to weed such as the last of the onion sets, fleece covered seedbeds to protect seedlings as they emerge while stakes and netting are prepositioned ready to defend vulnerable crops from deer and pigeons.

- It is a relief at this season for all the materials and plants carefully bought and stored  to go out and be turned into crops freeingup space in the shed and turning the bleak plot into a productive one again

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