Hi, there, fellow allotment owners! As we transition into March, it’s time to start getting our hands dirty and preparing our allotments for the upcoming growing season.
Here in the UK, March is a time of changeable weather, so we need to make the most of any dry spells and get as much done as possible. Many of our plants started growing, then stalled in the March frost (and snow today!). So, without further ado, let’s dive into the allotment jobs that you should be tackling this month.
Firstly, it’s time to prepare your soil for planting. After a long winter, the soil can become compacted, so loosen it up with a fork. Remove any debris or weeds from the soil surface, turning the soil over to aerate it. Next, add organic matter such as compost, manure, or leaf mould to improve soil structure and nutrient content. This will also help to retain moisture and promote healthy root growth.
Consider incorporating sand or grit to improve drainage if your soil is particularly heavy or compacted. Once you have added amendments, rake the soil to create a smooth, level surface and water it well. By preparing your soil before planting, you will give your plants the best possible start and ensure a successful growing season.
Next up, it’s time to start sowing some seeds. Many seeds can be sown in March, both indoors and outdoors. Early spring vegetables such as carrots, peas, and radishes can be sown directly into the ground outside as long as the soil is not waterlogged or frozen. Indoors, you can start to sow seeds for tomatoes, peppers, and aubergines, which will need to be kept warm and in a sunny location until they are ready to be transplanted outside in late spring or early summer.
Flowers such as sweet peas and pansies can also be sown in March and will add a burst of colour to your garden in the coming months. Remember to follow the instructions on the seed packet and provide the seeds with the correct growing conditions to ensure a successful germination and growing season.
March is also a good time to start planting early potatoes. If you have some chitted seed potatoes, they can go in the ground now. Make sure to choose a sunny spot and dig a shallow trench before planting.
You can also plant asparagus now. Planting asparagus crowns results in an initial harvest two years later, which often discourages potential growers who don’t want to wait that long. However, passing on the opportunity to plant asparagus can be regretful six years later when the same garden could be producing delicious harvests.
Freshly cut asparagus spears on a dewy spring morning are a rare treat that one wishes to cherish forever. To plant asparagus, select a sunny location with well-draining soil. Dig a 30cm deep trench, add a 5cm layer of garden compost to the bottom, and create a mound in the centre. Space the asparagus crowns 40cm apart on top of the mound, spreading out the roots, and fill in the trench with 8cm of soil. Water thoroughly, mulch with 5cm of compost, and take pride in making a long-term investment that can yield a bountiful harvest for up to two decades.
If you have any fruit trees or bushes, now is the time to give them a good pruning. Remove any dead or diseased wood, as well as any branches that are crossing or rubbing against each other. This will help to improve airflow and promote healthy growth.
Finally, don’t forget about the importance of weeding! As the weather warms up, those pesky weeds will start to grow faster, so stay on top of them now before they take over your allotment. Use a hoe or hand tool to remove them, being careful not to disturb any newly-sown seeds or seedlings.
Brian Sheridan has an allotment in Edgbaston and is a competitive grower. Brian is also a keen photographer and loves cooking. Brian and his wife Mary will also be running a stall at Edgebaston artisan market this year, selling products made from the allotment, including his award-winning relish!