GARDENING ADVICE FOR THE NEW (AND NOT SO NEW) GARDENER
Well what a mild winter! So mild the runner bean tubers I’ve been storing in the garage started sprouting in December. The cold snap in February soon brought them back to their senses though!
The day’s length is such that the plants now want to get going, but the ground temperature must be right for success. March is said to arrive roaring like a lion and leave like a lamb, so patience is a virtue this month, as we wait for the spring lamb. Don’t panic if the weather continues to be bad, as the plants will catch up – eventually.
There is no such thing as an absolute set date for a job in gardening, as temperatures vary according to where you are in the area. Temperatures are warmer nearer the coast than they are 10 miles in land, so adjust what you do for where you are and the weather.
Frosts can still be a hazard, so keep vulnerable plants protected at night if frost is forecast. March winds are also notorious for their ferocity so check exposed plants are well supported.
Now is the time for a thorough spring clean; weed and dig over your borders incorporating as much organic matter as you can – those chilly winds will really help to dry out the soil. Mulch bare soil once
you have done the work and remove moss and weeds from paths, terraces and driveways. They may be boring tasks but if you don’t get on top of the garden now (especially the weeds!) it will be a nightmare for the rest of the season.
Clean and repair your garden tools, book the lawn mower in for a service (if it hasn’t had one already) and check garden furniture for any rot. When it is warm enough, treat sheds, fences and trellis with wood preservative; brushes and rollers are fine for most things; however a sprayer is well worth buying for tricky projects such as woven panels!
For those of you planning your first vegetable garden, prepare your soil adding as much organic matter as you can. For a first year’s crop, potatoes are considered a good choice as they help break up the soil. In reality – it’s you digging up the potatoes later in the year that breaks up the soil! If you’re planting in what used to be a lawn, you can expect to lose a lot of the potatoes in the first year to wireworm and / or keel slugs. Buy good quality seeds, as it’s a shame not to get the best rewards for all the hard work put into preparing your vegetable patch. Remember to take soil condition and weather into account when sowing seeds.
For those more interested in flowers, here are some things to keep you busy…….Hardy annuals can be sown in pots or modules to provide colour in the garden. If conditions allow, you can sow directly outside. Marking out irregularly shaped seedbeds and broadcasting drifts of different seed gives a more natural look. Sweet peas can be sown outside this month. Place autumn-sown sweet peas in a sunny position, perhaps on a high shelf in the greenhouse that gets plenty of light. Sow summer bedding plants in a heated propagator or under glass. Early spring is an ideal time to plant herbaceous perennials, including Geranium, Astrantia and Oriental poppies.
Plant summer-flowering bulbs. Prepare the soil first, to ensure that drainage is sufficient to prevent the bulbs rotting. Anemone coronariatubers need particularly well-drained soils. Indoor forced bulbs that were in the house for winter displays, but which have now finished flowering, can be planted into the garden, taking care not to disturb the roots.
Jobs to do for the month of March
Sow under cover
Summer cabbages – under cloches
Early cauliflowers– under cloches
Early carrots– under cloches
Plant bare rooted fruit trees and bushes
Protect new spring shoots from slugs
Plant summer-flowering bulbs
Lift and divide over-grown clumps of perennials
Top dress containers with fresh compost
Mow the lawn on dry days (if needed)
Cut back Cornus (dog-wood) and Salix (will-ow) grown for colourful winter stems
Weeds come back in to growth – deal with them before they get out of hand
Start feeding fish and using the pond fountain; remove pond heaters
Open the greenhouse or conservatory doors and vents on warm days
Lemon and Lime trees can supply fruit all year round. If you end up with a glut at any time, slice them into wedges and freeze on a tray in the freezer. Once frozen, bag them up and store them in the freezer
until you need them – ideal for that gin and tonic on a summer’s evening. They’ll act not only as a garnish and release their flavour slowly, but will chill your drink down like an ice cube. A.R. Llanedi
Leeks are now in plentiful supply, just in time for the St David’s day celebrations
So here’s a quick recipe for St David’s Chicken – a popular meal in the Andel family.
To serve 4
you will need:
4 boneless/skinless chicken breasts,
4 rashers of smoked back bacon,
1 large leek,
around 50g of butter,
2tbsp of clear honey,
quarter of a pint of chicken stock,
salt and pepper
about 1tbsp of fresh chopped parsley.
Slice each chicken breast into 3 or 4, dice the bacon and slice the leek. Heat the butter in a large frying pan and cook the chicken for around 10 mins until beginning to brown on all sides. Add the leek and pour in the honey and stock. Simmer for around 20 mins until the chicken is cooked through, season to taste. Serve with creamy mashed potato and peas.
To ring the changes try adding 2 teaspoons of wholegrain mustard at the end.