Volunteers are needed to complete diaries for a year's worth of
allotment activity to assist with a University of Sheffield research
project. Data will help investigate the ways allotments are used,
how people manage their crops and how often they visit their plot, as
well as uses of pesticides, fertilisers and homemade compost.
Volunteers with all levels of experience, ability and style of growing
March (early Spring) to do List
1. Weed and tidy the soil before mulching with organic matter -
well-rotted farmyard manure, garden compost, cocoa shells, or chipped
bark. Soil in borders left bare will very quickly lose water in
dry spells. Covering with a thick layer of organic matter will
cut down the rate at which water evaporates from the soil. A
mulch will also suppress weeds. Never put a mulch on top of dry
soil: if the soil is dry, water it first.
2. Getting the timing right on preparing seed beds can be
tricky. The soil doesnt want to be so wet that it sticks to your
boots, nor so dry that it takes a lot of effort to break it up.
If the soil is too moist but you need to get on, then use planks to
stand on. These will distribute your weight and prevent
compaction. Break larger lumps of soil down by bashing them with
a fork, then use a rake to smooth out smaller lumps and create a fine
tilth, pushing and pulling the rake back and forth over the surface of
the soil to a depth of about 2.5cm. Tread the soil to firm it,
and apply an organic fertiliser, such as one based on seaweed, about
two weeks before sowing.
3. Sow in rows in the open ground seeds of round seeded spinach, Swiss
chard, early types of beetroot, carrots, parsnips, lettuce, Spring
onions, peas, broad beans and turnips. Try sowing the seed of the white
form of kohl rabi towards the end of the month.
4. Plant out onion sets, shallots and garlic before they start to
produce shoots. When buying reject any that are shooting they will only
bolt during the summer.
5. If you have the protection of a greenhouse sow the seed of celery,
celeriac, French beans (they are hardy enough to be planted out before
the runners), and cauliflowers to transplant on the open soil next
6. Clear the old leaves off strawberry plants and clean up the ground
in between the plants before giving them a top dressing of a general
fertiliser. Keep some fleece handy to protect the developing strawberry
flowers from frost. Any frost damaged flowers are easily identified as
they display a tell-tale “black eye” at the centre of the dead flower.
7.Plant out early cultivars of potatoes as soon as possible and follow
on planting out at regular intervals with the second earlies and first
maincrops until the end of the month..
8. Cover rhubarb with large pots or buckets to exclude light and force an earlier crop.
9. A different way to deal with snails and slugs is to use copper
piping to enclose a cabbage patch and apparently not a single slug and
snail will cross the boundary throughout the entire growing season. It
hardly needs saying that you need to check that there are none inside
the enclosure before you start, also that there are no overhanging
leaves that make a handy bridge as slugs and snails are surprisingly
athletic. Unlike the expensive copper tape sold in garden centres to
keep them off your Hostas, you can buy copper piping quite cheaply from
plumbers' merchants with the added advantage that it will last for
10.Growing tomatoes from seed is easy. In a greenhouse, sow seed
now; to crop outdoors, sow late March. Fill 9cm pots or a small
tray with moist seed compost. Space seeds 1.5cm apart and lightly cover
with vermiculite or sieved compost. Place in a propagator or
cover with a clear plastic bag. Seedlings should emerge in
about 5 days at 21degrees C. Move them to a well lit place such
as a heated greenhouse or windowsill at 18degrees C. After two
weeks prick out tray-sown plants into 9cm pots. Once 15cm tall,
keep above 12degrees C, ideally at 16degrees C. Wait until the
first flowers show colour before planting out, into grow bags, larger
containers or beds. Harden off plants well, and do not plant out
until after the risk of cold nights has passed.
Recipe of the Month
Roasted cauliflower soup with roast onions and rosemary
Makes a large batch
1 medium head of cauliflower, trimmed
1 pound potatoes, scrubbed
2 medium-large cooking onions, papery skin removed
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
2 tbsp oil
salt and pepper
juice of 1/3 of a lemon
5-6 cups vegetable stock
some kind of flavourful oil (truffle, extra virgin olive, walnut etc)
toasted and chopped nuts
chopped leafy herbs
squeezes of lemon
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Remove the core from the cauliflower and chop it into rough florets. Place the florets into a large baking dish.
Chop the potatoes into pieces about half the size of the cauliflower florets and toss them into the baking dish as well.
Chop the onions into rough 1-2 inch pieces and toss them into the dish. It doesn’t matter if the layers stick to each other.
Remove the leaves from the rosemary sprig and chop/mince them up.
Sprinkle the rosemary over the vegetables in the dish. Liberally salt
the vegetables and season with pepper to taste. Add the oil and toss
the vegetables until evenly coated with the oil, herb and seasoning.
Roast vegetables for about an hour, flipping and tossing them here and
there to promote even browning. When done, remove from the oven and
squeeze the 1/3 lemon over the hot vegetables, toss the vegetables with
the lemon juice, scraping the browned bits off the bottom.
Once the vegetables are cool enough for you to handle, start blending
them in batches with the stock. Purée until smooth and pour into a big
soup pot. Continue blending in batches until you’ve used up everything.
Heat the large soup pot full of purée over medium heat until it boils.
Add more stock or water to thin the soup out if necessary and adjust
seasoning to taste. Serve hot with optional garnishes.
Dates for your Diary
GUIDED GARDEN TOURS 2018
The Walled Garden at Loseley Park is considered to be one of the
loveliest in the South East of England. Garden tours can be arranged
for groups who are particularly interested in this aspect of Loseley
The tour will encompass all areas of the 2.5 acre Walled garden, from
the mulberry tree, reputedly planted by Queen Elizabeth I, through to
the recently developed Organic Vegetable garden. You will gain an
insight into the development and management of the Rose, Herb, Flower
and Vegetable Gardens and the tour will also take in the Moat Border
and Terrace, from where you can view the Wild Flower Meadow.
Tours last about 1 hour and are led by one of our very
knowledgeable Garden Guides. If your group’s particular interest
is the Organic Vegetable Garden, we can arrange for our
Gardener-in-Charge to lead your tour, if available.
Garden tours cost £3.50 pp plus Garden entry £6.50 pp
Please contact Joanna Phillips, Business Administrator and Receptionist, Loseley Park, 01483 405112, firstname.lastname@example.org
Celebrating the marigold
To highlight that 2018 has been named Year of the Marigold, RHS
Wisley is holding a trial of 143 cultivars. Visitors will be able
to vote for their favourite bloomer and the winner will be bestowed the
RHS People's Choice Award. rhs.org.uk/trials
Happy Gardening, Nicole