'Tis the season to sow a veggie patch
Vegetable gardening is becoming an increasingly popular pastime, with more people choosing to grow their own organic produce instead of opting for shop-bought variants. It may require a little more effort than a quick trip to the grocery store, but the work and results are rewarding, you'll save money in the long run and you'll sleep easy knowing that what you're putting in your body is completely chemical free. It doesn't get more wholesome than home-grown and there's also something super satisfying about cooking with ingredients freshly harvested from your garden. As the days get shorter and the weather grows cooler, March is the ideal month for tidying, planting and sowing your seeds. Planted in autumn, vegetables will have a chance to establish themselves before the cold weather arrives. This time of year is great for veggies like beetroot, carrots, leeks, spinach, onions, broccoli, broad beans, peas, radishes and rhubarb. To help you get sowing the experts at GardenShop have shared a few handy tips.
Preparing your garden
- Remove summer crops by cutting them at soil level so that the roots can decompose and nourish the earth. This should be done two weeks before planting new seeds. Remove any other unwanted plants and weeds by forking over the area.
- Sprinkle the vegetable patch with compost, organic fertiliser and a generous cover of bone meal or hoof and horn meal to feed, aerate and improve the soil.
- Compost should be used on the surface as mulch, which retains moisture and moderates soil temperature as well as acting as a layer of protection against dew, frost and cold wind.
- Using dry autumn leaves and grass cuttings as mulch will also help to conserve water and keep weeds under control.
- Sow your seeds sparingly, cover with a thin layer of soil and press down firmly before watering.
- Enough water and compost are very important ingredients for a successful winter garden.
- Watering should be reduced to every second day, as long as the soil remains damp. In very windy conditions, you'll need to water daily.
- Plant quick- and slow-growing vegetables together, and harvest quick-growing vegetables as soon as they are ready.
- Insect problems should be treated with an organic remedy such as Margaret Roberts Organic Insecticide that breaks down within 12 hours.
- Harvest your vegetables in the cool winter mornings to preserve taste, and if you are freezing them, remember to put them straight into the refrigerator to prevent nutrient loss.