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Beware the Ides of March

Alan Parsons

12 Mar 2019

For gardeners this time of year brings great promise but also dangers. The ides of March – traditionally March 15th in the Roman Calendar – could be freezing cold or unseasonably hot, which we must take as a warning not to get ahead of ourselves in planting out into the garden.

Last year April was slightly colder than average (about 10 degrees) but later in the month a very hot spell was followed by a very cold and wet spell. So do not be tempted to plant out too early.

Of course, this does not mean that we should not make a start in getting seeds going and prepare for another growing year. Tomatoes and herbs can be started off in seed trays at the end of March if kept on window sills, avoiding direct sun if possible. Once they have started to germinate keep in a light airy area and water with a sprayer to avoid soaking. If you have the space dwarf beans and runner beans amongst others can be started off in cold frames or outside if warm enough, though cover up if frost is likely. I gave up my allotment last year but even in our small garden I can still grow plenty of vegetables and herbs for the kitchen. A ten inch pot is ideal for a courgette plant and will provide a good crop if looked after – two is even better! If you have a space in front of a sunny wall then a grow bag at the bottom would make a good spot for anything from French beans to Swiss Chard to Sugar Snap peas. Last year we had great success with trailing tomato plants which we put in hanging baskets. We purchased the hanging baskets directly from a garden centre with the tomatoes already growing.

Another thing that we had a success with last year was the herb ladder, as shown in the photo. I made this one but there are kits available online or you can try the DIY stores. This is near our back door and provides a steady supply of herbs for the kitchen. If you want to grow mint then it is best in a pot anyway which can be put on a ladder such as this, as it spreads very quickly in the garden. Use the biggest pot you have space for herbs as smaller pots dry out quickly.

Don’t forget our feathered friends. Very cold weather can decimate bird numbers so we put up hanging feeders throughout the spring until the trees are fully in leaf. By that time there should be enough caterpillars and other bugs for the birds to feed to their young. We have had a bird box in our garden for six years that has never been used. This year a couple of blue tits have been going in and out, so hopefully 2019 will see our first bird family arrive. It is going to be an exciting year, so lets get started!

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