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Top March Allotment Tips

The spring bulbs are out, the birds are singing and there is a newfound feel-good factor in the world of allotments! This is one of my favourite times of the year as it’s full of optimism and promise.

After the deluges of midwinter, the soil is drying out nicely after a good few days of settled weather.

A good way to tell if the soil temperature is increasing is by observing weed seed germination. As soon as the first flush of weed seedlings emerges this is a key indicator.

Potatoes & Onion Sets

When the soil is ready, early varieties of chitted potatoes can be planted outside later this month, in well-drained soils. If your soil is heavy and slow to warm up, tubers can also be grown in pots. However you grow them, potatoes are very susceptible to frost. It is essential to keep a roll of frost protection fleece close to hand for when those young shoots emerge.

Unless the weather is inclement, onion sets and shallots can be planted directly in prepared soil now. Cover the sets with fleece or cloches to encourage root formation. This will also deter birds from disturbing them too much as they scratch around looking for grubs.

Raised Beds, Cold Frames & Early Seed Sowings

This month I’ll be preparing a couple of raised beds for early seed sowings from mid-April onwards. It is a good idea to warm the soil in the beds by covering it with black sheeting. The black absorbs the rays of the sun. The sheeting also acts as a magnet for slugs which can then easily be hand picked and dealt with.

Cloches or, portable polythene tunnels are great also for trapping heat in the soil as well as protecting the young seedlings. Crops such as beetroot, carrots, parsnip, radish and spring onions are all suitable candidates. Of course, this is all very weather-dependent. It is important we don’t get too gun ho, just yet!

The next three months are the busiest of the year for seed sowing both indoors and out. During March our main focus is on sowings under glass. A windowsill is fine and the young seedlings could then be grown on in a cold frame in a sunny position. Mini greenhouses are a real boon if you don’t have space for a larger greenhouse.

In my unheated greenhouse, the priority in early March is to sow seeds such as broad beans, brussel sprouts, summer cabbage, cauliflower, courgettes, cucumber, lettuce, leeks, pak choi, peppers, tomato and sweet corn. In the second half of the month, I’ll sow crops such as french and runner beans, pumpkin and squash.

It has been lovely to be able to work on the land recently. I’ve been pulling my sprout plants out of the ground and discarding them. Quite a lot of allotmenteers burn the stems to get rid of them. I’m not a big fan of fires on allotments. Instead, I chop any disease-free stalks into small pieces so the rotting process is quicker in the compost bins.

Any diseased material or roots showing signs of clubroot should not be composted. These can be incinerated, if your allotment site permits this or can be left to rot in a separate pile in an obscure corner of your plot.

A few garlic cloves that I omitted to harvest last summer have started to regrow. I’ve been transplanting these into a new row in already prepared soil. The yield may not be as high as last year, but a decent crop should ensue. They will supplement the new cloves that I purchased and planted in the Autumn.

Spare A Final Thought for Blossom!

Finally, do keep an eye on the blossom belonging to apricots, peaches and nectarines. It can be damaged by frost. It is worthwhile covering the tree with frost protection fleece if a frost coincides with the blossom being out. Alternatively, if you are lucky enough to have the space, why not grow a dwarf peach tree in pot in a polytunnel like my neighbour does!

We hope you have enjoyed our March allotment tips and make sure you come back for more in April.

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About Lee Senior

Lee Senior is an experienced horticultural writer, RHS Yorkshire in Bloom judge and horticultural consultant. He has also had an allotment for over 25 years. After initially spurning horticulture as a career option, to pursue his boyhood dream of becoming a train driver, Lee soon realised he couldn't resist getting his hands dirty to make a living. Horticultural College training led, to getting an allotment at the tender age of 18 (in the days when you could actually get a plot quickly). My gardening hero, is Geoff Hamilton" says Lee. "It was Geoff who convinced me that you didn't have to spray everything that moved in the garden. Watching him on Gardeners’ World in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s was a revelation. I was lucky enough to meet Geoff and I’ve also more recently had the pleasure of meeting Joe Swift. Now over two decades of practical experience has taught me to work with mother nature, not to fight against her and don't try to tame her, as so many gardeners seem to be on a mission to do. Small-scale food growing is my passion and I can't wait for my two daughters, one who is 8 years old and the other who is 5 to hopefully pick up the baton in the future. Nothing beats the flavour and satisfaction of growing your own food. You simply cannot buy the same quality and freshness. Everyone can have a go at growing something says Lee, no matter where they live. Lee has also written his two books; 'Pennine Way, The Highs and Lows' which is a humorous, personal account of walking this momentous iconic walk. His second book 'Walking in the Aire', features 14 short walks in Yorkshire.

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