Spring is on its way – the longer daylight hours and warmer soils make for a busy time for the vegetable gardener as the majority of vegetable seeds are sown early in the year.
But, do remember not to get sowing too soon as the weather here can still be very cold and frosty.
As seed packets provide guidance for sowing throughout Britain, it is worth remembering, as spring arrives later and autumn comes sooner in Scotland.
Therefore, it is best to select the middle of the suggested time range given and, in some cases, this can mean delaying the bulk of seed sowing until April, May and June.
Crops that do germinate at low temperatures include broad beans, peas and some brassicas such as cabbage, kale and radish. When the ground is workable – not too wet or frozen – these can be sown outside.
Cover the seeds with a cloche or fleece to provide some extra protection from the elements.
If your garden is particularly warm and sheltered, or you have a polytunnel or greenhouse, it may be possible now to sow a range of hardy crops such as beetroot, carrots, chard, lettuce, parsnips and spinach.
While tomatoes, chillies, leeks, celery and celeriac will not germinate at low temperatures they can be sown on a warm windowsill or heated propagator to ensure that they have a long season to grow. The seedlings can be planted out later on in the year.
Towards the end of the month, if the soil has warmed up, it is time to start planting early potatoes, onions and shallot sets. Early potatoes need protecting from frost so mound up the soil over newly emerged shoots, this is known as ‘earthing up’. Alternatively cover with a fleece if frost is forecast.
Newly planted onion and shallot sets will need protecting from birds that have a habit of pulling them out of the ground. It can be very disheartening to find all your carefully planted onion sets scattered over the soil. Cover with a net until they are established to deter the blackbirds.
Many plants are starting to grow but you may also notice that the weeds are starting to germinate, so finish preparing soil for sowing; dig out perennial weeds and apply organic matter.
Select windy, sunny, days to hoe: the weeds will be dehydrated quickly and fail to re-establish.
Dig in overwintering green manures so they have chance to break down before spring seed sowing. Erect supports for peas and beans; make sure they are strong enough to withstand high winds.
Finally, remember that March is your last opportunity to carry out winter pruning and plant bare root fruit trees and bushes before they go into leaf.
This advice was brought to you by the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh. www.rbge.org.uk
(This feature was originally published in 2016)