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GARDENING: Return to life as seasons begin to change

March 2nd, 2024 8:00 AM

By Southern Star Team

GARDENING: Return to life as seasons begin to change Image
Sow a few seeds of one variety of tomato per pot.

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THIS is such a nice time in the garden. It’s a time for close attention and enjoying all the small changes that are taking place. Stop and listen to the bird song and enjoy the display of early flowering bushes and trees. You might also hear a few bees starting to get back to work on a sunny day. 

The changes are small, as I say, but it means you appreciate things now, that you might overlook when things get more busy in the coming weeks.

Garden furniture

It’s maybe too early to put out the tables and chairs, but it is a good time to look them over and see if they need a bit of care. Sand and treat wooden items to extend their life. Metal may need a touch up to limit rust and any fabrics will benefit from a wash. You can refresh tired items and make them last for another few years. Remember to check and repair any broken parts so everything is strong enough to do the intended job.

Once all is finished, it’s worth putting a seat or two in sheltered spots outdoors. You can sit out and enjoy the garden even on a cold day and you can take a break from any jobs that you have underway.

Early sowings

If you have a greenhouse or polytunnel and like to raise your own plants, then this is a busy time. You can, of course, buy in young plants in a month or two and these will grow on just fine. But it is cheaper, and you have a much bigger choice of variety, if you raise your own plants from seeds. 

Tomatoes, peppers and aubergines can all be sown now. All need some extra heat so sow in a light place indoors, or use a propagator set to keep a steady temperature around 20C. Use a good potting compost and sow a few seeds per pot to start off. Healthy seedlings can be pricked out into individual pots when big enough to handle and you can choose how many to grow on.

You can sow early beetroot, Brussels sprouts and leeks, in cells or trays in the next couple of weeks. I start these seeds in an unheated propagator in the polytunnel. They don’t need high temperatures to germinate, but it’s best to provide an extra cover or a little warmth if temperatures drop below 5C. Early sowings give early crops although March sowings can be more reliable if you don’t mind waiting a little longer for lighter days and a bit more warmth. 

Tomato thoughts

Use frozen tomatoes while they taste good.


Sowing tomato seed now is a reminder to check the bags of tomatoes in the freezer from last year. It’s a good idea to use these over the next month if you can. If you freeze tomatoes picked fresh from the plant, they don’t last as well as blanched or cooked ones. They start to lose flavour if you leave them until May, so use them soon while they are still tasty. You can of course make a sauce and freeze this if you want to make your supply of tomatoes last longer.

Peas and broad beans

I had quite a battle this winter with rats digging up my autumn planted peas and beans. The beasts got into the polytunnel and found what they like to eat. The tops of plants were left scattered and the seeds at the base were eaten.

 There are always rats and mice in any garden and I’m sure they have visited my tunnel before, although I have never lost whole rows of young plants in this way. The culprits were caught and the problem ceased. I sowed more seed and have young plants now to replace the damaged ones. 

You can sow spring sowing varieties of peas and beans now in pots in a greenhouse or polytunnel and plant young plants outdoors when they are big enough. It’s a little too early to sow direct outdoors – seeds will rot if the soil is wet and cold. I like to prepare the ground now and put up cloches (a type of transparent protective cover) to warm the soil. I then sow seed direct in rows under the cloches around the middle of March.

Pick and use leaves from over-wintered lettuce plants.


Over-wintered lettuce

Seed sown in early autumn will have produced small plants (that probably didn’t grow much through the coldest months). They do put on a growth spurt as daylight stretches out and you can start picking and using a few leaves from each plant. Leaves can turn bitter if you let the plant form a large head, and they may start to bolt, so pick and use leaves while they are still small and sweet.

Sow a few spring varieties now in pots. These will be ready to plant out later in March.

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