What to Sow in March and early to mid spring
There are plenty of seeds to sow in March, but I want to start by reminding you that you need to adjust your sowing times according to your area and to the weather. There’s absolutely no point in sowing seeds that are not going to germinate. You will just need to re-sow at a later date. So have a look online, check your frost dates. Plant accordingly because if you sow seeds now, you will need to get them outside in a few weeks time. You don’t want to be putting them out into frosty or snowy ground.
Last month I talked about some of the seeds that you could sow with heat and under cover, but in March there are some seeds that you can get straight out into the ground. No seeds are going to do well unless the growing conditions are right for them. So to prepare the ground you could cover it with some fleece for a couple of weeks or with some black plastic or cardboard to warm the soil a little before you start sowing seeds.
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You can sow beetroot, otherwise known as beets under cover or in the open. I do this so that there is a staggered harvest. I cover my soil in early March to warm it up and then from mid-March I will sow beet seeds. Beetroots are available in a number of colors including Golden, purple like Cylindra or Boltardy, pink striped like Chioggia and white. Check the recommended sowing times on the seed packets as they can vary with the variety.
If you’re buying seeds in packets – nearly every packet has a sowing guide on them. It is only a guide and so don’t rush to get things into the ground. Seeds planted two or three weeks later will catch up just as well.
Brussels sprouts can be started now. Sow them in a seed bed outside, allow them to grow on a little bit and then in a few weeks time they can be transplanted or you can thin them to the correct spacing in bed that they’re in. For 2020 I grew a varieties called Idemar and Evesham Special, both grew well and gave a good harvest.
There are a couple of cabbages to sow in the open now. In February I sowed Filderkraut under cover and that is the summer cabbage with pointy tops. I really liked the flavour of it, both cooked and in coleslaw. The other cabbage that I prefer is Savoy cabbage, a variety called Vertus. Sow from mid-March onwards outside. Again pop them in to a seed bed and when they’re large enough the handle – about four true leaves, you can get them into their permanent place.
Don’t forget to protect from cabbage white butterfly and cabbage moth. I protect brassicas without using chemicals by using a netting system. I push piping into the ground on each side of the bed and get some netting over it and hold that down with bits of wood or pin it down to stop the butterflies getting in. That seems to work really well for us.
You can sow some carrots outside now, something like the Amsterdam Forcing either a Sprint or Solo. Because I want a succession of harvest, I also sow Nantes 2 every three weeks from March to the end of July.
Swiss Chard or Leaf beet
You can get some leafy greens like leaf beets into the ground now. I prefer a variety called Rainbow Mix or Five Colours and it is, as it suggests, five different colors. The leaves are either a deep red-purple colour or they are green. What is a different colour are the stems and the veining through the leaves and they come in red, white, yellow, pink and an orange colour and you can get a very, very deep red color, which is Ruby Chard. Leaf beet or Swiss chard is great for using in salads and in stir-fry.
These leaves are actually much more versatile than I expected them to be. Not very long ago on the television, I saw someone putting spinach into a cake! It might be worth trying leaf beet leaves in a cake. It’s a sneaky way to get some more greens into your family.
A packet of Mixed Leaf lettuce will provide a whole variety of different shapes, colours and textures of leaves. I find that really useful because I like to pick my salads as cut and come again, so taking a few leaves from around outside of the plant and leaving it to grow a little longer. That way I find I get a longer harvesting period and I’m not wasting any leaves in the kitchen. Now this isn’t a new idea and if you watch Charles Dowding‘s videos you’ll know that he takes leaves from around the outside of the plants and allows the center to continue growing.
I grow a variety of lettuce called Winter Density in polytunnel right through winter, and I’ve been harvesting them regularly. I started by just taking a few leaves from the outside and then in the depths of winter when I wasn’t hugely keen to be eating a lot of salad, I let them grow on. They really start to heart up. The outer leaves will be a little tough, they’re fine if they’re wilted. I just wilt them in a pan with a bit of butter or something like that and black pepper and an egg on top of them. I use them as a spinach replacement during the months when we don’t have much spinach available.
Another veg to plant in March is peas. I grow Oregon Sugar Pod as a mangetout – these are just delightful. And the way I sow peas is to create a shallow drill about six to eight inches wide, a couple of inches deep, down the whole length of the bed, and then to scatter in. You can put them in very neat rows, I tend to scatter my peas across that drill – almost a broad sowing of them – and then cover them over and then put either pea sticks or pea netting, depending on the variety.
If it’s a short variety that doesn’t grow too tall, pea sticks will do. I’ve been saving small corkscrew willow branches and twigs for use as pea sticks. Or if it’s a taller variety you might need to put up some netting and there are a whole load of different forms of support that you can create for peas, but pea netting is a very easy way of doing it.
And don’t forget, when you are thinking about what to sow in March, you can still sow everything I suggest in Seeds to sow in February with heat or under cover.
Seeds for March include
- Beetroot – Cylindra, Boltardy
- Brussels Sprouts – Idemar, Evesham
- Cabbages – Filderkraut, Vertus
- Carrots – Amsterdam Forcing, Nantes 2
- Leaf Beets – Five Colours
- Lettuce Leaf – Winter Density
- Peas – Mangetout Oregon Sugar Pod
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