Springing into action with the equinox

The Spring Equinox fall this year on Tuesday 20th March. Whilst the meteorologists disagree, most people call this the first day of spring. Plants, especially annual food crops really notice that after this date the night is shorter than the day and begin to put on growth. (Unfortunately, this also applies to annual weeds.)  It’s time for us gardeners to get busy!

This week, we will be digging shallow trenches and installing irrigation systems into all our vegetable beds. (There are about 10 of them.)

In the ‘legumes’ bed in the lower garden we will plant out our broad beans which were started off in the greenhouse and are now sturdy little plants. In the ‘brassica’ bed we will be thinning out the rows of spring cabbages.

We will be planting onions sets in the upper four crop ‘roots’ bed. Onion sets are a way of getting this year’s onions off to a fast start by planting small onions rather than onion seeds. (It is similar to starting to grow a new strawberry plant from a runner rather than from a seed.) By doing this you can miss out on the more vulnerable stages of development in the young plant’s life when it is far more likely to be eaten in one bite by a passing slug or snail!

We will be sowing more vegetable and flower seeds in the more protected environment of the unheated upper greenhouse. It is interesting to note that at this time of the year the main protection the greenhouse offers is shelter from wind and snow, but very little extra heat as anyone who has been in the greenhouse these past few days can testify!

Our small chilli and tomato seedlings need regular watering, (mainly because we are giving them some bottom heat to help them get off to a good start with nice strong root development.) The heat means that the soil dries out more quickly than with the seedlings growing in unheated compost, so we need to be careful not to stress the chilli and tomatoes by causing them to wilt and experience drought conditions. Seedlings, especially those in heated propagators need close monitoring.

In the cold frames in the lower garden the most hardy of cuttings, our hardwood cuttings are beginning to sprout. This kind of cutting uses the energy stored in one year old woody stems for their initial growth. So rather like seeds, they have a built in energy supply, which is why we place them in damp sand for a number of months until they start to sprout. The sand ensures that they do not dry out and also that the area where new roots will grow is well aerated. Then once the cuttings start to develop shoots they quickly need to be removed from the moist nutrient free sand and planted into compost which has nutrients to support the new growth.

We will check the hardwood cuttings to see if any are ready for potting up. (The majority of the hardwood cuttings are roses and white currants.)

In other news

Cat is running a willow weaving workshop on Easter Sunday 1st April from 11am to 12.30pm.  This is a great opportunity to learn to make willow plant supports and protectors under Cat’s skilful tuition. For more information and booking go here

Helen and Cathy are running lots of great activities for children during the Easter holidays from April 3rd through to April 11th including Nature Explorers (for under 5s),  How to be a Gardener, Easter Printmaking, Woodland Explorers (for under 5s) Signs of Spring (for under 5s). For more information and booking go here

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