|Bumble bee on French marigold flower||Hoverflies also love single French marigold flowers||Moth on single marigold|
What you can sow now In a heated propagator for growing in the polytunnel or greenhouse
(for growing on later in the polytunnel or greenhouse)
Aubergines - (early in the month - Bonica F1 is best - this top of RHS trials & AGM about 15 years ago - I don't bother to grow any other now as it's by far the most reliable), alpine strawberries (Reugen a great var.), globe artichokes, (if sown early in the month, they'll crop outside in autumn this year), dwarf French beans for cropping in pots or in tunnel beds later (choose a fast growing, disease-resistant variety suitable for early sowing), asparagus, celery, celeriac (early in month) tomatoes, chilli and other peppers, physalis (Cape gooseberries). From mid-March onwards you can sow early courgettes for tunnel growing, and then later in the month melons and cucumbers for warm tunnel cropping. Don't forget melons and cucumbers need to be grown on in consistently warmer conditions than tomatoes to be successful - they grow very fast and hate to be checked (this applies to pumpkins & squashes too - so wait until next month to sow them in pots for growing outside).
Also sow some single-flowered tender annuals now like Tagetes, single French marigolds (Tall Citrus Mixed' is a good variety), etc.- lots of vital beneficial insects like bees, hoverflies, butterflies and moths really love these. Remember that by growing single flowers organically you won't just be helping to preserve them - but they will also help you - by helping with your pest control and pollination.
Note - It's vitally important that they are SINGLE flowered, as bees, hoverflies and other insects can't access the nectaries of double flowers to feed - so those flowers are completely useless to them! They then have to fly elsewhere to find food. When their energy supplies are low, wasting time trying to get nectar from useless flowers can make the difference between life and death for many small insects!
In pots or modules in the polytunnel without heat, or direct in tunnel soil as soon as you feel it's warm enough:
(If weed seeds are germinating - then the soil is warm enough for most things that don't need very high temperatures for germination)
Beetroot, broad beans and peas, spring and summer cabbage, calabrese, carrots, white turnips and radishes (in the soil for an early tunnel crop), onions, chives, Welsh (perennial salad) onions, scallions, leeks, lettuces and salad mixes early in the month, kales, rocket, spinach and coloured Swiss chards etc for baby leaves, fennel and 'soft herbs' like borage, parsley, dill, Greek oregano, salad burnet and coriander.
Other single flowered annuals like limnanthes, convulvulus tricolour and calendula (pot marigold) can also be sown direct into the soil in beds now. Keep an eye out for hungry mice - they love pea and bean seeds - it's a good idea to put down a trap - but cover to avoid trapping small birds like wrens and robins.
If you have space now in the tunnel or greenhouse where you'll be planting tomatoes in May - then you just have time to sow a green manure:
'Caliente' mustard (generally available now, or from Marshalls and Unwins seeds - one packet will easily sow a bed about 20ft x 4ft.) This mustard is a very usefulgreen manure as it acts as a 'biofumigant' by releasing a natural plant phytochemical as a gas - called isothiocyanate. This suppresses a range of soil-borne diseases and harmful nematodes - it also encourages beneficial bacteria and soil micro-organisms, adds nutrients and really encourages worm activity. It's particularly helpful where the soil has previously grown tomatoes before. A couple of weeks before planting the tomatoes - cut it down - chopping it up as finely as possible in order to release all it's beneficial compounds and then fork it in immediately - before the resulting gases escape. Then cover it with black polythene to seal the gases in. (see this month's polytunnel section). As it's a member of the brassica (or cabbage) family - make sure that it fits into your minimum 4-course rotation even though it will only be there for a short time.
Phacelia is another fast-growing 'soft' green manure worth sowing now if you have space - this can also be dug in after just one months growth, will break down quickly and it isn't rotation sensitive, so it can be used anywhere. Leaving one or two plants to produce their pretty scented blue flowers later on will also really bring in the insects too!
Red clover is also useful, as being a leguminous plant, it fixes 'free' atmospheric nitrogen which it concentrates in nodules on it's roots, made by beneficial microbes. This is then released for the following crop (leave a few to flower for bees - they adore them!). Studies also show that growing a legume crop between tomato plants boosts their disease-resistance.
Borage also makes a good, very fast growing green manure with a long tap root which draws up valuable minerals such as magnesium from lower down in the soil profile - it breaks down easily when dug in and encourages good worm activity, as does claytonia(or winter purslane).
What you can sow this month outside, if you have ground covered with cloches - or undercover now for planting outside later:
In modules under cover without heat, in a cold frame, or under cloches - or when the soil is dry enough and has warmed up later in the month, unprotected in the open (covering with fleece on frosty nights) you can sow:
Beetroot, broad beans, carrots, mangetout and early peas, parsnips, late spring and summer cabbages, red cabbage, early Brussels sprouts, cauliflowers, calabrese and summer sprouting broccoli, onions (plant onion sets in pots for an early crop), leeks, spring onions, lettuces, kohl rabi, Ragged Jack and Cavolo Nero kales for baby leaves, radishes, Swiss chard, summer spinach, white turnips, American land cress, lamb's lettuce, salad mixes, 'soft' herbs like borage, parsley, dill, fennel, Greek oregano and coriander. There's a lot of nonsense talked about germinating parsley, but it just likes to be warm and usually takes about 3 weeks to germinate at anytime of year - it always appears just when you think it's not going to!
It's also worth sowing some single, early flowering annuals in the open ground or in modules - such as limnanthes (poached egg plant), calendula, cerinthe, convulvulus tricolor, borage, red clover and phacelia. They'll attract beneficial insects to help with pest control, encourage bees into the garden for pollination and also look beautiful - which is very important too.
There's still just time to plant garlic early in the month. Only plant varieties clearly labelled as 'suitable for spring planting'' now - such as 'Cristo'.
Plant Jerusalem artichokes and also early potatoes in warm well drained soils protecting from frost with fleece later (see veg. garden section). These will crop early enough to completely avoid blight. If your ground conditions aren't suitable - you could alternatively start them off in pots for an early crop - I do this with all of mine now. You can also start off Yacon, Oca, Mashua and Ulluco tubers inside in pots of well-drained peat-free compost now for planting in the polytunnel or outside later - protect these carefully from frost when they start to produce shoots!
PS! Don't forget that these are just suggestions for what you could sow now - not what you must! I found a checklist/reminder like this invaluable when I was just starting many years ago - and I still do! Someone actually once complained that I gave far too much information!! So I thought I'd make that quite clear! You can't please everyone - and all the information is free!
AND REMEMBER MY ADVICE. - IF YOU'RE SHORT OF TIME - JUST GET THE SEEDS SOWN! YOU CAN CATCH UP WITH EVERYTHING ELSE LATER BUT NOT THAT! TIME WAITS FOR NO MAN! (Or woman!)
Funny how we spend our time wishing away winter - then wishing everything would happen more slowly in spring - gardeners are never happy!
(P.S. I really enjoy sharing my original ideas and 40 years experience of growing and cooking my own organic food with you. It's most satisfying and naturally also very complimentary if others find "inspiration" in my work......But if you do happen to copy any of my material, or repeat it in any way online - I would appreciate it very much if you would please mention that it originally came from me, as it's the result of many years of hard work and often hard won-experience. Thank you.)