Stephanie's Kitchen Garden Diary - March 2012

Stephanie's Kitchen Garden Diary - 31st March 2012


Dare I say it but is Spring finally here??  After all the wind and rain from earlier in the month this has now given way to sunny days and chilly nights but Gardener’s World is back on the telly so it must be here. Shush I tell myself or it may disappear again!  

The most exciting season of the year for gardeners is upon us and even all the anticipation and pre-planning doesn’t prepare us for the arrival of seed sowing time and the emergence of activity in the kitchen garden. All the seedlings and young plants are jostling for space and only the fit and healthy justify their place and live to see another day.  The clocks have now gone forward which really heralds the start of Spring and we relish the extra hour of daylight at the end of the day - read on and find out what has been going on in Stephanie’s Kitchen Garden or should I say greenhouse during March.

With the ground and raised beds prepared and warming up under fleece, plastic and cloches the majority of the month has seen Lynn (Stephanie’s Kitchen Gardener) camped out in the greenhouse busy sowing, pricking out and potting on seeds in the comfort of the warm and sunny (well most days) greenhouse. 

With the radio playing in the background thoughts of the kitchen garden full of delicious fruit, vegetables and herbs in a few months time is never far from her mind. The gardening year comes around quickly and here we are sowing leek seeds whilst we still have last year’s leeks still in the ground. They certainly occupy the ground for a long time but fully justified in my opinion, one of the most versatile vegetables around, standing proud in lines throughout the Autumn & Winter months.

Well back to seeds – this is what we have sown this month in the greenhouse, last month’s sowings have been potted on, when you read the list you will see why we are full to the brim.... where are those cold frames we need to make more room!  Check out our Organic Seed range on the website -

Aubergine ‘Rosa Bianca’, ‘Thai Round Green’
Beetroot – ‘Boltardy’ & ‘Detroit’
Borlotti Beans – ‘Lingua di Fuoco’
Broad Beans – ‘Super Aquadulce’
Broccoli – ‘Santee F1’
Brussels Sprouts – ‘Igor’
Carrot – ‘Early Nantes’
Chard – ‘Beet Rhubarb’
Chilli – ‘Anaheim’
Cucumber – ‘Tanja’, ‘Picolino’ & ‘Melen F1’
Kohl Rabi – ‘Logo’
Leek – ‘Hilari’
Lettuce – ‘Valdor’
Pak Choi
Pea – ‘Ambassador’, ‘Rondo’ & ‘Hurst Greenshaft’
Rocket – ‘Wild’ & ‘Cultivated’
Tomato – ‘Golden Sweet F1’, ‘Golden Delight’, ‘Alexandros’, ‘Pomodoro San Marzano’ ‘Super Marmande’

Sown Herbs:-
Basil – ‘Sweet Genovese’, ‘Red Ruben’ & ‘Thai Basil’
Coriander – ‘Slow Bolt’
Parsley – ‘Italian Big Leaf’

Re-Potted Perennial Herbs:
Garlic Chives

Believe it or not after writing about all the seed sowing activity above Lynn has also been busy in the kitchen garden ticking off quite a few jobs from the ever growing things-to-do list.

Slugs are stirring now from their winter slumber hiding under hedges, pots and damp places including soil so the first application of the Nematode based biological control has been made to stop them in their tracks.  Nemaslug has been applied around all the beds with particular attention to the box hedging where slugs seem to hang out. 

We had a problem last year in a new raised bed we set up for Asparagus – brassicas were planted there to overwinter but vine weevil larvae decimated some of the crops.  I’m thinking this came in with the new soil so an application of Nemasys has been applied just in case.  The new Asparagus ‘Gijnlim’ plants will be arriving in a few days so that will need the best start possible without any predators waiting to nibble away at the roots.

The potato bed is ready and the well rotted manure that has been laying on the top has now been turned over and mixed in.  With crop rotation this year’s potato bed is smaller than last year’s so all the 1st & 2nd earlies have been planted out in potato planters.  Growth has already started to come through so they have been earthed up in the bags.  All the main potatoes are chitting well and will soon be ready for planting out with a sprinkling of Organic Potato Fertiliser to help them on their way.

It’s a sure sign that the soil is warming up because the weeds have started to grow.  The leek, garlic and spinach beds have all required weeding these last few weeks.  If you have fleece down don’t forget to check underneath for weeds, you will be surprised how many are there already.

The sweet peas have been nurtured and nipped out and are happily growing strong roots in the excellent rootrainers - they are ready to be planted out now up our new steel framed obelisks. Only dilemma is which to choose.... pyramid, round or square column – think we’ll have all three!

An early variety of Strawberry (‘Gariguette’) have been planted up in troughs in the greenhouse, hopefully we will get an earlier crop.  The young plants have got flowers on already so we may be in luck.  The mid and late varieties – ‘Hapil’ & ‘Sonata’ (mid) and ‘Symphony’ late have been planted outside in well prepared beds under cloches to combat these chilly nights and frosts.  We also have more strawberries on strawberry tables in the fruit cage so hopefully no shortage of this sweet and wonderful fruit this year. Once the flowers are formed they will need feeding with high potash food (either sprinkle ash from the woodburner around the base of the plants or liquid feed with tomato feed once a week). Tip - Don’t forget to net as the birds love them too! 

These low height Slot & Lock® Black Coated Aluminium Strawberry Cage are brilliant for protecting strawberries and other low growing vegetables from the birds they look stylish too!  Will definitely be getting some of these here at the kitchen garden!

An early crop of Climbing French Beans v. ‘Cobra’ have been sown and planted in the greenhouse.  Growing up a cane wigwam – with the warmth and sunlight in the greenhouse these will romp away and hopefully be ready in 2 months time.  Luckily these are self pollinating so safe to grow inside we don’t need bees for these!

March has been a good month for trialling out the range of pop up cloches we have on offer.  Try this Pop-Up Grow Cloche or these Frost Cloches both ideal for warming up the soil too – Lynn is very impressed with these and the fact that they fold flat for storage and has been using them to protect pots of perennial herbs (see photos).

What is happening next month in Stephanie’s Kitchen Garden:
•    With the hose pipe ban now effective we are busy installing yet more water butts and making sure that all our irrigation systems are set up and running.  Luckily our water butts are full from rainfall during March but these soon empty once serious watering gets going.
•    Main crop potatoes will be planted out and earthed up as they grow.
•    Pest Control kicks up a gear with 6 weekly application of Nemaslug and Advanced Slug Control Pellets sprinkled around to combat the snails.
•    More seed sowing, this month including the first of our courgette & squash seeds, we are trying some new varieties and going vertical too!
•    Plant sweet peas out to climb up the new Obelisks.
•    Sowing Companion plants – Marigolds & Nasturtiums

And if you intend to spend more time in the garden growing your own, you can pick up loads of handy tips by using the expertise we've got to hand. We're always here to offer advice and support - just e-mail kitchen gardener Lynn, pest control expert Julian Ives and horticulturist, Master Composter and Tweeter Martin Fiddes (also known as our Ask the Expert panel) and they'll do their best to help!   

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Our 116-page Spring 2012 catalogue is out now and it's packed full of gardening ideas, products and solutions to the problems every gardener faces. There's even a 19 page Garden Structure section for all your arches, obelisks, plant supports and much more - if you haven't already, request a copy and find it on your doormat in a couple of days time.

Just before I go for this month, have you seen all the ladybirds hibernating in your garden?  They sure do find some unusual places to sleep (see photo), they are everywhere in the kitchen garden at the moment but I’m not complaining as they are a natural predator for aphids.

Wishing you successful seed sowing!