March in rearview mirror

Crocusses "Vanguard" & "Flower Record"

Whenever chatting with gardeners in spring, you are likely to hear things like: “The weather is two weeks ahead.” Or behind. Or whatever. It makes me wonder what spring ever became the ideal that every subsequent spring is measured against? I don’t know, so I find it hard to judge how much behind or ahead we are. This year however, I have something to contribute to the discussion: this year’s spring is at least four weeks ahead of last year’s. And I have a proof!

ornamental plums flowering

Those two pictures of flowering ornamental plums were taken from our bedroom window: the one on the left was taken mid April last year. The one on the right was taken two weeks ago.

March is always a pretty busy month, work-wise and garden-wise, but this year because all plants (and weeds) are in such a rush to grow up, it has been even more so. I have been sowing and weeding, writing several articles, giving lectures (on ornamental edible gardening and on permaculture) and teaching a course on edible forest gardens.

I have also taken two courses myself that I greatly enjoyed. One was on grafting fruit trees, something I had always wanted to learn. I came home with six interesting varieties grafted on dwarfing rootstocks: 3 apples (Pinova, Greensleeves, Champagne Reinette) and 3 pears (Herzogin Elsa, Red Williams, Coference). I planted the trees on our allotment and am waiting for them to show signs of life, fingers crossed.

 

bonbonatelier _janssen

The second was a bonbon making workshop at Bonbonatelier Jansen in the beautiful medieval city of Zutphen. Whenever I am in Zutphen I stop by to buy some of their excellent pralines. Alas, Zutphen is not exactly around the corner, so I thought learning to make them myself would be a good idea. I went with my dear friend Annemarie who also appreciates a good chocolate and we learned to make marzipan bonbons and started to penetrate the mystery of tempering chocolate.

pralines

Mr Jansen, the great chocolatier,  explained about his dark chocolate combining beans from Tanzania and Kenya for a fruity flavor with an acidic aftertaste and how two batches can never be exactly the same because the flavor, as in wine, is hugely influenced by weather and soil.

potting shed

At home, there’s a lot of sowing going on and then potting on as the plants emerge. This year I am growing 5 tomato varieties: Orange Currant, Matt’s Wild Cherry (a wild tomato), Ferline (blight resistant), Ida Gold (very early) and Losetto (also resistant). I hope that at least some of them can cope with whatever summer is coming our way.

tomato seedlings

 I also remembered to use my block maker, and sowed my beets in soil blocks this time.

soil block maker

 On the allotment, we covered the paths with a new layer of wood chips and added two new raised beds. They are made from Douglas pine which is naturally weather resistant and measure 3 x 1.2 meters. One of them is destined to house our Garden Connect experiment. We re still harvesting lots of salad leaves, mainly from the cold frame and a bed covered with horticultural fleece.

allotment in Marchnew raised bedsharvesting salad leaves

The soil is already pretty warm and I have direct sown carrots, parsnips, onions, radishes and lots of Oriental greens. The broad beans sown in February under fleece are finally coming up too. The possibly most important job was accomplished yesterday though – putting up a fence along the back of our plot. The rabbits are probably trying to find a weak spot in the fence right now and I sincerely hope they will not find any!

edible forest garden in springbee on fruit tree

In our edible forest garden at home,  Mirabelle de Nancy is flowering. It is right next to my cloth line and the sweet scent of the flowers and the humming of bees make hanging the cloths a pleasure. We’re enjoying the flowering spring bulbs, lots of crocuses and narcissi. We are already harvesting some of the early perennial vegetables, wild garlic and sorrel, among others. Pictured bellow are narcissi “Sir Winston Churchill” with perennial kale in the background.

narcissi and perennial kale

 

Spring, you’re so much fun!

 

 

4 comments for “March in rearview mirror

  1. Sally Marrable
    22/04/2016 at 19:43

    Hi Vera, I just realised that I did not say that County Galway Is in Ireland. Sally

  2. Sally Marrable
    19/04/2016 at 23:13

    Hi Vera I found out about you and your garden in British Permaculture magazine from Spring and Summer issues 2011. I really like what you are doing and I appreciate your “What to do this month” feature. I live in County Galway, about 25km from the West coast, we are at the forefront of all the Atlantic weather and our climate is cooler, wetter and less sunshine than you might get. Your March seed and sowing list is more like our April list. I cannot grow tomatoes, peppers etc outside, a glasshouse or polytunnel (hoophouse) is required.
    I want to ask about the soil in your beds at the 220 square m allotment, do you dig out the paths and put the soil in the beds or get soil from another location?
    I had not heard of polyculture before I read your blog, today I bought a selection of seeds including mustard/oriental leaves and am going to try the technique. Thank you for a most interesting site.

    • vera@gtc
      20/04/2016 at 09:58

      Hi Sally, hearing that I should be more grateful for our climate 🙂 Nice to hear you are going to try the polyculture – I would love to hear how it works for you!
      About the raised beds: normally we put in some soil from the paths as we even them out, but also a lot of compost (home made). I do not import any soil to fill them up. In our new garden (http://www.growntocook.com/?p=5693) we filled the beds with compost left behind by the previous tenants. We had to sift out lots of nettle roots and pieces of plastic and other rubish so it was a lot of work (and the quality is not ideal) but we did not have to bring in materials from elsewhere. Our beds are 2,8 x 1,2 m and I put about 5-6 wheelbarrows of compost in each.
      In the subsequent years, the beds will fill up more as we add new compost, manure and mulches. Hope that helps!

      • Sally Marrable
        22/04/2016 at 19:37

        Thank you very much for the information, I enjoy all the photo’s that you post of the produce that you pick, very inspiring.
        Good growing in 2016.

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