March digging


This month, find 10 minutes to sit outside and just breathe in spring. Glorious green shoots from hedgerows, roses, and emerging perennials. Yellows, creams, blues and pinks from all sorts of spring flower. And bumblebees – kamikaze type flying as they emerge from winter and fumble-fly in warm sunny moments. In our garden, I am finding all sorts of daffodil, crocus and primula I forgot I had planted so many months ago, but are now emerging under various bushes and corners of the garden.

Sowing seeds. Things are starting to get really busy in the greenhouse. We are trying to grow onion from seed this year, and it looks like red onion are much faster to germinate than white. Leek are now looking like a little carpet of grass in their tray. It always feels like a miracle to think in eight months they will be huge and ready to eat. Cosmos and other tender annuals are filling seed trays. Late March is the month when you are balancing the risk of taking over-wintering tender plants outside (including my sweet pea seedlings) to make room for new seedlings. I keep thinking “Why didn’t we get a bigger greenhouse?”. Upturned clear plastic storage bins will have to act as cold frames for some of our plants. I am going to try to plant vegetables like kale and peas and beetroot in trays under this cover for an early start.

In the allotment, various people are already covering their soil with polythene, fleece and even old carpet to warm it up ready for planting. We are repairing our old cloches to ensure newly planted out seedlings will cope in the still chilly nights.

The allotment committee decided to bring renewal to the apple orchard last year. And March is the month we were given the OK to pick up an apple tree from a local fruit grower. I love the experience of meeting passionate growers. At any plant fair I end up discussing for hours how to create an auricular theatre; methods for ripening melons, or the breeding of the best daffodils. Naturally, when I helped to pick up our allotment tree, I found myself dreaming of my very own apple tree. Not just a one-variety apple tree. But a little family of apples on one, carefully selected root stock.

Welcome to the extraordinary world of fruit tree growers. In this case, Brogdale Nurseries in Kent. They are going to try to graft together three kinds of apple for me on a medium sized root stock: Ellison’s Orange, Queen Cox, and a cooker which will “get along” with the other two. Donna, from Brogdales, was very patient with my enquiry and she has warned it will take months – even up to a year – for my tree to be ready. And, her team may need to look after the tree through next winter, just to make sure it is happy and growing well, isn’t that extraordinarily caring?

And, well, I have to leave it up to them what kind of cooker I get, so that it doesn’t overpower the other varieties. This all sounds like a modern kind of melded human family trying to get along. I have warned Donna I might be calling every few months or so, just to hear how my family is growing. I am going to start working out where I can find room for her in the garden. Which in turn means moving some lesser important plants…

Finally – don’t forget your potatoes – time to start chitting… Then again, on Gardener’s Question Time, an expert said there is the school of thought that there isn’t much difference in final results whether you bother or not…

Image Credits: Abigail Cooper-Hansen .

Previous articleHub on Rye Hill – so much on offer
Next articleFood is the body’s medicine


  1. Another cheery article by Abigail …and beautiful picture of the Bee visiting the crocus..which reminds us all that it’s so important to have flowers in the spring as well as summer for all types of insects to feed and pollinate other plants to produce fruits… that are vital for all live…
    One concern though the mention of old carpets to warm up the soil..they must be only made of natural fibres, as some carpets have chemicals in their backing that are not what to get into the environment..there use to be a rule of no carpets on the allotments for this reason..

  2. Thank you Judith- a really important point re carpets. And the rule in the allotments is evidently being enforced this year.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here