Anna Taylor, owner of Anna’s Flower Farm in Audley End, shares what’s going on in the garden this month
You remember all that stuff I said last month about enjoying the rest and recuperation of winter? Slowing down, meditating into the season and noticing the steady stirrings of the soil and signs of growth? Forget all about that. It’s spring! Let’s go!
All of a sudden, after weeks of darkness and cold earth, the buds quicken to swell. Days, though blue in hue, are longer and nature is drawing back the curtains of the evening. I’ve been itching for this month. Winter, though not harsh, felt long, and I have rested long enough. Last year, I barely caught up with the seasons. Now I want to get ahead, embrace and enjoy the gardens as much as I can.
I don’t sow much seed before March due to short days and low levels of light, but after the spring equinox later this month, there is rapid growth, with days longer than nights and the soil warming up. You will notice seedlings popping up across the garden; if they are doing so naturally without our help, you know it’s a good time to start sowing yourself. We create very fertile compost and beds here, so direct-sown seeds don’t tend to germinate well for us, as seeds need a low-nutrient substrate to germinate. We get our best results from sowing into pots of sowing compost under cover and pricking out (transplanting into larger pots or modules to grow on).
I am sowing hardy annuals (those that can tolerate a little cold) now, but wait until the end of the month to start my half-hardy annuals. Hardy annuals like ammi, snapdragons, cornflowers and larkspur, sown in autumn, will be planted out this month and I will make my next sowing in early May to continue the flowering over summer. Half-hardys, like zinnia, rudbeckia, sunflowers and nasturtiums will be ready to plant out in about six weeks which takes us out of frosts.
Stems and flowers make dishes look and taste delicious
Vegetables that can also be sown now include end-of-winter salad crops, beans, beetroot, peas, tomatoes and carrots. Anyone with a front door or window can grow something to eat in a window box or outside in deep pots by the entrance. If space is at a premium, herbs and salad together with a couple of violas will always give you a couple of stems and flowers to make your dishes and drinks look and taste delicious, with that extra joy of knowing you’re eating something you have grown.
Other tasks in the garden include sowing grass seed over bare patches of lawn and tentative grass cutting. Prune any broken branches caused by strong March gales and ensure new trees and shrubs are staked well or firm around the roots with your heel if lifted after a frost. Turn your compost to reactivate a slow cold heap by introducing oxygen back in, and water any layers that are dry.
There is so much optimism in a seed or indeed in growing any plant. It feels so good to reunite properly with the garden, get outside and simply enjoy one’s efforts.