Spring gardening tips

Spring has arrived and Adam Kirtland is on hand to help you spring into action!

March is finally here, and as gardeners, this is such a delightful month – the daylight begins to get that bit longer each day and by the time the end of the month comes around, it is technically and officially spring. After a long winter (and gosh, hasn’t this one felt long?!) its time for some serious seed sowing to begin and for our twitchy green fingers to really get gardening.
In this month’s column, I’ve got some jobs that we can all have a go with in our own green spaces, no matter whether you’re in a lush grand garden or just sowing seeds on your kitchen table! And we’re focussing on veg that you can grow yourself.

That’s Shallot!

I’ve told you about the wonders of growing your own onions before but how about some shallots too this time? These versatile members of the allium family, closely related to onions, offer a bounty of flavour to any dish and are a joy to grow. Begin by selecting a well-drained, sunny spot in your garden or allotment for planting. Prepare the soil by enriching it with compost or well-rotted manure to ensure optimal growth – give your compost a good mix in to ensure ideal conditions.

In early March, when the soil starts to warm up, it’s time to plant shallot sets. These are small bulbs that will develop into mature shallots. Plant them about 15cm apart in rows, with each set buried at a depth of roughly twice its own height. Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged and weed regularly to give your shallots the best chance to thrive. With proper care and attention, you can look forward to a plentiful harvest come summertime, ready to add their distinctive flavour to your culinary creations.

Potatoes in Pots!

March also brings about the perfect window to get some first early potatoes in the ground. Potatoes also like a sunny, sheltered spot with well-drained soil. You’ll want to prepare the space in a similar way to shallots with lots of good quality compost and this can be done in raised beds, in the ground or even in large tubs or pots. If you’ve got ahead of the game then you’ll have ‘chitted’ your potatoes at the end of winter (sit them in a warm sunny spot and allow them to sprout) but if not, that’s fine – you can still plant them out now.

When planting, space the seed potatoes around 30cm apart in rows, ensuring they are buried around 10cm deep. Keep an eye on frosts, as young shoots can be susceptible, but otherwise, early potatoes are relatively low maintenance.

As you see more and more leaves and shoots, continue to ‘earth up‘ (essentially covering over the plant) again and again until the plants have flowered and are ready to harvest in around July. When you think they are ready, do a little bit of treasure hunting to see if they look big enough to eat. If not, then you can cover them back over and look again in a few weeks.

Handy Herbs!

Now is a fantastic time to head to the garden centre or try local company Urban Herbs (urban-herbs.co.uk) to fill your garden with deliciously scented – and tasty – herbs. You can grow herbs in the smallest of spaces – even just on your windowsill at home.
Choose a large pot (30cm or bigger) and you can fill that with around five or six different herb plants that you can grow and pick from all season long. Personal favourites will always be rosemary, mint and thyme – all delicious and all will accompany your home grown spuds, too!