PREPARING THE SOIL

As the days stretch and the weather and soil get warmer, we turn our attention to the new growing season in the organic Market Garden. As soon as the soil is dry enough we spread well-rotted farmyard manure onto areas that require it, in preparation to sow the first seeds.

The first to go in will be the quick germinating, large seed pulses. Both broad beans and peas can tolerate mild frost and give abundant harvests by the end of June, if well protected from greedy crows and pigeons. Mangetout tends to be more popular than pod peas, and you also get the quick-growing pea shoots at the tip of the plant which make a great addition to our spring salad leaf mix. Two crops from one is never a bad thing!

Onion sets, Jerusalem artichoke and seed potatoes should also go in from the end of March, depending on conditions, such as how wet the soil is. Last year, all our spuds went into the ground a month later than the previous year, but we still harvested the first early crops in the last week of June: the same week in both seasons. So we have learnt not to be too precious about trying to get crops in early because nature often catches up; a week of great weather in June can do more for a crop’s growth than the whole month of April.

CUTTING GARDEN 2019

As our organic Cutting Garden at Daylesford enters its third growing season, we have learned lessons that have helped us produce even more diversity and abundance. For example, we are growing flowers that can also be dried for winter floral displays. White statice and helichrysum are new this year, lots of seed pod varieties from nigella to poppies, but most of all multiple plantings of larkspur, the annual delphinium that can be used to make natural confetti. We are generally self-sufficient in nigella, larkspur, cornflower and corncockle, which have come from self-sown seedlings we have dug up and potted on. If you know what you’re looking for, you can transplant these varieties right up until the end of March. 

Daylesford TulipsWe are also going big on antirrhinums and zinnias in and outside the polytunnels this year, and we are planning three plantings of sweetpeas to keep the yield going right into September.

TULIPS

We planted 12,000 bulbs of forty different tulip varieties at the end of 2018 inside the polytunnel and outside in the Cutting Garden, so expect a riot of colour in the farmshop from mid-March to late April. I’m particularly excited about the “Angelique” and “Blue Wow” varieties which look very much like peonies. 

IN YOUR OWN GARDENS

This is the time of year to commit your growing space to this year’s crops, be they ornamental or edible. Let’s hope for great growing temperatures like last year, with a good drop of rain every ten days!