You’ll hear weather forecasters referring to spring from the beginning of March, as meteorological spring starts on March 1st. The spring equinox, when the days start to get longer than the nights, is around 20th March. Actual signs of spring – warmer days and plant growth – may take longer to appear!
But if there’s a starting gun for the growing season, then it fires at the beginning of March. This is when vegetable gardeners can really get started sowing seeds and getting ready for the growing season. Hardy vegetables can be grown outside, growth is more rapid in the lengthening days, and the weeds will be getting a head start.
Bear in mind that warm weather (and, in particular, warm nights) are still a long way off and that any tender vegetables you sow indoors will need looking after for at least a couple of months. And, since most of us don’t have inexhaustible space on the windowsills, it may pay to hasten slowly, and sow seeds in small batches. Remember that April and May are also prime months for seed sowing!
Vegetables to sow in March
- Bare root fruit trees (last chance, depending on the weather)
- Garlic, spring varieties
- Onions and shallots, from sets
- Potatoes (earlies)
- Broad beans (spring varieties)
- Asparagus crowns
- Fruiting veg (indoors): tomatoes, peppers, aubergines and cucumbers
- Winter brassicas
- Root vegetables (carrots, beetroot, turnips, radishes)
- Leafy veg
- Annual herbs, e.g. parsley, oregano, dill and fennel
What to harvest in March
If you’ve had chard and leaf beet in the ground over winter (or forgot to harvest some beetroot!) then you should find that they’re putting on fresh new leaves as the days lengthen. This is their last hoorah – as biennial plants they will run to see this year, so sow fresh batches to replace them. The same is true of parsley that has overwintered outside.
March is the start of the rhubarb season, and the end of the parsnips, so pull up and eat any left in the ground, before they start to flower.
Sprouting broccoli replaces the Brussels sprouts, and spring cabbages and cauliflowers take over from their winter brethren. The kales will still be going strong, as will the leeks, for another few weeks.
You could even be eating spring onions, if you had the foresight (and the space!) to sow a batch last autumn, and left them to overwinter.
The Hungry Gap
The ‘hungry gap’ is, these days, a term that only gardeners use. It describes the period in early to mid-spring when there’s plenty of new life in the garden, but there’s nothing ready to harvest. Traditionally, people who were reliant on their fields and gardens for food would be eyeing the ever-decreasing levels of their stored crops, hoping that they could eke out a living until fresh supplies were ready.
These days, it’s not a problem. We can rely on supermarkets for food if the garden isn’t producing. But the hungry gap has also shrunk, with early varieties of crops, and protected cropping, meaning that we can have fresh harvests much sooner. And, of course, with our well lit and heated houses, we can grow salads and sprout seeds indoors!
If your harvests are looking a little lean for the next few weeks, take the opportunity to investigate what you could have been harvesting. With a little forward planning it’s possible to put in crops (such as purple sprouting broccoli, and other hardy brassicas) that will start (or continue) cropping through this period, so you’ll be all set next year.
In the meantime, investigate which of those weeds that are springing up are edible. They used to be a welcome addition to meals at this time of the year, and are often nutritional powerhouses. If you’re pulling them up anyway, why not turn that chore into a meal?