Jackie Bruce is back with her March column for Plants in the City. This month, she tells us how we can get started growing some veg, before the busy season starts. One thing you absolutely have to try from this post – growing micro-veg! At your local supermarket, it’s almost £2 for a bag of pea-shoots. With Jackie’s method you could grow a whole tray of them, practically for free, by the end of the month!
I do tend to get a bit excited at this time of year, as I anticipate the growing season ahead. As the day light hours increase, the weeds start to pop up everywhere. If that is happening, it’s usually a good indicator that you can start to grow some more desirable plants and flowers.
There are some “weeds” which I love to have in my garden, such as teasels and dandelions for bees and birds. It’s fascinating to watch how many bees are attracted to the odd dandelion, which I leave dotted amongst my herbaceous plants.
If you look closely at this dandelion photo, you will see a little ginger bee collecting pollen from the catmint.
Now. What to grow?
Well, the exciting news is that you probably have the seeds, or dried beans and peas, in your cupboard somewhere. So you can get started right away!
Practically any seed can be turned into micro-veg. I have had success with dried peas for soup which I had in my cupboard. Another good one to grow are the seeds from popcorn (maize) – the shoots from these are delicious. Turnip, radish, and any salad leaves are also good. Peanut shoots are delicious too. Use the peanuts in kernels if you want to try these. Then there’s coriander, spinach, celery or celeriac, broccoli… the list is endless.
If you are like me, you will just try anything and see how it comes out. Any edible plant seed will grow into an edible shoot.
Things to do in March
March is a great month to make a head start on growing some veg before the warmer weather and major busy season kicks in.
Micro veg is a super, vitamin and mineral packed way to go. Full of life forces, these little snip-off leaves and shoots are quick to grow and even quicker to eat.
All you need are a few seed trays filled with compost and a plastic cover or polythene to retain warmth and moisture. Fill trays with compost, then water and leave to drain. Sprinkle your chosen seeds on top of the seed trays, and finally sprinkle a fine layer of compost to cover the seeds.
If you have any little trays from things like strawberries or grapes, as long as they have holes in the bottom you can use those. You can mix up a few different seeds in the same tray, make sure you are generous with your sprinkling. Pop them on a bright window ledge and your shoots will be ready in a couple of weeks, depending on what you grow.
Check the compost regularly in case it dries out and give a gentle water if this happens.
Now chillies. I was so proud of my first successful chili plants, which I grew whilst at university in 2005. I gave them away as gifts to some classmates and they looked amazing on their windowsills all through summer and autumn.
Chillies, like tomatoes, need a long season to grow well. I have started my chili seeds this week in heated propagators. I put two to three seeds into 9cm pots and water well.
Chillies love heat and humidity, so have your heated propagator set at between 18℃ and 22℃. When the small plants have two or more leaves, separate them out into individual pots and continue to grow in warmth until the summer starts to heat up. Keep your chillies inside all summer and move them to bigger pots until they are fully grown.
Sweet peas are a real favourite of mine and I will be planting these seeds as soon as possible. These are perfect if you don’t have a propagator and can be germinated on a window ledge or in a cold greenhouse. They love a good feed once a fortnight and plenty of water.
When established, plant outside, in the place you want them to finally flower, and cut regularly to make more flowers grow.
If you would like me to answer any questions or give advice on any of my ideas or suggestions, please feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com