The organic gardening year begins!!

It's March and the long winter wait is over - at last we can get out into the garden or on the allotment and start another year of growing delicious produce.  This is becoming even more worthwhile given the recent fresh food shortages and crop failures in Spain.  

Over the winter, if you remember, we made a plan of what we would grow this year on the 40plusandalliswell quarter plot.  Please see 'Planning next year's organic gardening'. In addition we will be growing lamb's lettuce and various herbs in the greenhouse.  The dwarf french beans and dwarf broad beans, we will be starting off in the greenhouse in April ready to be planted out on the allotment or in a container later (more on this to come). At the moment the space on the allotment is occupied by winter onions.  These were planted last autumn and should be ready in April. At the moment also we have some cavelo nero, a delicious type of kale, growing but we will be eating this anytime soon.

For now though preparation is key.  If you are growing fruit and vegetables prepare your ground by weeding. The best way and natural way is to get down on your kneeling mat, don a pair of gardening gloves and pull the pesky things out.  Tip - make the task less of a chore do this after it has rained and use a short handled weeding knife.  When you do get growing your produce, fill your space as much as possible with things you want to grow so that the weeds don't get a look in.

Next job is to add compost - the allotment had a delivery of well rotted manure last month which is ideal for organic gardening.  You can also buy organic vegetable compost. Why not try making your own compost for next year.  A fellow allotment owner made us a compost bin with some left over wood (allotment growers are lovely people!).  You can also purchase a compost bin quite cheaply from your local council and make your own compost from vegetable peelings, etc.

Finally you need to dig the compost in, not only to enrich the soil but also to aerate it, to allow water, oxygen and other nutrients to reach the roots of your crops when they are growing.  

You might also want to give your greenhouse a little tidy up too.

Preparation over you can now think about chitting your first early potatoes. Chitting simple means standing the seed potatoes in seed trays, rose end up (the side with 'eyes') in a dark spot until they sprout  These can be planted from Easter up to late May. If you don't get chance to chit your potatoes, I wouldn't worry too much.  I live in a farming area, where potatoes are extensively grown and I see the farmers with huge potato planters attached to their tractors dropping seed potatoes straight into the ground - fascinating to watch.

One more tip - if you have an allotment walk around other peoples' plots and see what they are growing and when.  This will be a good indicator as to what grows well where you are - this is influenced by the weather and by the soil type.

April is probably the busiest time in the 40plusandalliswell organic garden so stay with us for more updates.

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