What's in Season - March

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The absolute best thing about March is putting the clocks forward an hour and welcoming in British summertime. For some it is an hour less in bed but for most it is the start of long and light summer evenings, of simple salads, cold, crisp wines and gardens in full bloom. But we should not be premature; a slight rise in temperature, a change from the winter chill does not mean summer, as we know it, far from it. We can still expect short, sharp frosts and plenty of rain so the early sewing of seeds is a matter of personal choice, a gardening Russian roulette.

 Many gardeners will tell you that they have sewn their chillies, tomatoes, aubergines et al in late February already, but do not be put off, I am a firm believer in erring on the side of caution because ultimately plants will find their own way of catching up and prove the better and stronger for it. It is painfully and seriously obvious that global warming is now a real and current threat, a huge problem that cannot be ignored and the consequences of which shall inevitably prove catastrophic to many areas, not least food production. What we have considered for many years to be ‘de rigeour’ in terms of planting what and when will soon prove to be outdated.

I am no expert in this field but when there are drought warnings for England as early as March, and January and early February are uncharacteristically mild then questions need to be raised about the future of current gardening practices across the globe. What is obvious is the way in which nature seems to know best, now is the time to look more closely at the garden, young buds are beginning to sprout and there are small signs of optimism in the most hidden and unlikely of parts.

By the last week of March my greenhouse is full of seed trays, all protected by propagator lids or fleece in case of overnight frosts. By now I shall have sewn chillies, aubergines, lettuce, chard, spinach, sprouts, sweet corn and plenty of herbs all undercover before hardening off in the cold frame and finally transplanting into open soil when the risk of frost has passed. Early sowings of peas such as Felthnam Firsts and broad beans are already in situ in the prepared beds. Weather permitting; March is the time for the first shoots of wild garlic, leeks and nettles all of which make for a fine soup as does wild watercress and other spring greens.

Purple Sprouting Broccoli
Forced Rhubarb
Wild Salmon and Sea Trout
Brown Crab
Rock Oysters