What you sow you reap is our theme for spring – investing time and energy in preparing, sowing and planting will bring you rich rewards for the rest of the year.
Prepare: If not already done, prepare your beds for the year ahead. Clear any overwintered crops that have come to an end, incorporate green manures and add compost to your growing space.
Lucy’s Tip: A handy tip to remember when making compost is it’s a bit like cooking, if you want everything to cook in the same time it needs to be of a similar size: rough chop green stuff, shred cardboard, smash and chop thick stalks etc. before adding to the heap.
Sow:From March so much can be sown, leeks, potatoes, cabbages, lettuce, peas and many more. Don’t be in too much of a rush if the weather is cold – wait for the soil and temperature to warm up a bit.
Lucy’s Tip: Flowers such as lavender, borage, marigolds are another must. They not only attract beneficial insects but provide you with some beautiful edible flowers.
Plant: From the end of March crops can be direct sown or transplanted.
Using the Planting Calendar: Now is the time to get maximum use from your biodynamic sowing and planting calendar to choose the most favourable times. Here’s a quick reminder:-
The calendar divides your crops up into 4 categories: Root, Leaf, Flower and Fruit (based on the part of the plant you are wishing to eat for the most part).
So if you are planning on sowing root crops – carrots, potatoes, beetroot, celeriac for example, then you simply look for a Root day in the calendar, weather and soil conditions permitting.
In March and April, there are plenty of root days :
11th March all day through to 12th March 11 pm. If you are not able to sow then,19th March all day through to 20th March is another good time.
Similarly for “Leaf” crops ie cabbage family, lettuces, spinach, herbs, endives etc. you would aim to sow on Leaf days. In March, the 14th from 6am through till Sunday 7pm are Leaf Days, and there are more later on in the month, on the 23rd and 25th – both all day.
For your ” Fruit” crops ie plants that you are growing for their ” Fruit” or ” Seeds” which include beans, peas, tomatoes, cucumber, pumpkin, courgettes, chose a Fruit day in the calendar. These crops also store best when harvested on Fruit days.
Later in March there is a nice block of Fruit days, starting on 26th March at 12 noon, all day 27th March and till 12 noon on 28th March.There are also plenty of other opportunities.
Lucy’s Tip: when the calendar shows a dark grey colour this means it is not a favourable day to sow any crop, so maybe do another job in the garden instead.
How do I know which category my plants/food crops fall into?
Which category a crop falls into is pretty logical – with a couple of exceptions. From her research, Maria Thun noticed that some crops grew better when sown, hoed and harvested on days contrary to the group that logic would have assumed. Onions, for example, appear to fair best on Root Days, fennel and kohlrabi on Leaf days, whilst broccoli likes to be treated as a “Flower” category plant. She also found that, apart from cauliflower, Leaf days were not so favourable to harvest any crops for storage, not even ones that would fall into this category.
Finding out what works for you and your garden is one of the fundamentals of biodynamics; that goes for planting calendars, too. They’re a tool to guide you and are never prescriptive. You can always do your own experiments at home by planting the same crop on different days and comparing the results. This will really help you get to know the subtleties of your own growing conditions and be even more in tune with your garden and your crops.
For more about the Planting Calendar, watch our video here.
Growing your own food is a wonderful opportunity to enjoy unusual crops and heritage varieties you won’t find in supermarkets, and is one of the best things gardeners can do for biodiversity. We’ll be including them in future – please send us your favourite ones to share.
Seakale: This is a UK native plant, Crambe maritima, that grows wild on the seashore , and was very popular in Victorian Times. It’s a perennial crop – like rhubarb, you cover it in spring when it’s starting to grow to force and blanch the stems. They have a mild delicate flavour. Available from specialist suppliers like Victorian Nursery; or Otter Farm.
Chinese artichokes:These knobbly crunchy hardy tubers are prolific and extremely easy to grow. Sown in spring, they produce lots of small tubers in the autumn; and can stay in the ground over winter. Save some tubers for replanting.Steam, use in stir-fries or pickle.
Alderman Peas:This is a heritage pea variety, famed for its flavour and high yield. It grows to about 2m/6ft, needs support (grow like runner beans) but is well worth the effort, producing beautiful tasting peas over a long period. Organic seeds can be bought here
Lucy’s Tip: to find out more about heritage varieties and how you can become a Seed Guardian, check out Garden Organic Heritage Seed library
Witloof Chicory: Fun to do and produces the sweetest, crispest blanched chicory you have eaten. Let the plants grow over summer, dig up the roots in autumn, and force by burying the roots in a large pot of soil and keep cool in the dark. It’s magic!
Lucy’s Tip: Winter chicories add flavour and interest to autumn and winter salads; all have a long growing season. Tamar Organics has a good selection