The weather is still changeable, a frosty night can follow on from a warm sunny day, but we’re tired of waiting to get busy. It seems to be a better idea to watch the weather not the calendar when it comes to planting these days. Even then it’s best to plant only hardy produce until the weather becomes more constant.

Sow early peas and beans

Using the old adage ‘One for the mouse, one for the crow, one to rot and one to grow’ this month we can sow peas about 4cm deep and runner beans about 5cm deep in a broad trench. Broad beans prefer to be a little deeper at 8cm.

Before you do so, decide on and erect the supports that they will need. This can be a creative exercise in itself – do you want to use hazel branches, bamboo canes, trellis, found twigs and branches, wire fencing, netting or string? What shape would you like? A tunnel, wigwam, arch or something more elaborate? Generally speaking budget, space and aesthetics inform the decision. Whatever support you choose, erect it before you sow so that they are not accidentally speared during the construction. 

After sowing cover the area with netting to deter birds and mice.

Peas and beans do not need nitrogen-rich feed as they host bacteria in their roots that take nitrogen from the air and fix it in the soil.

You don’t need to have great swathes of land to grow beans. Dwarf varieties of French beans grow really well in pots. 

Early potatoes

Plant some towards the end of the month for a crop at the end of June but make sure to protect them from frost and consider earthing them up for extra protection.

If you have comfrey then add some leaves to the bottom of the potato trench. They will add nitrogen, potash and potassium to the soil as they rot.

Produce to sow indoors

Tender vegetables including tomatoes, cucumbers, courgettes, peppers, squashes, aubergine and chillies can be can be sown this month and kept in the greenhouse or a sunny windowsill.

Globe artichokes

Globe artichokes are a real delicacy but they also look beautiful. They’re not the easiest to grow from seed so you may prefer to buy young plants but, if you’re happy to give it go, they can be sown in pots indoors this month. When they germinate they can either be planted out under glass or you can wait until the end of the month to put them out without the protection of glass.


If you have bought young plants wait until towards the end of the month to plant them in a sunny, well-drained bed and remember that the stems grow to four or five feet. Plant them in rows about three feet apart from eachother with the leaf rosette showing. Mulch and water them if there is a dry spell and give them a good mulch if a frost is forecast.


Whether you have a large holding or are just starting out with a couple of pots, lettuce is a wonderful crop to grow. There are so many different varieties, they are ‘cut and come again’ and they grow quickly so you don’t have to have quite the level of patience that other produce demands.


As lettuce seeds are so small the easiest way to sow them is by mixing them with fine sand before scattering them thinly on trays or pots of damp compost. Cover lightly with compost before leaving them to germinate in the greenhouse or on a cool windowsill. Once you see a couple of leaves show prick them out or if they are in small pots wait until the roots fill the container. Once in their final position be sure to water them well as they will bolt if allowed to dry out.

Repeat this process every four weeks or so and you will have a constant supply of fresh leaves until autumn.     

Lettuce is great for intercropping so team it with a slower growing crop like sweetcorn to make the most of your space. They can also look striking when different varieties are planted alternately and this is a nice way to play with your planting.

March is mulching month

Mulch conditions soil, it helps the soil keep moisture and best of all it starves weeds of light. Whether you use home made compost, manure, straw or chips of wood or slate, a layer should be at least two inches deep to work best, but really, the deeper the better. Leave gaps around plant stems to avoid rot and it’s best applied to wet soil so that there is plenty of moisture to keep in the soil.

In spring rhubarb begins to flower. Pretty as they are, you need to remove them as they appear to give enable a larger harvest as the plants can then concentrate on growing their delicious stems. Giving them a good feed of organic fertiliser will help them too.


Sweet peas

Beautiful and fragrant, sweet peas are excellent to sell in bunches on the honesty stall and the more you cut, the more they flower. They are also a pretty way of cover unsightly walls and fences around the holding.

This month they can be sown in their final desired position and if you soak them overnight before you do they will be quicker off the mark.

Sow them shallowly, just 1cm deep and water well. As they grow keep a keen eye out for slugs and pinch the tops out to promote bushier growth.

Wildflower mixes

Various mixes of flowers are available to buy that most commonly feature poppies, oxe-eye daisies and cornflowers but you can divine your own mix. Wildflowers are champions for the environment, adored as they are by butterflies and bees.


These can be sown outdoors now but as the seeds are so tiny it’s easier to mix them with some sand to help a more even sowing. It is best not to completely cover the seeds with soil but this does leave them vulnerable to birds and cats so if they are not buried it is wise to net the area.


It’s time to find the dahlia tubers that you stored. Remove any that are damaged, whether too dry or rotten, and plant them up under cover to protect them from frost.

Alternatively, planting dahlia seeds indoors now will give tubers ready to be lifted for the autumn.


To read more about what to plant and what to do in the smallholding or on the allotment each month subscribe to Smallholder magazine or buy a copy from your local newsagent.