What's in season: March
Allotments are stirring with life, the last of the winter veg is being pulled from the soil and the fruit trees are starting to blossom. March is an inspirational month for many growers and gardeners, who welcome the longer days and turn their thoughts to planting and new growth.
To help you make the most of the season, we've asked our gardeners and chefs to share their tips and favourite recipes.
After a long winter, you're probably longing to get back out in the garden. While there are lots of jobs to be done, it pays to be patient when it comes to sowing seeds because of the unpredictable weather we often get at this time of year.
If the soil is warm and not too wet, you can start sowing early vegetables, including broad beans, sprouts, cabbages, onions, early potatoes, early carrots and spinach. You may also have some winter veg to harvest. Leeks, cauliflower and kale are just some of what can be gathered at this time of year. It's also worth turning over your compost heap and keeping on top of weeding.
Vegetables to harvest and buy
- Rhubarb (forced)
- Savoy cabbage
- Spring green cabbage
What to grow and harvest
What to sow indoors
If you have a greenhouse or well-lit place in your home, you can sow tomatoes, spring onion, lettuce and celery. Sow these into seed compost in trays and plant out as seedlings in a month or so.
What to plant out
Early potatoes, broad beans, sprouts, parsley, early carrots, cabbages, spinach, asparagus and beetroot can all be planted out if the soil is warm enough. Dig and rake the seed bed to break up lumps and create a tilth.
The versatile leek can be used to liven up all sorts of dishes. Make sure you clean carefully, removing soil from between the leaf layers.
Picking for freshness
Harvest cabbages, broccoli and cauliflower as soon as they heart up or produce their heads. Don’t wait too long as they go over quickly and begin to flower.
The humble cauliflower is a vegetable with a growing reputation. Many chefs have discovered its potential and elevated it beyond the trusty cauliflower-cheese bake.
Growing mushrooms is complicated, so our gardeners suggest starting off indoors using a kit.
- You'll find kits to grow many different mushrooms of a variety of flavours and textures.
- Mushroom kits are either boxes containing a suitable compost or logs inoculated with spores.
- Oyster mushrooms, often used in Asian cooking, grow from the side of the box to mimic upright tree trunks.
- Most kits will produce mushrooms within two to four weeks.
- Once activated, kits need little attention apart from the occasional spray of water.
- Some kinds of mushrooms like morels can be dried after harvesting to save for later use.
This month it's all about parsley
Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is a member of the carrot family and native to the Mediterranean region. The cultivation and use of parsley as a herb goes back into the mists of time but it's known to have been popular with the Romans and Greeks.
Like other useful plants, parsley spread around the world with the movement of people, and it’s now used in a wide range of cuisines as a garnish or to add flavour.
Parsley can easily be grown in the garden and should be sown from March onwards. It can be planted two or three times during spring to give a long run of fresh young leaves. The seed can take up to 30 days to germinate, so some people prefer to buy and plant potted plants.
Parsley is a biennial, which means it has a two-year life cycle. In the first season, it grows and produces lots of useful leaves, and in the second, it flowers, seeds and dies. Parsely is wonderfully hardy and can be harvested right through the first winter, although it won’t grow during the coldest months. The two main types of parsley are curly and flat-leaved varieties. The latter is popular for its strong flavour.