My Gardener's Diary

By Mike Heath

January to March – the start of the greenhouse year

There’s nothing more pleasant than an afternoon spent in the greenhouse. Bit of Radio 4 in the background, compost and seed packs spilling out of storage, rolling towards the soil, ready to wake up and spring to life. Late winter / early spring is a time of promise. The first warm days, the fresh whiff of clean air and warming soil, birds appearing after their retreat to the sunshine and insects crawling out of their winter get-always; provocative and primed with promise of a year that felt like it might never come.

There’s not much to do in January apart from clearing out the dead from the previous season. January is a gloomy time for the greenhouse and is best focused on cleaning, clearing and sorting whilst focusing on the positives to come for the rest of the year.

By February, I’m always desperate to start planting. It’s too early for most seeds – especially if planted in a greenhouse with no warming source other than the occasional cameo by the sun – but broad beans, Thai basil, dill and chervil will happily sit in a seedbed and will make a show in their own good time. I always recognise that it’s probably too early, but it marks the start of a new growing year, and this can’t come too soon for me.

It’s now March. The broadbeans are unfurling and reaching through the soil, the dill has sprung but the Thai basil is yet to show. I often find that the smaller the seed the longer it can take to germinate, especially if the conditions are not tropical, but I wait in hope that they will respond once the time is right.

March is a more positive time of year. The ground warms up a little with the slightly longer days and the more frequent appearance of the sun’s rays ensures that the spring bulbs start to bloom. This afternoon I planted coriander, lemon cucumber (I’d lost the packet so not sure if this is a bit premature), leeks, spinach and sweet corn. The planting is the easy bit. The next stage is the care.

So, for the rest of the month, I’ll be periodically checking whether things are warm, watered and pushing through the soil. Then to fend off the pests is the drama that takes over.

I’ll keep you updated.

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