Spring has officially sprung! But be careful – March can be a treacherous month. Warm, sunshiny days and the bright green of new buds on the trees fool you into thinking it’s safe to sow – then a punishing frost arrives to clobber emerging shoots. So I’m still mainly in the greenhouse for now, getting hardy veg started in pots and modules plus some lovely annual flowers for early summer.
More sowing advice:
March seed sowing inspiration
Plants featured in this video
Cornflower blue is one of the clearest, purest blues you can get in a flower, and I love to dot cornflowers through my borders so they pop up among the perennials like little sky-blue starbursts of colour. I’ll also grow them en masse for cutting – their long, straight stems make them perfect for filling summer vases. You don’t have to stick to blue: there’s deepest purple ‘Black Ball’, and white or pink versions too. Blue is still my favourite, though.
I don’t dare sow lettuce seeds direct into the soil – the slugs would raze them to the ground the moment they poked their heads out. So instead, I start my lettuces under cover, scattering seed over trays of compost to prick out in a week or so’s time: I’ll plant them outside next month once they’re sturdy youngsters large enough to shrug off slug attacks with ease.
Last year I discovered cluster sowing – and now it’s the only way I sow beetroot. I fill newspaper modules with peat-free multipurpose compost, then sow a pinch of three or four seeds into each. You plant them outside just as they are, in a clump, spacing each clump about 10cm apart. The beetroots simply push each other apart as they grow: you just harvest the largest and let the rest grow on, so you’re picking from the same row for weeks at a time.
Well, you can call them nigella, but the common name is far more romantic and I think better describes these pretty, starry flowers, each cushioned on a cloud of ferny, filigree foliage. That’s not all: the flowers are followed by long-lasting balloon-like seed pods each crowned rather dramatically with horns. Sow love-in-a-mist direct, as they don’t like being transplanted – after that, though, you’ll never be without them as they self-seed charmingly, popping up in unexpected corners for years to come.