Yes, I can just hear it. The start of a rustle in the seed tin – and I hope it is not mice! Spring will be here soon and we will be able to get back to boating and our passion of rooftop gardening.
Early spring on my boat is the time to do an engine service, wash down all to get rid of the winter grime and start really planning what I want to grow this year. I have trips planned and festivals to attend so I want my boat to look its best and have a few flowers and plants established.
The huge advantage of container gardening is that you don’t have to worry about crop rotation and soil-born pests and diseases. All you need is a strong container with a minimum depth of 15cms, adequate drainage, good quality compost and you’re away. It really does not matter if you have beautifully painted troughs or just an old bucket – almost anything will do.
I like the plastic troughs which are self watering, they are easily watered down a side tube keeping compost moist at all times during the warmer months – remember them? This is an easy way to both water and feed your plants. Containers can also be started off at home if you don’t live on your boat and brought along when they are ready for your planned holiday.
As March approaches some varieties of vegetables can be sown outside for an early crop. Carrots are a good choice to start with; select the short rooted varieties such as Royal Chantenay or Burpees Short ‘N Sweet or try globe varieties like Parmex and Paris Market – all extremely tasty varieties whether eaten cooked or raw.
French beans can also go in now and there are several dwarf varieties to choose from. I like to grow the black or purple varieties which are not dwarf but can be kept small by pruning and yes, they do still produce plenty of beans.
Many varieties of herbs can also be set now including parsley, chives and coriander which are all surprisingly hardy. Sow herbs again in a month or two to ensure a continuous crop of sweet young leaves.
It is not all about vegetables in March, several varieties of annual flowering plants can also be sown including sweet peas, sunflowers and stocks. Try a pot full of night-scented stock with their tiny four-petalled pinkish flowers, not too spectacular to look at but wait until the evening when they will fill the air with their sweet, heady fragrance. A tough of magic added to a warm evening.
Hopefully you planted up some spring bulbs last autumn because they should be coming into their own by now and showing us that winter is passing and I, for one, will be very pleased to see the back of it.