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111 The S


The beauty that is Spring - these foolish things remind me of you By Alex Webster


Dartmouth Gardener


o as the days begin to lengthen and the Earth moves that little bit further from the sun we start to feel that spring is at last on its way. But hang on a minute surely the Earth is moving nearer? It’s calculated that the sun is 91.4 million miles away


from the earth in January and 94.5 million miles in July. That 100,000 miles demonstrates that the Earth is moving away from the sun as spring begins. So the reason that the mean temperature increases and


the days lengthen is because of the earth being tilted on its axis of 23.4 degrees; so, in its 365 day journey around the sun, the UK and the rest of the northern hemisphere spend about half the year tilting towards the sun and the other half tilting away. So it’s that 23.4 degrees that makes the difference and gives us the wonders of each season. The tilt towards the sun causes the rise in temperature. Spring for the gardener can have


many false starts, maybe with an early warm spell of weather but also on an official basis i.e. there would seem to be two start dates? Meteorological spring begins on 1st March 2017 and ends on 31st May 2017. But the astronomical spring begins on 20th March 2017 and ends on 20th June 2017, running from the spring equinox to midsummer’s day. So the question is when to start planting and sowing?


There are several new plot holders on our allotment this year and this is one of the questions I’m asked. The answer is I have always


watched what the farmer is up to; if he is ploughing then I dig, as the soil will not be too wet. If he is sowing, then I also tentatively begin sowing


So the question is


when to start planting and sowing?


seeds as the soil should be warm enough for germination. The easiest test is place the palm of your hand on the soil, if it


feels wet and cold, then imagine how a small seed would feel if sown there and then. Of course, there are means to warm up the soil for


an early planting. Covering the soil with clear plastic or garden fleece can make a big difference especially if the fleece remains over the emerging seedlings. For more elaborate structures e.g. a form of cloche of either plastic or glass, you should always allow for some form of ventilation on warm days. Another option would be to sow into modular trays in a green house or poly-tunnel and then plant out as the weather improves. If the weather remains cold


and wet in early March, then one task is to begin the planting out of bare root fruit bushes and trees if you have not already done so.


Sowing and planting


Fruit • last chance to plant bare-root plant and container- grown fruit trees.


• plant cold-stored strawberry runners.


• sow seeds of alpine strawberries. But beware they can over run the plot.


• plant cranberries Vegetables • plant onions, shallots and spring sown garlic sets.


• plant Jerusalem artichoke tubers. These should carry their own health warning!


• chit early and main crop potatoes.


• plant asparagus crowns. prepare the bed well as you only want to do this once.


• sow seed outdoors should the weather permit e.g. broad beans, carrots, parsnips, beetroot, onions, lettuces, radish, peas, spinach, summer cabbage, salad leaves, leeks, Swiss chard, kohl rabi, turnip and summer cauliflower. Be guided by the weather and sow only if conditions are suitable.


• sow seed indoors of sweet peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, aubergines, celery, salads and globe artichokes.


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