March in the Community Garden

What a difference a year makes! February saw nearly 3 weeks of unseasonably high temperatures and can you believe that on the 26th (a year after experiencing the Beast from the East) we had a temperature of 17 degrees and we had to water the whole plot! The temperature was so high that some seedlings in the greenhouse outstripped themselves and became too ‘leggy’ to use, but on the other hand it did bring the skylarks out singing and the first peacock butterfly was seen.
Everything and everyone reacts to an increase in daylight. Its a fact that plants react to the amount of daylight by changes in a light sensitive pigment called phytochrome. During daylight hours it’s converted to an active form and put simply the more daylight, the sooner it gets to become an active form and cause changes in plant growth. So as we have seen an extra hour of daylight in the last 3 weeks so we have seen growth spurts in some, not all, of the plants. Also, by covering some of our raised beds with old pond liner and tarpaulin, the soil temperature has increased by 2-3 degrees above the surrounding soil. This will give us a head start when sowing commences outside later this month.
As in any garden there are successes and failures. Last winter we were overwhelmed with sprouts but this year they have been poor. On the other hand the purple sprouting broccoli has been excellent, despite the wood pigeons best efforts to nobble it. Seed potatoes are ‘chitting’ and the forced rhubarb has produced a good crop of pale juicy sticks.
Early tomato, pepper and cucumber seeds have been sown, but only to produce plants for growing on in the polytunnel, as the temperature and soil conditions outside will not be suitable for tender plants to go out untill late May.
To finish, there is an interesting article in this months Saga magazine regarding the benefits of gardening. It confirms that gardening  can have a deep and lasting effect on a raft of health problems, from aiding recovery from illness and loss of a close friend or relative, improving your physical health through digging, raking etc. and giving you a sense of achievement. It can also help with managing symptoms of age decline, unlocking memories, socialising, even just standing and looking, touching and smelling.
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