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This month in the garden - 2019

March in the garden

It's March and the weather is really starting to warm up as the days get longer. All those little seedlings coming up from the seeds planted last month will be getting big enough to transplant. Keep an eye on them, and if they seem to have stopped growing, they have used up all the nutrition in the soil in their pots and it's time to give them a bigger container and fresh potting compost. If they've been in clusters in pots, separate them out into individual modules or pots. Carry on planting seeds for tomatoes, chillies and aubergines and get started on the courgettes, cucumbers and pumpkins. Get the ground ready for them now too. Dig a hole and fill it with well rotted compost or manure. When all danger of frost has passed, you can get the little seedlings in the ground and they'll be off to a good start. If you find yourself behind, and don't manage to grow little plants, you can direct sow pumpkin and cucumber seeds into the prepared holes once the weather has warmed up, or earlier as long as you protect them from frost with a cloche.

Remember to plant some companion plants and flowers to attract bees and other pollinators. Nasturtiums, marigolds, calendula, rudbeckia and tall verbena all make colourful additions to the veg garden. Annual herbs can go in from seed now too. Coriander, basil, parsley, shiso and also some Asian leaves such as mizuna and giant red mustard to add a bit of spice and colour to salads.

Why do we grow gardens? For some it's therapeutic. We like to spend time nurturing our plants and watching the insects on the flowers, enjoying the peace and tranquillity of spending time in the beauty of nature. Others love to have freshly harvested organic food to eat, and by growing our own we know exactly what's gone into the soil and what has, or hasn't, been sprayed on our food. The very act of gardening creates the world we live in as it shapes and colours the landscape. Here in the Alpujarras the landscape has been sculpted by hundreds of years of traditional farming methods, fed by the complex system of acequias that carries water from the high peaks all the way to the river valleys, nourishing both people and places as it winds it way through the mountains. As gardeners we become absorbed in our work but we must sometimes lift our gaze up from our individual garden paradises and see what is going on out there, in the wider landscape. The REE (Red Electrica de Espana) is planning to erect a line of high tension electric towers which will run right through the Valle de Lecrin and the Alpujarras on it's route from Granada to Almería. Apart from the obvious visual impact, the towers will change our landscape in a profound way. This scheme will shatter our beautiful world, cause disruption to the acequia system and will drive many farmers from their land because they will not wish to live in the shadow of these towers. Tony Milroy, a former agricultural engineering adviser to Yemen's ministry of agriculture, recently gave a talk in Orgiva about the Yemen, where he has been working at a grassroots level with traditional farmers for 40 years. The terraced farming system in the Yemen is collapsing because it is no longer being maintained, due to the war there. It is very similar to ours here in Granada province and Tony is sure that it was Yemeni technicians that built ours in the time of the Moors. Both the Alpujarras and the Vale de Lecrin have been nominated for World Heritage Status and he is correct when he says this area should be a beacon for the rest of Europe. We must all stand up now and do whatever we can to prevent our terraces from sliding down the mountains before they become only memories, like those in the Yemen.

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