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This month in the garden - 2023

March in the garden

Spring feels a bit late this year. If, like me you have held off sowing seeds for summer veg, waiting for the cold weather to pass, it’s probably time to get on with it. It’s unlikely the persistent frost we experienced in January and into the beginning of February will return but don’t be over confident. Remember the frost in Cádiar on May 1st in 2018 that took everyone by surprise and killed all the tomato plants that had already gone in the ground. Sow seeds now for tomatoes, aubergines, chillies, peppers, melons, cucumbers, courgettes, pumpkins, celery and basil but take precautions and protect them, just in case we do see more frost. If you held off putting potatoes in the ground in February, do that now.

Plant, or direct sow seeds of, companion plants such as marigolds, nasturtium, poppies, sunflowers and echinacea. Direct sow coriander, rocket, parsley, spinach, Asian greens such as mizuna and pak choi, carrot, parsnip, radish, turnip and chick peas. You could try an early sowing of climbing French beans, okra and sweet corn. Get a sweet potato suspended over water in a glass to start your sweet potato slips to plant out when its really warming up.

Continue getting ready for summer. Make sure your acequias are clear and that your drip feed systems are functioning well. Carry on with preparing your summer veg beds. Add compost or manure and get your tomato poles ready.

Chickens are a great addition to the garden. Not only do they provide eggs and meat, they also provide fertility and can help with pest control. Free ranging chickens, although a lovely idea, generally turns the chickens into garden terrorists. They will scratch up all your newly sown seeds and tender transplants. They will eat all your lettuces and poo all over your patios. Its easy to see why some chicken keepers end up with them confined to a small space. It doesn’t need to be that way. Chickens love fresh greens; weeds as well as lettuces and cabbages. Creating a system where the chickens can be regularly moved to fresh ground, helps to control weeds and pests and fertilises the soil. There are many examples of chicken tractors on the internet – a movable cage or enclosure that can be rotated around your garden, taking the chickens to where they are most needed. There is also the option of an electric fence, specially designed for poultry that can be easily moved around.

When the chickens have fresh growth or a new batch of bugs to eat, or a finished garden bed to tidy up, they won´t even try to escape from their enclosure. When I put my chickens underneath an apricot tree to forage in all the fruit fly filled fallen fruit, they showed no interest in their grain, preferring to feast on the fly. If you have your chickens in an enclosure and they are constantly trying to escape, they are more than likely suffering from the grass is greener on the other side syndrome. If they are flying over a fence then wing clipping is a solution. Its easy to do and painless for the chicken. You only need to trim a couple of inches of the flight feathers on one wing. This will cause the chicken to be unbalanced in flight and they will probably give up. If you have a particularly determined chicken, you may have to clip both wings. Lots of fresh greens, your kitchen scraps and plenty of clean water, makes for happy chickens. If you can find a way to move them around the garden it´s a perfect recipe for bug control and fertilisation of the soil too.

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