The days are getting longer, the evenings lighter, buds are beginning to open, and the sounds of spring are in the air. It’s time to fulfil those new year’s resolutions and start growing the veg you’ve been promising to for years.
Often the same old excuses of not knowing where to start, or not having the space, rear their ugly heads. But fear not, because the Big Dig could be the answer you’ve been looking for.
You may be familiar with the Big Lunch, the nationwide excuse to get to know your neighbours held in June. Well the Big Dig on 16 and 17 March is a chance to roll up your sleeves and get involved in a community food-growing project near you.
March is a busy time, as food growers strive to get all their seeds and seedlings sown for the start of the growing season, and community food growers all over London are on the lookout for volunteers; people like Marina, who volunteers at the Carshalton Community Allotment. “I really love volunteering,” she says. “Gardening is so therapeutic and it’s been a great way to meet new people.”
The organiser of the day, Capital Growth, is also offering a limited number of projects help in advance from corporate volunteer teams, who will be ready to get stuck into large tasks such as clearing a space or building something, on 16 March, the day before the main event.
Capital Growth’s registered spaces are being included in a Big Dig Directory, due for launch in February, so Londoners can find a space where they’d like to volunteer. If you’re a growing space that has still to sign up, now is the perfect time to register. Likewise, if you’re thinking of volunteering, log on to find a Capital Growth space near you.
For more information visit www.capitalgrowth.org/events/big-dig
Prune soft fruit and apple and pears while the plants remain dormant. Take the time to research the method for each plant and ensure your secateurs are razor sharp.
Choose a fine day to get yourself sorted for the season ahead. Have a blitz of your plot, sorting out pots, tools and odd jobs in readiness for spring.
Jot down a planting plan and check your seed stash, ordering in extras to fill any gaps.
Select spuds for chitting and planting in next month or two. ‘First earlies’, such as Arran Pilot and Red Duke of York, are best for small spaces. If you plan to grow them in a large container, ensure the plants are always kept moist.
Sow chillies, which require a long growing season. The seed needs a minimum of around 20ºC to germinate, so choose a snug spot and then grow on seedlings somewhere bright. Later, pinch out the growing tips to encourage a bushy plant.
Hunt for slugs and snails before they start breeding in earnest. Look for hiding places where they are clustering together, such as piles of pots and containers.
When the weather starts to warm up, sow coriander, chervil, early peas, carrots and radishes, amongst others. Start them off in modules if the soil is still cold – direct sowings are likely to fail.
By Tom Moggach from City Leaf. His first book, ‘The Urban Kitchen Gardener: Growing and Cooking in the City’ is published by Kyle Books in April 2012. City Leaf provides expert food growing training to groups and schools. For more information, call 020 7485 9262 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. www.cityleaf.co.uk
Never a dill moment (37)
Growing confidence (35)
Wide open space (32)
Give bees a chance (30)