Garden Action

The premier gardening information source

MARCH 16th to 23rd

Susan Explains Inter-Cropping
Inter-cropping is growing small and fast-growing plants in between larger and slower growing plants, normally vegetables. This makes full use of your vegetable plot especially if it is small.
Small crops such as Swiss chard, lettuce, radishes and carrots all mature quickly, are relatively small and will appreciate some shade protection later in the year.
Peas, broad beans and sweet corn are tall plants with space between their rows. These are all ideal companions for the smaller plants.

Plant Seed Potatoes
Although potatoes are strong growing plants, many people forget that the foliage is very frost tender. So don't plant seed potatoes if there will be a danger of frost when the foliage has sprouted.

In average areas of the UK, the end of this week is a good time to plant seed potatoes. They will take several weeks to settle in and start growing, hopefully late enough to avoid any frost by the time they appear above ground. Click here for full details. If a frost does threaten after the foliage has appeared then either cover the plants with horticultural fleece , straw or similar. In fact a layer of black plastic will also offer frost protection as long as you take it off as soon as possible to allow light to get the plants.

Growing Potatoes in Containers
Still on the subject of potatoes, amazingly large crops will be produced if you grow them in containers. Dustbins are ideal but smaller containers can also be used. The smallest size is probably 30cm (12in) wide and deep. Many garden centres now sell fold up plastic bags for growing potatoes in. These are ideal.

First make sure that whatever container you use it has drainage holes at the bottom. Pour in a layer multi-purpose compost to a depth of about 10cm (4in) and gently firm it down. In the smallest pots, place one seed potato on the compost, three seed potatoes for the largest containers. Cover them with 15cm (6in) of multi-purpose compost and water them well. Keep the container in a warm and sunny spot.

When the foliage reaches about 15cm (6in) tall, add more multi-purpose compost so that only 5cm (2in) of foliage is visible. Repeat this process until the compost is nearly at the top of the container. Then just let them grow.

Keep the soil moist as the potatoes grow but don't swamp them with water. A month or so after planting, feed with liquid tomato plant fertiliser, diluted as per the instructions on the pack. Feed like this every two weeks.

To judge if the potatoes are ready, gently feel their size under the compost. In bigger containers you'll need to go down quite deep and grab some of the larger ones at the base. If done gently, you will do little harm to the remaining potatoes.

If you still have potatoes when the weather starts to cool down, then stop watering and move the container to a cool but frost free position. The potatoes will keep in the dryish multi-purpose for a long time.

More Information
For more detailed information and timings go to our individual vegetable, herb and fruit pages. If you want to see a condensed vegetable advice page with planting, sowing, care and harvesting information for the entire year on one page then go to our vegetable calendar.