By Gordon the Gardener

Sow peasen and beans in the wane of the moon, 

Who soweth them sooner he soweth too soone, 

That they with the planet may rest and arise, 

And flourish with bearing most pleantiful wise.

So wrote Thomas Tusser 400 years ago.

I was told by an experienced gardener back in the 1960s that I would get better seed germination and the rooting of cuttings and even planting, if I sowed seeds when the moon was waxing. But would get slightly poorer results if sowing when the moon was waning.

That same gardener told me that another gardener whom I knew, was ruled by the moon. I never found the truth of that but the man in question could be a little odd at times!

Moon beliefs can be traced for thousands of years. The Greeks and Romans believed that sap in plants waxed and waned in unison with the moon.

I always try to sow when the moon is waxing. Each year books are published with guidelines of how to sow in unison with phases of the moon.

March is a month when many types of seeds can now be sown and cuttings taken. The third week in March in the greenhouse is when pot plants can confidently be re-potted and will grow away nicely.

I pot up using John Innis potting compost rather than a multi-purpose, so I can be sure of its contents.

Seeds can be sown and cuttings taken and placed in a propagator or on a heat mat with a bottom heat of around 18C (65F). The seeds and cuttings can be given a covering of milky white polythene (I use cut up pedal bin liner bags) this keeps the atmosphere inside turgid. But shake excess water off the polythene every day to prevent damping off.

Sowing of lettuces, tomatoes, salads and cauliflowers can be done in the greenhouse. Again, I use John Innes seed compost for this task.

Soon be time to plant potatoes

St Patrick’s Day – March 17 – is traditionally the day to plant potatoes. Plant potatoes of first and second earlies 12cm (5in) deep and 30cm (1ft) apart and 2ft in between the rows. 

Main crop potatoes can be planted in April, 12cm (5in) deep and 38cm (15in) between the tubers, in rows of 75cm (30in) apart.

If you have no garden, potatoes and many other vegetables can be grown in containers. Place 14cm (6in) of a multi-purpose compost in the bottom of the container. 100g (3oz) of potato fertiliser can be mixed with this. Then place three seed potatoes spaced out on top of the compost. Then cover with another 14cm (6in) of compost on top. Three more seed potatoes can be placed on top again, and topped up with more compost and another 100g (3oz) of fertiliser mixed in. Fill to the top of the pot.

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Heather is a plant associated with magnificent moorland flowers in August and September. But it is also an excellent addition to any garden. It can be used in mass plantings close together which will provide a wonderful show all year round.

Different cultivated varieties of several colours flower in different months. They like a free draining soil rich in organic matter and, ideally, in a slightly acid soil (lime free) with a PH of 6.5 or less, ideally 5.5.

Heather looks beautiful

A sunny spot in the garden is best but they will tolerate light shade. Now is a good time to plant your heathers.

Plant a trowel width 25cm (10in) apart. For best effect plant in irregular blocks of the same variety and colour. Several of the same can be planted this way.

If desired blocks of other colours can be planted alongside which have the same flowering time, again in an irregular pattern to achieve best effect.

Or you can choose varieties which flower at different seasons and thus have heathers in all seasons of the year.

Heathers are also ground-covering and once established they suppress weeds and are therefore low maintenance. What could be better?

And the Spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earth’s dark breast
Rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.