It’s still a bit chilly out there! If you’re waiting for the weather to pick up before heading out to the garden or allotment, it could be too late for some seeds. So, here’s ShefFood’s reminder to get your wellies on to brave the cold for a healthy crop in Spring and Summer. The daylight hours are finally getting longer, so mid-March is the moment to start sowing outdoors. But, if you’re not confident, you can also start many seeds indoors on a windowsill or in a greenhouse.

Last Chance for Sweet Peppers

March is your last chance to sow sweet peppers in a greenhouse or a windowsill in Sheffield. Peppers are native to Mexico, Central, and northern South America. However, a lot are now grown throughout the Mediterranean, including Spain, Greece, and North Africa. So, they are definitely warm-loving crops. But that doesn’t mean they can’t grow in the UK climate. However, it does mean that these tender plants are best grown in a greenhouse or a sheltered, sunny spot. Sow them now, any later and they won’t ripen before the cold returns.  

Early Peas for a delicious start to Spring

Early pea varieties such as ‘Meteor’ can be sown in a greenhouse or on a windowsill to be planted out when ready. However, plants raised indoors need to be acclimated to cooler temperatures, lower humidity and increased air movement before they are planted outdoors. This includes peas. This ‘toughening up’ process is called hardening off. There are different ways to do this depending on the plant, but it generally involves moving your plants to a cooler place in the day and bringing them inside during the evening until the nights get warmer. Check online to find out best practices for your plants. 

Leafy Greens and Herbs Galore

From mid-March, you can sow kale, spinach, chard, lettuce, coriander and parsley directly outside.  You can also start them in a greenhouse or on a windowsill, but don’t forget to harden them off.  While we fully expect to have the inevitable April showers, make sure that your precious seeds don’t dry out. We’ve had some very dry springs in recent years, so remember to check your soil frequently, especially if it’s not rained in a few days. 

Beat the Beets

Beetroots are easy to grow, take up little space, and are ideal for beginner gardeners. They’re also nutritious, delicious and versatile. Beetroot can be harvested for both leaves and roots. Sow seeds little and often for continuous cropping. Sow three or more seeds together for bunches of smaller beetroots. Or you can just harvest the bigger ones, leaving more room for other beets to grow a little more. They are best picked when they are the size of a golf ball and still tender.   They make a delicious addition to roasts and stews as well as in salads raw. If you grow varieties for winter storage, it’s possible to have beetroot almost all year round.  You can also harvest the leaves by cutting a few off at a time; they make a great addition to salads and sandwiches. 

Growing food is an excellent way to stay in shape, get out in nature and support your mental health. Plus, you’ll get some delicious food at the end of it to share with family and friends. 

ShefFood is the food partnership for Sheffield. They are a cross-sector partnership of public agencies, businesses, academic and community organisations committed to working together to create a more sustainable food system for Sheffield. For more information or to get involved, please get in touch with ShefFood’s Partnership Coordination Team at info@sheffood.org.uk