‘A DAFFODIL Is born und rises in the spring

It opens out its beauty to hear the cricket sing

But as quick as it does grow, it decays away so soon

Before the summer sunshine has reached its golden noon

If I was like the daffodil, so fair upon the ground

Or like the winding river with its sweet and mellow sound

Like a wave up to the shore, like a river into the sea

I’d lay down in my resting place, contented there to be

I’d lay down in my resting place and contented I would be.’

These words, by Luka Bloom, are a reminder of the beauty of spring time, and how short it is. The daffodil as ever eases gently into spring.

It’s a time in which we can now look forward and onward to better times, when the birds begin to sing their songs happily, for they, like us, are now thankful.

The gardener can now begin to sow seed and take cuttings in the heated greenhouse or indoors on the windowsill with confidence that, with the increasing light of the sun, they will grow.

All plant life requires soil and water to grow but the most important factor is light. In March the days soon get longer and the light stronger. Onions and leeks sown in January will soon put on growth. We can begin sowing all types of vegetables - Brassicas, cabbage, cauliflowers, Brussels sprouts. Tomatoes, sweet peppers, lettuces and cauliflowers can be sown now in the greenhouse. I use John Innes seed compost for this task.

Seeds can be sown and placed in a propagator or on a heat mat with a bottom heat of around 18C (65F). Or they can be germinated on the kitchen windowsill. Flower seed can be set the same way now. Cyclamen are offered in the autumn as ‘Outdoor Hardy Cyclamen’ but these are essentially cool greenhouse plants which can’t withstand temperatures the like we’ve seen this winter of -7C. But there are Cyclamen that will stand low temperatures and even flower through the snow. I am talking about Cyclamen Coum. These tough little fellows can be bought from nurseries right now in pots.

The corms can be planted 10 inch (254 mm) apart in good ground, incorporating some well-rotted manure. They spread quickly - some say by mice so for a good crop get your mice working!

This month of March is the final deadline to plant bare rooted hedgerows. I cannot emphasise earnestly enough how much better a hedge is than a fence. I have seen many fences blown apart and totally wrecked by gales this winter.

A fence checks the wind abruptly, forcing it upwards and creates the gusty effect that can be dangerous.

A hedge filters and tempers the wind’s ferocity, unlike the fences that are fashionable with builders of modern housing estates. But do consider planting a hedge along inside of a fence, if you already have one.

Which brings us to our gardener of this month - Philip Etherington, whom I met on a visit to the York Auction Centre Machinery Show in February. Philip exhibited an array of bare rooted hedge whips, he told me mixed hedging is gaining in popularity, due to the benefitting effect on biodiversity and wild bird life. He can be contacted on 07709 710687.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Peter Fawcett was a professional gardener for more than 40 yearsPeter Fawcett was a professional gardener for more than 40 years (Image: Peter Fawcett)

This has been an unusual winter of rain and light levels have been generally low. Plants need warmth and water to grow, but light is the most important factor. However, being part of the natural world, they generally win out in the long run. The constant rain dose more than make the soil hard to work with, but also leaches nutrients from the land which will need replacement with fertilisers.

St Patrick’s Day, on 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. Charlotte is my favourite early potato. It has lovely waxy texture and flavour. For late types the Sarpo varieties - Sarpo Miyra, Sarpo Axon and Sarpo Una - are very blight resistant. These are well worth growing, especially if you have had problems with blight, which attacks on warm and damp nights encountered on warm balmy summer evenings. 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. 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.

It’s spring time which we can now look forward to better times, when the birds begin to sing their songs happily, and contented they will be.

* Gardener’s Delight by Peter Fawcett is available at peterfawcett0@gmail.com or (01274) 873026.