This section is from the book "The Gardener V1", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
Cultivators who know the value of "March dust" will not lose any time in forwarding any garden operations still left undone, and be ready to take advantage of the first dry weather suitable for seed-sowing; there is so much to do (all at once) this month. If the weather should be very wet, and otherwise unfavourable, it is better to wait a little than to tread on soil which will become battered and unfit for seed-sowing. It is necessary with some soils to use a board for standing on, and to draw the drills and cover them in as the work progresses. This is the case in low-lying localities, and where the soil is of 'a heavy tenacious nature. Covering small seeds deeply is an evil to be guarded against. The greater care taken with sowing and planting, the cultivator is the more likely to be rewarded by success. About the middle of the month is a good time to sow on a dry border a pinch of Brussels Sprouts, Savoy, Kale, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Snow's Broccoli, and Granger's autumn Broccoli seed. Beds can be prepared by making a smooth surface, treading out alleys every 4 or 5 feet apart, and sprinkling the seed over the surface, then slightly covering it with a little earth from the alleys, finishing with a rake, leaving each kind correctly labelled.
We, however, prefer drills, drawn 9 inches or 1 foot apart, and sowing the seed thinly in them. When the plants come up, they are not so readily drawn up weakly. But it is of great importance to their wellbeing if time can be afforded to prick them out a few inches apart, to keep them sturdy till planted out finally. We always make two or three sowings of the above. Though the latest are often weakly plants, they are useful to plant up space as it becomes vacant; and where failures were frequent in many places last season, late-sown Kale was of great value for "filling up." Cauliflower in handlights should now have extra plants taken out, with all the roots and soil they can carry, and be planted in well-prepared ground, sticking a few Evergreens round each plant to break cutting winds. Placing flower-pots over the plants at night is often practised with good results. The plants left under the handlights should have the soil well stirred among them, and any decaying leaves and weeds cleared away; and a little rotten manure, placed over the surface, will be of great service. The lights may be turned round or taken off in mild weather. With a little attention given to airing and shutting up before the sun is quite off, the plants will make rapid progress and come in early.
When good Cauliflower is so much valued, Cauliflower plants may be planted out from frames 2 feet apart. Those who found time to pot them will now have little difficulty in planting out. Sudden checks must be guarded against, as premature hearting would be the result. Carrots for drawing young may be sown on a warm border and covered slightly with sandy soil. Parsley for a main supply may be sown round the edges of breaks, or for forming the edges of narrow paths, thus taking up little valuable ground. A pinch sown thinly on an early sheltered spot may be of service where the old crops may go quickly to seed. Onions may be sown as soon as possible, covering the seed thinly and treading firmly afterwards, as advised last month. Leeks may be sown in a bed for transplanting, when they can be handled properly. They may also be sown in a trench, to be earthed up after thinning the crop. Abundance of manure is necessary to produce fine Leeks. A small piece of early Dutch Turnip may be sown, and if where protection can be given, they will likely be longer in running to seed: shallow drills, 1 foot apart, will be suitable. Wood-ashes, sprinkled over the surface, will keep slugs in check - all small seedlings will require to have some kind of protection against slugs.
Turnip-slices laid round about the borders, etc, and turned up every morning, will secure great numbers. Netting may be required to keep off birds. Red lead, sprinkled over the seed, keeps birds in check. Radishes and Lettuces may be sown, and if where protection in frosty weather can be given it will be advantageous. Litter, spruce branches, and laurels, are often used in severe weather. Spinach may be sown between the rows of Cabbage or other crops. Where Peas are grown in breaks, Spinach is generally sown between the rows. Peas may be sown at least twice in the month. To make successions of second early kinds, Champion of England and Dickson's Favourite will be difficult to beat, either for croppers or fine-flavoured Peas. If the ground is shallow and sandy, the seed may be covered over in the rows with rotten manure or leaf-mould, and well mulched when they are up, otherwise mildew is likely to appear. Stake those which may be up, and prevent them from falling over. Broad Beans for a full crop may be sown; plenty of room is necessary if the ground is good. We generally find from 2 1/2 to 3 feet between the rows not too much, and from 3 to 6 inches between the seeds - Johnstone's Wonderful and Broad Windsor are good kinds for present sowing.
Asparagus will spring early this season; and planting may require attention by the end of the month. Full particulars for Asparagus culture have been given in the ' Gardener' so lately, that we need say nothing about that delicious vegetable here. Plant Horse - Radish in deeply - trenched ground, where manure has been turned into the bottom; 2 feet between the rows and 8 inches between the root is not too much on good ground. Plant Globe Artichokes when suckers can be had. They make a good succession to the main plantation - 3 feet by 2 will be wide enough - but a single row is more easily managed. Jerusalem Artichokes may be planted similar to Potatoes; as a rule they do much better in single rows than when in large plantations - in the latter they do not, except the outside rows, get the advantage of sun and air. Single rows make also a good blind. Potatoes are sprouting unusually early this season, and planting need not be longer delayed, as the seed growing out of ground only wastes their vitality. If the kinds are strong growers, they require a greater distance between the rows - say 2 feet between the rows for the stronger kinds, and 1 foot between the tubers. Some of the smaller-leaved Kidneys we plant not more than 18 inches between the rows.