I know I had my direct sowing schedule right this year because as soon as I planted my seeds, the dog started thinking that the vegetables beds were the perfect spot to warm up in the sun.

I raise many seedlings inside the greenhouse but the different composts, the pricking out, the potting on and the constant watering is a tad tedious. So the prospect of the soil being warm enough to direct sow is always a welcome one.

Conventional wisdom says that if the soil is warm enough for weeds to germinate then it's warm enough to be sowing vegetables directly. There are obvious exceptions to this, I'm not about to start sowing my pepper seeds in the soil while there's still risk of frosts, but I've found it's a better measure than some of the instructions in books or on the back of seed packets, especially given the increasingly unpredictable changed climate. I guess you could also use your dog.

Honey decided that if the soil was warm enough for heat-treated Red Baron onions, it was warm enough for her.

In the past I've been too cosy in the house to venture outside until the weather was exceptional and by then it was too late and the weeds had taken over. This year I've been far more vigilant, helped by the fact that we are living in a caravan in the garden and the weeds seem so much closer and hence so much more urgent.

Structural changes that I've made to the vegetable plot have also had an impact on how much I weed. I have attempted to terrace some of the vegetable beds with some old railway sleepers as the vegetable patch is on a slope. I've found being able to perch myself on a sleeper to weed is far more tempting than kneeling on mulch or bending down. I also made the gaps between beds wider so that if I do need to kneel down, there's enough room and I don't need to reach at uncomfortable angles.

I also keep a lot of "weeds". I find that lots of vegetation confuses and deters the voracious pigeons and pheasants and traps moisture in the early spring when the rain stops and the water butts are empty. The vegetable bed at the top of the plot is currently covered with chamomile and red nettle, both self-sown. Hidden among all the vegetation are carrots and lettuce that I sowed at the end of last summer as well as my ever-expanding sorrel and some ornamental plants I am temporarily housing in the beds as a precaution against builders' boots.

Self-sown chamomile, lunaria (honesty) and red nettle growing alongside some ornamental grasses temporarily housed in the vegetable beds, sorrel, lettuce, carrots and celery leaf.

It may be exciting to be able to direct sow but until the seeds germinate and the seedlings get going, the vegetable beds do look a little drab. It's nice to have the tiered purple heads of the red nettle and the frothy green of the chamomile when the other beds are so bare. The red nettle has also been an excellent, long-lasting source of early spring food for the bees.

Whether you use the emergence of weeds or your dog's sunbathing routine, knowing your soil is the best way to grow. And leaving a few weeds now and then can be beneficial for your vegetables and the wildlife.