Good Looks Aren’t Everything

Despite the routine calendar of a gardener; when to sow carrots, when to earth up first early potatoes and when to turn your compost heap, no two growing years are the same. This year, several crops I’ve been growing seem to be weeks ahead to where they were this time last year. I  grow my chillies, peppers and aubergines on the kitchen windowsill and tend not to plant them into their final growing position until the second week in May. However, both my chilli and pepper plants have grown so big, they’re blocking out the natural light into the kitchen and have already got flowers on them. Pepper Collage

In the polytunnel my Cosmos bipinnatus (Rubenza) are already producing flowers, but out on the plot, there’s still no sign of my carrots! Not that I’m worried, it just adds a little more variety to the growing season and keeps me on my toes.

It’s an exciting time of year, the squash seeds have germinated, the different bean varieties are breaking through the soil and I seem to be growing more varieties of sunflowers than I know what to do with. But they’re all welcome, and I will find a final home for them all. Cosmos Collage

There have been a few crops I’ve grown on the polytunnel which normally, by now, I would have planted out. This is a changeable time of year, where one minute the shorts are out as we bask in the warmth of the sun, and the next we’re donning fleeces and thermals as we wipe the icicles from our noses in sub-zero temperatures. Therefore, a few extra weeks in the warmth of the polytunnel will hopefully give them an extra spurt of growth.

However, this was the weekend to plant out my brassicas.

I had two beds cultivated and ready for them. They’re nearly identical, the only difference is that one bed was enriched with green manure last autumn. So having split my cauliflowers (Mayflower), cabbages (Duncan) and broccoli (Calabrese) equally, I’ve planted them in the beds – keen to see if the green manure has any effect on this year’s crops.1brass

When growing brassicas, I always plant them a bit deeper to the soil line they’ve been previously growing in. As these crops grow large heads, all that weight rocking throughout the season can cause the roots to be pulled up and kill the crop. It’s then a question of watering, mulching and placing brassica collars round them. And the final act of security is to net them. Despite the good looks of a Cabbage White Butterfly, their offspring can devastate a brassica crop. So I’m taking no chances.

Although we may dream of having that Chelsea Garden Show garden/allotment, where everything looks perfect, crops are uniform, soil is of the finest crumb and there isn’t a beastie in sight, in the real world, pests and diseases are part of a gardener’s life. I try not to use chemicals, so it’s going to be netting to deter the worst of the seasonal invaders, hopefully, striking a healthy balance on my plot. Afterall, these pests were here before me.2shed

My allotment may not win a Gold for its good looks, but it’s all about the taste and making sensible choices not to pollute the land with toxins. AdeSignature

Advertisements

The Sound of Spring

Across the land from parks to allotments, gardens to woodlands, there’s a sound gaining volume; a fanfare from the proud trumpets of  daffodils piercing through the soil, heralding spring. 2

I’m sure winter still has a sting in her tail, she’s not done with us yet. But you can’t help but notice the toneless landscapes are finally changing as pockets of Narcissus explode on the scene.

This welcome sight tells me we’re at the gates of a new gardening season with so much hope and excitement ahead of us. It’s a journey we all look forward to. Gardening blogs are crammed with tales of sowing, Instagram is brimming with colour and Twitter is almost at breaking point, enticing us to visit all things RHS-related.

So not to be left out in the cold, I spent my weekend flitting between garden and allotment, getting as much done as I could, while poor Agent Soph was left wondering what had happened to her missing husband.

First job, to pot up my pepper, chilli and aubergine seedlings. They have come on in leaps and bounds, and with their true leaves gaining size they were ready to trade up and move into something a little larger. 1 Collage

I also sowed some spring onions. I grew some last year and was delighted with the results. So this year, I’ve opted for White Lisbon and a red variety called Furio. They’re easy to grow, need little looking after and the taste is wonderful.

Not yet done with the compost, I decided to plant a bag of shallots. They were a freebie from a gardening website, so I was keen to get these growing. However, after last year’s ‘Onion-maggeddon’, where I lost my entire crop of onions to the dreaded onion fly, I planted these in tubs and have left them to grow in the polytunnel. I’m going to try to grow onions on the plot again this year, but this time I’m going to start them off in modules, get a good root system going and when they have some growth and the ground is warmer, I’ll plant them outside.. and firmly cross my fingers.2 Collage

Back from the allotment and straight into the garden, I pruned a couple of my clematis, gave them a feed and mulched them. Then the final job was to pot up my Nerine bulbs, (a lovely christmas gift from Soph’s parents.) I’ve never grown these before, and as an autumn flower they should really add some wonderful pink and white tones to the garden later this year.

But then it was onto the last and most important task of the day.. 1

… some cut flowers for my good lady wife, and home.

AdeSignature