We have entered that short period of time between the heat of summer baking hard our beds and autumn’s cold touch hardening the soil, so I saw the recent heavy rainfall as an opportunity to turn over a few empty beds in preparation for the new season ahead. Continue reading “Turn Your Soil”
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.
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.
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.
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.
It seems there’s never enough time to get all those allotment jobs done. You spend all week planning how to get the most out of those precious weekends on the plot, that when it comes round and tasks are completed, several more are only too keen to rear their eager heads. But that’s what gardening is, a continuous cycle. We do, we learn, we move on.
However, something I am doing a little differently this year is germinating my parsnip seeds at home in a propagator. I always find parsnip seeds are a bugger to get going. Once they’re off, it’s a different matter. Although the finished result can come in a multitude of unusual shapes and sizes, they still taste great. So now I’ve challenged myself to grow the ultimate parsnip.
It took a week for the seeds to germinate, but with their first shoots emerging, I took them up to the allotment.
On the plot I decided to create holes with the dibber then backfill with sifted soil, place the germinated seed on top and lightly cover. I could be way off the mark here but my thinking is, a clean route down will mean less encounters with stones thus preventing forking. Who knows? I’m committed now and the quest for the ultimate parsnip has begun. Wish me well as I set sail on the voyage of parsnip discovery. However, if you can keep a secret, there’s another project I’ve been working on, locked away in my garden shed. But before I return, under the cover of darkness to proceed with my covert operation, I wanted to share some pictures of my wallflowers and our sole Fritillaria meleagris ‘Snakes Head’.