Monday, 4 April 2016

Sowin' in the rain

Pak choi seedlings
The sowing season has begun in earnest. While it's pouring outside, I've been sowing crystal lemon cucumbers, melons, achochas, tomatillos (purple, green and yellow), okra (good luck needed here), lettuces, mangetout, fennel, coriander and a lot of modules of brassica (Romanesco and 'normal' cauliflower, red, white and Savoy cabbage, kale, calabrese, broccoli, Brussels sprouts). Just the celeriac left to do - everything else will either be sown direct (carrots, parsnips, chard, rapini, herbs, rocket) or in early May (courgettes, squashes, pumpkins, beans, sweetcorn).

The conservatory is filling up
It's very satisfying to sow all the things we'll be eating in the coming year. Everything I sow is potentially on the menu, but we never know which veg are going to have a good year in advance. Anything I forget to sow will be off the menu.

I've been trying to be a bit disciplined and use up the older seed packets so that I can start with fresh seeds next year. Quite hard when the brassica packets contain hundreds of seeds and we really only want a dozen or so plants of each.

Another new item on the veg menu, hopefully, will be oca, another one of these versatile South American tubers and very pretty to boot. I've been given some by a local gardener who's had great success with them. I'm planning to treat them like maincrop potatoes and sow them in late April, direct into a trench. At the moment they are sitting in an egg carton under an attic window, just like the maincrop potatoes, and awaiting their turn. We've tried a few raw in salads, where they add a nice bit of crunch, and boiled in a stew - should be a good addition to the winter vegetables.

Just a tad wet out there
Despite the rainy, windy weather we've managed to plant 400 sets of onions and the first earlies on the one lovely, sunny day we've had this week. And they got nicely watered in the next day, without any effort on our behalf.

Note the size of the burn
We've also managed to plant another 240 hedge plants. Now the bottom paddock is partitioned into usable and protected chunks of ground, and hedged all the way around. It's always a lottery when you're ordering bareroot plants what the weather will be like when they get delivered. As they really need to go into the ground as soon as possible you haven't got much choice but to plant them no matter what the weather. True to form (this is our third year of hedge planting), we had one day of nasty planting conditions, with a cold, cold wind, but the other two days were pleasant at least.

New cotoneaster hedge
We're reaching the end of a lot of vegetables now - the last of the celeriacs were mashed yesterday, the last of the leeks will be had today, the kale is starting to put out flowers and I took the Brussels sprout leaves off before taking out the remaining plants (the sprouts were no good unfortunately). One last winter lettuce remains in the greenhouse. But there are also some new things on the menu: rhubarb, spring cabbage, wild rocket.

Soruss is getting a bit cocky now that spring is under way. Unfortunately, he is just as guest-unfriendly as his dad. So far he's tried to attack almost every guest and had a couple of satisfying attacks when my cousin and her 10-year-old daughter stumbled while fighting him. One of his tricks is to fly up behind people, aiming for the backs of their knees. But at least he's very content in his territory and safely contained within it. The general safety advice is: Take a stick when traversing his territory and keep an eye on him, even after you've walked past him, and you'll be fine.

Cheerful daffodil on a rainy day


  1. You'll want to keep an eye on the achocha - its growing rate is incredible!
    I take it that the oca doesn't need chitting - or does it? The tubers do look lovely!

    1. No, the oca doesn't need chitting. It just says to keep them in a cool, light place until you plant them. I haven't sown all the achochas seeds you've sent me because of the frightful growth rate. Will be interesting to watch.

  2. Sonja, must admit I can feel the damp in your pictures this month. What's the wee yellow building it looks like an elegant hen house. I think my hens need to be 'replaced' no eggs plus they have this vacant look about them. Cotoneaster hedge will have the windbreak masked in no time. Can you grow sea buckthorn where you are - I think it would do well here but it's difficult to get hold of locally - seems such a useful shrub?

    1. Yes, the yellow hut is the chicken des res. We had a large timber one before, but it was impossible to get rid of the red mites - too many nooks and crannies. This one disassembles easily and then can be power-washed. Plenty of chicken soup coming up then? We're going to incubate some eggs in May for our next chicken generation. We did plant about 25 sea buckthorn last year, but it was a bad year for trees so they haven't grown that much. I have high hopes for this year. It does sound like a very useful shrub all right - and it should keep out the mooligans and the naughty sheep.

  3. How great to have all those seedlings hurtling up despite the weather outside. Those oca look fascinating, I'll watch their progress with interest.

    1. I still have some spare ones for seed if you'd like some. Surprised you haven't tried it!