UNDER A BLANKET

I was looking at my seed collection and grew more and more frustrated. It is all fine to see that parsnips could be sown from February onwards. Well, that would have been rather difficult as the weather was against me.

Never mind, yesterday was a lovely sunny day so I made sure the piece of ground where the parsnips are going to grow is weed – free (quite a challenge, they seem to grow at the rate of knots!) and covered it with a piece of horticultural fleece. I’m sure it will worm the soil and I shall be able to sow one of my favourite vegetables.

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That done I turned my attention to the greenhouse. There are raised beds on both sides and a small one at the back. I added some more soil from my composter bins and now they are ready. Fortunately I have a large plastic cloche to cover one of the beds so I planted some lettuce seedlings there. That way we can have some early Icebergs.

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Last but not least I prepared another small raised bed that is beside the greenhouse, put a bag of old horse muck in and covered it with a thick layer of good soil, this is now ready for one pumpkin. I have high hopes for my latest acquisition, seeds from a Maltese pumpkin. I’ve seen them in Malta, now the challenge is to grow them as big as they were there.

In the past few years I had four raised beds with strawberries but one in particular is getting a bit old, they didn’t produce very much fruit. I have decided to dig them out, used some of the best runners to fill gaps in other strawberry beds and this one is now ready to be planted with broad beans. I have started them in the greenhouse in the back garden. They will be sheltered in this bed, I can plant them there a bit earlier.

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CLIMBING BEANS AND TOMATOES

I know it is still chilly, specially at night but needs must – my climbing beans were really climbing out of their pots. They have been standing in the veranda with a lot of other plants, tomatoes, squashes, courgettes and pumpkins and I thought the time has come.

I don’t as a rule grow runner beans but grow all different climbing beans, blue-poded, flat yellow and pale green-poded ones, even some heritage speckled-poded beans (Selma Zebra). These beans all taste much better than the usual runners, are hardly ever stringy and don’t irritate skin when cutting, like the runner beans can do (they do that to me).

The structures were ready, all it needed was to fork over the ground and in they went.

Next to plant were the tomatoes – this is a variety I never grew before, Sub-arctic Plenty, they are supposed to set fruit even at low temperatures. They might have to do just that if this weather continues. I planted nine of them in one of my net cages which I lined at the bottom third with fleece, that should stop the cold wind hitting them.

PLANTING TIME

Even though the weather is still quite unsettled and un-spring like I decidedĀ  to plant my Spagna Bianco beans out. I waited quite a while before I started them in pots in the greenhouse but they grew at an alarming rate and very soon were trying to get out of the greenhouse. I put the whole tray of them in the veranda to harden them so I think they were quite tough when they went in the ground. I didn’t want to take chances so I built a little fleece fence round them, perhaps just for a bit of protection from the wind.

There is also one line of them but this didn’t get any pampering because these are just beside the net tunnel and that seems to keep the wind off them.

The next job was to plant something in the four empty cold frames. I had radishes there, harvested them and now they were ready.

I have grown five bush courgettes, ideal for this, hopefully they’ll just sit there and produce loads of tasty fruit. One cold frame had to have two courgette plants but I don’t think this will matter. If it gets too overcrowded I’ll just carefully take one out and plant is elsewhere.

The last job was planting some more lettuce seedlings in the polytunnel. The first batch are doing very well and the four cucumbers as well. I had one tray of lettuce, one cucumber plant and one ‘mystery’ plant. It looks like a squash, courgette or pumpkin – the label got lost in moving. We shall see.

INNOVATION

I made sure that I read my last year’s diary of sowing and planting out – there were times I was a bit too keen to get going. Some of my plants suffered some frost damage last spring so I wanted to avoid it.

All the same, the kohl rabi germinated very quickly and grew into sturdy plants. I had to plant them out and the first batch went to the raised bed with the net cover. There is double protection, the bed isn’t full to the top and the net offers a bit of protection after all. They have grown quite a bit.

That gave me another idea – I would like to plant some of my cabbage and kaleĀ  plants into the original net tunnel and thought to create more protection. I have loads of garden fleece – from the days when they offered two for the price of one etc. The tunnel has a very convenient horizontal rail and I managed to fix the fleece to it with zip ties and buried the bottom in the soil. Perfect solution and I’m sure it’ll keep the plants protected – not only from the cold but mainly from any cold wind.

Today was a day of innovations – the asian pear looks like it might have quite a bit of fruit and one of the branches is at an angle and I was afraid that, when the fruit starts getting heavy, it might break. As I cut down a long branch of my eucalyptus tree in the back garden yesterday I turned it upside down, pushed the pointy end into soil, nailed a flat piece of wood to the thicker end and tied the branch to this with a soft piece of material. That way it cannot move and hopefully I saved the branch (and the fruit).