Well, what a difference a year makes. This time last year we came back from a wet weekend in Portugal to be met by the ‘Beast from the East’. Thick snow and freezing temperatures followed by further wintry storms into March. The hellebores in my garden didn’t even start to emerge until a week into March. By contrast we’ve had beautiful warm sunny weather for almost 2 weeks now. Although, like any experienced (and cynical) gardener, I can’t help feeling it could all change yet. Looking back through my photos, we had snow on the ground on the 18th March last year, and though it seems unlikely now, you never know. March can be a very deceptive and devious month.
So the gardening year has started in earnest. Chillies, leeks, sweetpeas and chickpeas are all under way, and just today I noticed the brassicas (early purple sprouting and early Brussels sprouts) have also germinated, that took them a whole 3 days. We have 4 varieties of chillies on the go, the earliest of which (jalapeños) have already been transplanted from the seed tray to little fibre pots. I’ll be sowing some mange-tout peas and lettuce next, but I think I might struggle to keep up with it all if this warm weather continues. I’m normally watching, waiting and willing everything to germinate and grow, but right now I want to say – whoa slow down guys, it’s still only February.
If you’re reading this and thinking, heck I haven’t started anything yet, trust me, there is still plenty of time. Most things are better off started in March or April as regardless of temperature, there’s more light. Certainly any tender crops are left until then. I only start early with the hardy crops that I want to harvest early (leeks, peas and lettuce) and those that need a long growing season (chillies, peppers and brassicas). If you’re lucky enough to have a greenhouse or poly tunnel to grow them, you can also start tomatoes now.
As is traditional around valentines day, the potatoes have been set out for chitting, romantic or what? We are growing the same 3 varieties we grew last year, Charlottes (best tasting) Desiree (most reliable) and Anya (just because we love them roasted and crushed with sea salt). These probably won’t get planted out until April, unless this crazy weather continues, then maybe late March.
We’ve had a couple of beautiful sunny Sundays on the allotment. I’ve planted some more asparagus crowns, as we seem to have lost a couple and haven’t had sufficient crops from those remaining. John has planted out onion and shallot sets, I have weeded and cut back stems in the herb bed (while dancing with frogs), and we’ve emptied one of our compost bins onto one of 2 beds that will be no-dig beds this year. If no-dig is a new concept to you I will write a post about this soon, but you can find lost of info online, especially via Charles Dowding.
I love how each year, the setting out of seed potatoes and planting of onion sets, coincides with using up the last stored potatoes and onions. The circle of life joining up. We’ll still be working our way through leeks and parsnips for a while yet, so we’re not quite in the so-called hungry gap, but more like we’re in the ‘having to reluctantly buy lots more veggies in the supermarket’ phase. I take my gardening hat off to anyone who manages self-sufficiency for 12 months of the year.
The garden is also in full swing now, snowdrops, hellebores and miniature narcissi are dotted around the fresh new growth from some of the perennials. The little woodland primroses are just getting their act together. I’m also noticing little signs of spring each time I take the dog out for a walk, and it’s all being documented in my new illustrated journal.
It’s amazing how quickly I’ve gone from drawing dried out seed heads to spring flowers. Here’s hoping the good weather continues, we might actually get the allotment prepared in good time this year.