So far the year has been fantastic weather-wise, especially compared to last year. We’ve had rain, sun, rain, sun, and the last spell of sun has meant that we really needed to get on top of the grass which is growing like billy-o! We’re using the grass clippings to mulch around the base of the orchard trees to supress weeds – only about 1″ thick at a time until the clippings brown off without turning to sludge, then we’ll add more. I love this time of year – the winter drudgery is on the way out, things are beginning to look greener and order is returning.
Last year we planted the sweetcorn directly into the ground in May once it had started to warm up, but unfortunately they were too small to eat. This year, though the big greenhouses aren’t ready yet, I’ve sown the sweetcorn into 3″ pots and popped them into the mini greenhouse. They need to have a temperature of 15C to germinate, so even that might not be enough, but with the potatoes happily chitting away on every spare windowsill there’s no space for them inside. At least we’re buying an extra month.
I also sowed the leeks into trays of compost. Again, these are starting off in the mini greenhouse, but will be transferred to the main greenhouse once we’ve finished building it!
The sweetcorn we’ve sown are Incredible F1, and the two types of Leek are Lyon 2 – Prizetaker and Autumn Mammoth 2 – Snowstar.
Today has also seen the first cut of the grass in the patch. The idea is to cut the orchard grass and use the cuttings to mulch the bases of the trees to prevent growth of weeds and grass for a 3ft diameter around each trunk. I’ve made a mental note to carry out the first formative pruning of the plum and cherry trees before the growing season is in full swing. We’ve had to wait until now as they’re susceptible to silver leaf disease if pruned during frosty weather, so March is a relatively safe time to carry out any pruning. Once they have their final shape, any pruning needed can be carried out in the summer.
Okay, by now I admit it must start to look as though we’re a bit geeky for onions. But there’s no point denying the fact that today we sowed three more 30′ lines of onions. Two rows were of Bedfordshire Champion. According to the packet they’re ‘heavy cropping’ and ‘long storing’. If this is the case then these will be the ones to keep us going over next winter, so fingers crossed that they’re a good choice.
We also added a row of an Italian mixed variety, called Tris di Cipolle, another good storer. These are a medium sized onion, with a mix of white, brown and red skins, so something else to look pretty (apart from yours truly) once grown to a decent size.
We use a 5 bed rotation system for our veg, just to try and keep any nasty veg bugs at bay. In true style, when marking out the 5 equal beds, one of the beds ended up decidedly larger than the rest so it has been elevated to the ‘cash bed’. We plant/sow more than we need, and the spare get sold on the front. Last year’s ‘cash crop’ were potatoes, which we’re still eating, and this year’s is going to be O’Nions.
Shallots last year seemed to go down quite well on the front, with home picklers, so this year we’re putting a fair few in. We’re also going to sow onions from seed – I’ve no idea how sucessful it will turn out, but you never know until you try.
Todays plantings are:
Yellow Moon Shallots – disease resistant
Red Sun Shallots – good salad shallots
French Garlic Arno
French Garlic Cledor
This means we’ve filled nine 30′ rows of onions, shallots and garlic, and there are another five to fill. Two will be for leeks, the remaining three will be with the onion seed.
With the sun continuing to beat down on us – it must be over a week now of glorious sunshine – and it set to continue on to the weekend, it’s time to make the most of the warmth. Suz and I plodded down to the patch to set the following onion sets:
Sturon Onions – good for storing
Centurion F1 Onions – early cropper
Karmen Onions – great red salad onions
Picasso Shallots – good pickling shallot
Golden Gourmet Shallots – mild tasting and excellent pickling shallots
Sowing started today, in earnest. The packs have been ready to plop in the ground for a while now, the onions have been sat in the garage, and this week the sun decided to show itself for a 4 day stretch, so we’re earmarked them as the time to get a heap of seeds sown.
As usual, more hoeing before sowing, just to try and rid us of as many weeds as possible. Then these were sown:
Kelvedon Wonder Peas- will sow more in April and May
Bunyards Exhibition Broad Beans- will sow more in April and May
Norli Mangetout- will sow more in April and May
Gladiator F1 Parsnip – sowed the radish in the same drill to mark the row
Chantenay Red Cored 2 Carrot – will sow more in April and May
Prinz Rotin Radish
Whilst the parsnips are hybrid F1 types, meaning we can’t save the seeds and reuse them as they won’t be true to type, next year’s seeds will come from last year’s crop, which is true to type. We’re also going to try and start buying our seeds from these people – http://www.stormy-hall-seeds.co.uk/