Could spring be on its way?

I don’t know about you, but for weeks now I’ve felt as though we’d never see the last of this winter with its rotten snow blizzards. My heart sank when on Thursday night I was preparing to go out and the cat came in caked in snow and looking generally miserable – if ridiculous. Sure enough, another two inches of the stuff was covering our part of Essex by the time I got home, although it had disappeared again by Friday.

But yesterday lunchtime was a different story. The sun was shining – hooray! Can you believe, I sat outside on our patio with the chickens and ate my lunch, albeit not for very long and in a coat and scarf. And all around were hints that spring is on its way – daffodils pushing their shoots up through the soil and pretty orange crocuses in the flower bed. I hope I’m not speaking too soon…

DJ and I are itching to get going with the vegetable planting – especially as we ate 2008’s final parsnip last week. Heeling our parsnip crop in – pulling them up and then burying them in a shallow trench – really worked well in terms of storage, as did storing last year’s potatoes in hessian sacks in our downstairs cupboard. One or two of them went a bit green and ended up in the compost heap, but a surprising number of them lasted the distance.

At the moment, of course, our ground is too cold and hard to plant most things besides broad beans. DJ’s planted a few in one of the vegetable beds and also in the greenhouse. But my potatoes arrived last week – I’m growing Ulster Chieftain and Mayan Gold – and we’re preparing by ‘chitting’ them in the hallway. It’s ironic really – I used to moan about DJ cluttering up the place with bizarre sprouting potatoes nestling in egg boxes, but now I’m doing it myself. ‘Chits’ are the little sprouts that grow out of a potato’s eye and ‘chitting’ just means encouraging the growth of these sprouts. To do so, gardeners place them in egg boxes in a cool place, with the sprouts facing upwards. Apparently, you don’t have to chit potatoes, but by planting ones that have been chitted you cut the time between planting and harvesting.

While there’s not much doing now in our vegetable plots – although last year’s kale and cabbages are still holding on – there is some activity in the greenhouse. DJ has supplied us with some delicious salad leaves which successfully grew over the winter. Pea tops (which we were surprised to find selling in posh bags in the supermarket, no less), oriental mustard and rocket have all turned out well, although the winter purslane didn’t fare as well. DJ thinks he planted it too early.

I can’t wait until I can properly get to grips with my first plot, though, and start sowing things and (hopefully) watch them grow. I am tempted to start some lettuces off in pots indoors, but am wondering if it’s really worth it.

Are you growing vegetables this year? Have you made a start on your plot yet?

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10 Responses to Could spring be on its way?

  1. Diana says:

    Hi Piper! I\’m planning my garden at the moment as well and it\’s very exciting so I can empathise with you. I used to live in Cornwall but I\’ve moved back to Ireland to be with my parents who\’ve got 2 acres and it\’s difficult to know where to start. They got double glazing in over the winter so I\’ve some old windows in lovely old teak which I\’m hoping to build a cold frame or two with. Have you done this and have you any advice for me?

  2. 1960Liz says:

    We started on Sunday by moving the small cherry tree we put in last year. It is a sunburst and we only got 3 fruit, but they were delicious. We moved it to extend the vegetable patch which is now the length of the garden. Mr friend\’s dad is the head of his allotment group and he came to have a look and give some advice on how/when to do it. This weekend I am going to start some salads indoors and just can\’t wait to have all those fabulous cucumbers and tomatoes and courgettes again. Roll on warm weather, fresh very and not spending much at the supermarket.

  3. Christine says:

    Lettuce will grow in pots as they only need 4" of soil – but you need somewhere that is not to hot and not to cold to get anywhere with them indoors and you also need to be able to ensure that they get natural daylight rather than having to suffer with house lights. Technically it could be interesting but it is possible to do.

  4. Christine says:

    I\’m not sure that it\’s particularly frugal growing your own unless you can provide 90% of what you want throughout the year – does require time spent pickling and preserving. It can be almost full time to make it cost effective but it\’s possible that quality helps the budget – you may well get better than you would buy if you are watching the pennies. And also it is a grand time filler – quite free as well as free exercise.

  5. Tattyhousehastings says:

    We grew great lettuces last year in boxes on our window sills. Means the bane of my life – slugs can\’t get them, and I think they are a little better protected from the weather. In fact I could not wait this weekend and planted them a couple of weeks early. Also really handy to grow and grab (then eat).

  6. Piper says:

    Thanks for the comments – I think I\’ll have a go with growing lettuces indoors then. Want to grow some romaine lettuce for the pet lizards. And we\’ve got 4,000 seeds in one packet so if they don\’t grow it\’s not a huge loss. How lovely to have a cherry tree. Reminds me of school as we used to have loads in the playground. Diana – how amazing to have 2 acres. Very jealous of your parents! I\’m a novice gardener but will ask DJ about the cold frame.

  7. Diana says:

    Yes, it is lovely but a nightmare to look after. Also, it needs an awful lot of work done. I am excited though!

  8. Kerri says:

    Dont forget, you don\’t need a garden or allotment to grow a few veg. A while back Jamie Oliver demonstrated how you can grow potatoes in a grow bag, stood up on it\’s end with the potatoes popping though cuts in the side. I also grew tomatoes a few years back on a grow bag on our front lawn (which is about the size of a grow bag!) and they were fantastic. Chilli plants grow well in pots indoors – and don\’t forget your kitchen herb garden – grow a few key herbs on your kitchen window sill ready so pick when cooking – so much cheaper than those expensive fresh herbs in the supermarket. This year I\’m thinking of growing some alpine strawberries (or perhaps normal ones) in two stone pots I have as I am limited for space.

  9. piper says:

    Hi there – good point Kerri. I am going to grow my tatties in bags this year – fingers crossed. Asked DJ about the cold frame, Diana, and he says to build a box frame and add the window on some hinges to it. Slant the window so it\’s facing south. Good luck!

  10. says:


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