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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