The Land Rover Owners Wife

Time for a bit of gardening

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Vegetable garden at the start of the afternoon

Vegetable garden at the start of the afternoon

I awoke at 4.30 this morning to the sound of significant rainfall and the realisation that, actually, we haven’t had much in the way of rain for the last few weeks, not even in the form of snow. Then I closed my eyes and went back to sleep. A couple of hours later and although the heavy rain had ceased, we were still experiencing showers and I realised that if, as forecast, the rain stopped late morning, then the soil in the beds would be ideal for planting by mid afternoon and I gleefully pulled out my carrot, parsnip and beetroot seed packets in anticipation of a couple of hours hard graft in the vegetable patch.

Vegetable garden - another view

Vegetable garden – another view

Checking my garden rotation plan to see what need to go where this year, I also faced up to the laborious but necessary and time consuming job of moving my netting from one set of beds to the other.

Fence beds - Mud will be putting some wire supports in for my squash plants to grow up and along

Fence beds – Mud will be putting some wire supports in for my squash plants to grow up and along

Two o’clock saw me outside, in the glorious peace of my garden (the Mudlets are still on their Easter break but were happily watching childrens TV), contemplating the planting of my King Edward potatoes. We don’t have a lot of space but I do like to plant around 10 seed potatoes each year because the taste of bought potatoes just can’t compare to home grown ones. For those of you new to vegetable growing, a word to the wise: do not be fooled by the size of your seed potatoes. Potato plants are HUGE and take up a lot of space and often require some sort of supporting wire/fence. I usually create a supporting perimeter fence, of several rounds of wool/string/garden wire, wrapped around a framework of bamboos, strategically spaced along the four sides of the potato bed. This helps to keep the foliage ‘tidy’ and out of the way. Our potato bed is relatively small, though, so you will need to figure out the best way to support your plants in your own bed(s).

I always ‘chit’ my main crop potatoes but I know many people who don’t. To chit my potatoes I place them into an old egg box and leave them on a windowsill for several weeks until shoots have developed – simples. So now to the planting and this is how I do it:

  • First I dig a hole approximately 10 inches deep;King Edward Seed potato
  • Next I pour some water into the hole and then I leave it to soak in whilst I dig the next hole:
  • By the time I’ve dug the second hole, most of the water in the first one has soaked away, leaving a small puddle in the bottom and into this I carefully place my ‘chitted’ seed potato. If your potato has more than one shoot, carefully remove all but the healthiest looking one and place your potato into the hole with the shoot pointing skywards;
  • I then carefully back fill around the potato taking extreme care not to break off the shoot, after all I don’t want the weeks on the windowsill to go to waste – the shoot is my head start;
  • King Edward Seed potatoes bed after planting

    Then I smooth the back filled mud into a small dome which effectively marks exactly where I planted each seed potato; and then

  • I water the second hole before digging hole number three and so on and so forth until all the potatoes are planted.

With all ten seed potatoes planted, my next job was to remove the netting from last years parsnip/carrot beds and fix it to this years beds. This is a long job but, in my opinion it is so necessary. I really don’t want the birds, caterpillars or root flies to get the benefit of all my hard work and so netting is a necessity. Truth be told, our netting was actually officially packaged as greenhouse shading but Mud disliked the white environmesh which was the only other option available at the time when we purchased the netting. The shading, on the other hand, was a lovely dark green and so blended in and was much less obvious, it is, however, useless for brassicas, lettuces etc as butterflies can easily lay their eggs through the mesh.

It took an hour but at last the netting was in position and I could start the sowing of my carrots, parsnips and beetroot ……. except by then it was time to prepare tea and I was desperately in need of a coffee.

Carrot bed with drills made and watered ready for seed

Carrot bed with drills made and watered ready for seed

Parsnip, beetroot and carrot seed all sown

Parsnip, beetroot and carrot seed all sown

Around 45 minutes later, with tea cooking away in the Rayburn, I was back, with a long, straight bamboo in one hand and my trusty dibber in the other, ready to make the first drill for the carrots by laying the bamboo across the bed, holding it firmly in place and dragging my dibber down the length, several times to achieve the required depth. Once I had made 4 drills, I watered these and then planted two rows each up with Carrot ‘Giant Red’ and Carrot ‘Early Nantes’, using liberal amounts of seed with a sprinkle of spring onion seed thrown in for good measure. This is to help disguise the smell of the seeds and seedlings and hopefully confuse any local root flies. Parsnip and Carrot seed don’t keep very well and it is worth buying fresh each year and so I sow quite densely to prevent wastage, then thin out as necessary as the seeds grow. I then carefully scooped the soil back over the top of each row, gently firming it into place.

I repeated this process in the next bed, sowing alternate rows of Parsnip ‘Gladiator’ and Beetroot ‘Boltardy’, 2 rows of each. Each row was then labelled and the netting carefully secured to keep out any passing pests.

Quite a difference

Quite a difference

This picture shows the difference between the carrot bed (nearest) and the parsnip bed (furthest). Carrots like nicely enriched ground and this bed has had compost and chicken manure pellets added in October/November last year. Parsnips, on the other hand, do not like fertilised ground and so the furthest bed has been pretty much left as it was when it was emptied last summer.

Vegetable beds this evening - spot the difference

Vegetable beds this evening – spot the difference

It’s nice to think that finally my vegetable beds are in production, even though the broad beans have been in residence for a few weeks now. Tomorrow, I need to sort out the strawberry plants (like where am I going to put them all) and pot on a few more seedlings. although I reckon I’ll be a touch stiff and sore but tonight I feel pleasantly tired which I hope will herald a good nights sleep. Spring is here!

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2 thoughts on “Time for a bit of gardening

  1. Wow, you got a lot done! it’s such a good feeling getting started with the veggie patch again isn’t it. I chit my seed potatoes too, I know there a lots of people who say it’s not necessary, but I’m sure you get stronger plants if you do. I like the idea of watering the planting hole, I always do that if I’m planting out a pot grown plant but I hadn’t thought of it for potatoes, thanks for the tip, I’ll definitely try that when I plant mine next week.
    I’m very envious of you managing to grow carrots, mine are always a disaster, I think the soil is too heavy here, I have resorted to just growing a few in boxes filled with sand and compost.

    I recommend a bath with epsom salts for the sore muscles, it’s always a killer getting back into the garden work in spring and I find it really helps!

  2. Morning Alex 🙂

    To be honest I have mixed results with carrots. I’ve tried loads of different varieties, over the last few years, and Early Nantes is one that has done very well in our beds before and so was a must for this year. I’m hoping that the Giant Red from RSC will do well but I also have a large tub of little round carrots (Parmex is the variety) growing in the large greenhouse. I think the round shape of these would be a fun addition to the lunch boxes – my girls love raw carrot.

    Thankfully, I’m not as stiff as I thought I would be this morning but will definitely invest in some epsom salts for later on in the season, as Mud is planning a fairly major overhaul of the garden which will no doubt involve lots of heavy lifting 🙂

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