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.
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.
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;
- 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;
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.
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.
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.
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!