“It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near one“
We might not have dragons, but we do have weather. Over the years we have learnt how to storm-proof the garden to the best of our ability, but as soon as I hear the shipping forecast giving gale warnings for Hebrides severe gale 9 increasing to storm force 10, I begin to worry. If it gets to violent storm 11, I cease worrying about the garden, hide under the duvet and hope the roof doesn’t blow off!
This month the long tentacles of the Beast from the East have held us in an frozen embrace and caressed us with its icy breath. The chilling effect of the strong north easterly winds has not been ameliorated by the bright sunshine, so gardening has been limited to planting early potatoes in the polytunnel and optimistically sowing a few seeds. However, the Easterly Beast has a sting in the tail and this weekend we are promised gale force conditions (9 to 10) with wintery showers.
It is tempting to retreat to the sofa with a good book, a pot of tea, and toast my feet by the fire. However, the days are getting longer and it is time to start planning the serious business of growing vegetables.
It is a while we visited the vegetable garden, so for new visitors to the Croft Garden and to remind old friends, I’d like to invite you to a “visitor orientation field induction process illustrated with appropriate sitemaps to ensure that it is effective in keeping visitors safe“. For those of you who are not up-to-speed on risk assessment management speak: “here are some maps so you don’t get lost, please watch your step, try not to trip over the hosepipe and if you leave the garden please be aware that there is a bull with the cows in the top field“.
The vegetable beds and orchard are all protected by internal fences, a hedge on the west, north and east boundaries and either the polytunnel or the fruit cages on the south. The garden is flat, altlough there is a step up to the orchard. The area between the cultivated beds and borders is gravel.
The vegetables grown in each of the beds are rotated annually. As the growing season is very short it is only possible to produce one crop each year. Apart from parsnips and carrots, all the other vegetables are grown from seed in modules or pots and hardened-off before planting in the beds. Young plants are covered with enviromesh to protect them from the wind until they are established. After ten years of trial and error, I have finally settled on the list of vegetables to grow each year, although I will often try a new variety to see if I can improve the productivity. The choice is vegetables is based on what we like to eat and what will tolerate our climate and soil conditions.
Most years I have a vague planting plan in my head or scribbled on the back of an envelope, which inevitably gets lost or forgotten, so things are a little ad hoc. So this year, as I’m confined by the Easterly Beast I have produced a planting plan! To add to this list there are cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, rocket and various other salad leaves which are grown in the greenhouse in the croft house garden. It may appear to be a little excessive for two people, but what we don’t need is given to friends.
The large fruit cage has always been used for growing fruit and vegetables, but this year we are using it to grow peas, garlic, sweet peas and sunflowers. For the last 2-3 years, the red and black currants had produced very little fruit as a result of a very heavy infestation of gooseberry sawfly. As I was not prepared to use a pesticide, we decided to take more radical action and removed the bushes. The larvae over-winter in the soil, so by removing the host plants we should remove the flies. The plan is to improve the soil in the small fruit cage, which is currently used for growing bulbs, and buy some new currant bushes. If the sawfly reappears, I will try biological control.
The weather forecast for the rest of the month is not particularly encouraging, so I will have to delay the start of my gardening year a little longer.
- Broad Beans – The Sutton
- Broccoli – Purple Sprouting
- Broccoli – Matsuri, Stromboli
- Celeriac – Ilona
- Carrots – Sugarsnax
- Herbs – Parsley, Fennel, Coriander
- Kale – Starbor
- Kale (Cavolo Nero) – Raven
- Leeks – Stromboli, Cairngorm
- Parsnips – Gladiator
- Beetroot – Cylindrica
- Early Broccoli – Stromboli
- Early Carrots – Sugarsnax
- Courgettes – Parthenon
- Florence Fennel – Chiarino
- French Beans – Isabel
- Garlic – Early Purple Wight
- Lettuce – Moonred, Amaze
- Pepper – Midas
- Early Potatoes – Charlotte
- Spinach – Trombone
- Spring Onions
- Tomatoes – San Marzano