Sunday 16 March 2014

The Veg Plot - March

Getting Ready

Whilst you can just 'rock up' to the plot and chuck a few seeds in and hope for the best, it does pay to do a bit of preparation before you start.

I spent a couple of hours on Friday afternoon last week washing out pots and trays, mainly re-cycled mushroom containers and herb pots, in readiness for planting, cleaning up plant labels, sorting through seeds and deciding what I was going to plant, and where.

Sorting through the seeds is always a bit of a voyage of discovery.  Where do they all come from?  We have lots of half packets which, as they are still in date, should be fine from last year.  Some we've had free with magazines and some we were given as gifts.  Martin had two lots of Plant Theatre seeds for Christmas - a Funky Veg kit and a Psychedelic Salad kit.  Both are normal types of veg and salad, but all funky colours.

When sorting through and deciding what to plant, it's important to look at the 'plant by' dates, making sure you plant your oldest seeds first, but discard any that are actually out of date.

When planning what to plant, and where, we always try and take into account how long things take to grow and how much space they will need, this is particularly important when you don't have a lot of growing space.  It's also worth thinking about how much ready grown veg and salad is to actually buy.  If you're trying to save money by growing your own then you don't want to fill your growing space with onions - these will occupy the space for at least six months, stop you growing anything else for that time and you can always buy onions pretty cheaply anyway.

We have a couple of fairly small raised beds which we use for growing veg and salad, but we also have a wide range of pots and planters, which get brought into play throughout the year.

Another thing we've learned over the years is to try and avoid 'having a glut'.  Don't plant a bed full of radishes - you will have more than you can eat and no room to plant anymore!  This year we plan to plant little and often, so as we are eating one row of radishes, another is on the way.  Sounds simple I know, not sure how it will work in practice.

This year I think we plan to fill one of the raised beds with parsnips and beetroot.  We love both and we can just plant and leave them to it.  These are both happy to stay in the ground until we are ready to eat them - they don't tend to spoil if left and, a real bonus, the seeds are big enough to handle so that you can plant them where you want them to grow, with no thinning out required.

The other bed is half full of our self-set strawberries.  The rest we will give over to carrots, spring onions and a couple of varieties of salad leaves, including Little Gem, which is our favourite.  We are going to try and just plant a few of each type of leaves and then keep topping them up as we are eating them, as this is one crop that doesn't always last long enough for you to be able to eat ...... you can only eat so much salad!!

The climbing French beans I will start off in toilet roll middles, more eco-friendly re-cycling, and plant into a large round pot with a tall cane wigwam when they've got their first real leaves.  These are a real bargain as the seeds were all saved from last year's crop.  I should be able to do enough for dad as well as us.

Radishes, we will grow in some small pots we have and again will just plant a pot at a time on an on-going basis, as these do go to seed and get 'woody' quite quickly once they are ready for harvest.

We're also going to have a go at watercress this year, we've never tried this before so it will be a bit of an experiment.  We're also going to give courgettes and tomatoes a go from seed for the first time,  We normally buy these ready grown, but we have lots of seeds and thought we'd just give it a go.

Chives, Red Basil and Coriander will be in terra cotta pots on the window sill.

Last year I grew Cosmos, a tall white heavily flowering variety, which I planted out in any spare pots I had on the patio.  This year we are having another go at flowers and have chosen a red and a yellow Rudbeckia and Love in a Mist, which is blue.  We'll start these off in small pots and then transplant when the seedlings are strong enough.

So, we're ready to go.  We know what we're planting, where and when.

Making a Start

Whilst Easter weekend is always our big planting weekend when Martin will build the plastic green house and we'll be really off, we have made a bit of a start today.  It was just so gorgeous we wanted to be outside and didn't fancy any real hard work.

We started off with the herbs, chives, red basil and coriander, for the kitchen windowsill.  We knew we had just the right pots, it was just a case of hunting through the shed to find them.  We even managed to fashion some home made 'cloches' from, you've guessed it, Diet Pepsi bottles, we always have plenty of those kicking around.

We then planted up the sweet peas in toilet roll middles and the Rudbeckia and Love-in-a-Mist in small pots, all for planting out later on.

We planted a tray of Boltardy beetroot, again for planting out later when it's a bit warmer, and some red chillis.

We finished off with a selection of tomatoes - Tigerella, Moneymaker, Gardener's Delight and Maskotka, a selection of large, salad and cherry.  As I've mentioned, this is a first for us and if everything grows well we will be giving them away to everyone we know!

Top Tips

  • Prepare
    • Clean your pots
    • Collect toilet roll middles and other pots that you can re-use
    • Clean up your labels
    • Sort through your seeds
    • Plan what to plant, when and where
  • Plant your oldest seeds first, discarding any which are out of date
  • Plant seeds as far apart as the packet says - we've tried squeezing extra rows in, it just doesn't work
  • Plan to avoid gluts, unless you absolutely love something and are happy to eat it every day
  • Plant stuff that's more expensive to buy, especially if you don't have much space
  • Prepare your plot, weed, fertilise and dig over if you need to
  • Protect your early planting from late frosts
  • Give yourself plenty of time - don't miss your planting window
  • Be patient and look forward to eating what you've grown
There's nothing nicer than having friends round for a Summer BBQ and sending the kids into the garden with a list of what needs picking.

and Finally .....

I thank that will do us for now.  All our planting will have to be kept indoors, on the dining room table, until we get the greenhouse built.  We'll definitely have another big push over the Easter weekend.  After all, why would you want to go out anywhere on a Bank Holiday weekend.  We will just keep our fingers crossed for good weather.

I think Martin's in the mood for starting some beer off now.  Who knows, maybe I'll let him do a 'guest blog', something for the boys.

Enjoy the sunshine everyone.

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