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New Spuds In

March 31, 2010

Well, I couldn’t hold out any longer. I’ve finally planted my first spuds of the year. I planted a full bed of first (Arran Pilot) and second earlies (Arran Banner) over the weekend. They’re actually in a couple of weeks later than last year, but because of the cold winter/early spring, everything in the garden is running a good few weeks behind. As if to confirm this, our daffodils are now in full bloom – something that has been happening in February over the last few years, but this year not until mid-March did we see the first daffodil flowers.

Anyhow, back to my spuds – I dug them in with a good load of well-rotted FYM, so I’m hoping for a good crop of new potatoes, as per last year. Mind you, I’ll be keeping a very close eye out for late frosts, as I don’t believe this long winter has disappeared entirely….not just yet.

As an aside, I have all of my raised veg beds covered at the moment, to protect the soil from the worst ravages of the winter, and to help it warm more rapidly as spring comes on us. I use a mixture of cardboard and old carpet for this – not exactly easy on the eye, but effective.  I did however get a shock when I pulled back one piece of carpet the other day – a large rat (pregnant female) was happily nesting underneath. I could only look on in horror as the wretched thing went off down the garden at a gallop. My chickens were none to impressed as it ran though their patch, and they spent the next hour clucking madly. They are no fans of rats either….

Last weekend I got hold of a full load of bark mulch from a local supplier. My plan is to use it for weed suppression around my raised bed, and on the few ornamental beds I have so far put in. There will a good bit then left over, which I’ll use on the hedging plants that I put in last winter (2009). Between December 2008 and March 2009, I planted by hand, nearly 400 bare rooted hedging plants that I got from Future Forests in West Cork. I wanted a hedge that would be sympathetic to the existing hedgerows in our area (not the dreaded Leylandii or Griselinia!), so I used a REPS mix of 80% whitethorn (hawthorn), plus blackthorn (sloe), dog rose, field maple, guelder rose, and beech. Anyhow, suffice to say that some weed suppression around the hedging plant is badly needed, because twitch grass is a real menace, and I don’t have the time to be weeding by hand regularly enough throughout the growing season. Added to this, the native soil is lacking in almost everything (having been intensively farmed for years before our garden went on it) so the extra organic matter will not go amiss!

On the seedling from I’ve now a fine array of tomato plants coming on. I’m trying a new variety of plum tomato this year, ‘F1 Incas’, as well as the very successful  ‘Faworyt’ beefsteak style that I tried last year. On the cherry tomato front, I’m going for well known ‘Gardener’s Delight’, plus the heirloom ‘Dzintare Lasite’ (a yellow pear variety), both for the third year running; also, a couple of Yellow ‘Tumbling Toms’ to put in my hanging baskets.

Yellow Tumbling Tom seedlings, on my window sill

Yellow Tumbling Tom seedlings

Other plants to go in the greenhouse include my aubergines, cucumber, sweet peppers (‘Corno di Torro’ and ‘Antohi Romanian’), chilli peppers (‘Cayenne’) and a couple of dwarf French purple podded beans. The latter are really an outdoor bean, but our exposed and windy site is just useless for growing any kind of runner or French bean outside. Last year I grew melons & strawberries as well (under glass) but nobody ate them, so no repeat this year!

I’ve two trays of leek (‘Monstruoso di Carentan’ and ‘Lyon Prizetaker’) seedlings on the go, a tray of beetroot (‘Sanguina’), and a tray of white onions (‘Hi Keeper’) – all of these will be planted out towards the end of April, all being well. They are currently under glass, having been germinated in my electric propagator. As well as the onion seedlings, I also have some onion sets which will be going in soon.

I’m also going to try hard to keep us in salad leaves this year. I have a first sowing of ‘Little Gem’ lettuce planted, as well as a large container full of mixed salad leaves, and a large pot of Rocket is ready for use.

April will be here in a few days and next on my seed planting agenda will be the courgettes, pumpkins and turnips. Watch this space for more details.

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