Stephanie's Kitchen Garden Diary - March 2009

Stephanie's Kitchen Garden Diary - 31st March 2009


Pricking out Tomatoes is one job that seems to take such a long time, I try to save such jobs for more the more inclement days, those frosty mornings just keep coming. Notice how after this cold spell of late the phrase ‘global warming’ seems to be wiped from the medias phrase book only to be replaced by ‘climate change’. Still I can keep warm and dry in the greenhouse sat at the Potting Stand.

Spring DaffodilYes I sit to do the potting, I see no need to get an aching back, bending over at an awkward angle,  although I do rather feel like a school child at my desk whilst doing it!

As I carefully transfer the seedling to its new pot, I am, quite unconsciously, holding my breath as I gently lift the leaf, and with a steady controlled exhale infill with potting mix.

Such ‘chores’ come as a welcome respite; to be forced to totally concentrate on the simple task in hand. This is one of the great joys of my life: the calm and thoughtful processes involved in gardening are, I believe, a curative to all the stress and strains and the whirl that is modern day living. Methodically lifting and filling, the domestic life with four children seems so far away, and I am forced to become totally immersed in the genteel practices of a gardener. It is my opinion that time spent in the garden does not count as time to be subtracted from your allotted lifespan.

The beds are rotivated; the Broad Beans are in and snug under their Cloches: one row under the Eco Green Cloche, and the other under the Easy Poly Tunnel.

I will let you know how they perform in comparison to each other.

I have also sowed broad bean variety ‘Stereo’ under the cloches; a new one for me being a kind of ‘mange-tout’ broad bean. I have surrounded one of these rows with ceramic beads infused with strong smelling oil in the hope of deterring the mice; this is a trial garden after all! If it works I will be passing on the idea to the products team.

Space can be a real issue at this time of year with seedlings galore in the greenhouse; luckily I have plenty of staging on which to place the myriad of pots, trays, heat mats and propagators. If space is a problem for you these natty Seed Tray Racks may offer some relief and prevent at least some of the inevitable dropping of precious seedlings in tight spaces.

Our cold frame is bursting already, home to Spinach, Leeks, Mustards, Rocket, Spring Onions and Chard at the moment. A quick turnaround is vital here, as one vegetable tray goes in another must come out. It’s when an unexpected event such as a cold snap or unplanned absence occurs that things may get congested, so having some spare Seed Tray Racks is a real boon.

The Grow Light kit has proved a most useful addition to the greenhouse. We have had many a dull grey day through the last couple of months and the little Aubergine seedlings really do need to bask in sun to thrive, so early sowings can suffer. The bright light shines out whatever the weather and has brought seeds on to germination very quickly when they otherwise may have suffered through lack of light. A word of warning, the light does give out its own heat, sufficient to act as a propagator in its own right so make sure you bear this in mind when situating it in your greenhouse.

If the nights are still very chilly and you need to transfer seedlings that have germinated from their snug and warm propagators to the relative cold of the greenhouse proper, a good ‘halfway house’ is a unheated covered/contained space within the greenhouse. You could use covered staging, but I really like the ‘Vitopod’ as it has integral air vents, lets in maximum light and is useful inside or out.

Rhubarb ForcerBeds have been sown with a selection of carrots including Jeanette and Berlicum, and beetroots: Chioggia, Stourman and Golden (all from our new seed range). The beds are under cover to protect from those recurrent chilly spells which are a real vexation at this time of year; I have had to resow one very early batch of carrots as the melt water from a heavy snow thaw put paid to any chance of a healthy germination rate.
Stephanie will be pleased as the Rhubarb Forcer is producing long tender stems that will soon be ready for harvesting; this is an eagerly awaited seasonal treat.

Another favourite of Stephanie is Spinach. Luckily it just keeps coming and coming, so I can keep up with demand. The time invested in those autumn sowings really pays off at this time of year; Chard is replenishing its broad and colourful stems, Mustards and Mizuna add texture, shape and a spicy flavour to winter salads, Emerald green corn salad still refuses to fade.

The potatoes in the greenhouse are coming on and in need of earthing-up, remember to water very regularly if growing potatoes in pots as starved of water they will suffer and you will have a poor yield come harvest time.

I am itching to plant out the rest of the spuds, last year they went in very late due to snow. If you do risk those early plantings keep the fleece/polythene at hand ready for chilly nights and frosty starts!

Well, time to get filling more of those seed trays... this time I need to resow Brussel Sprouts, and no, it was not down to my clumsiness this time! This minor catastrophe arises from the one thing that is really different about working in this garden, lots of photography! Strange new products arrive and things get mysteriously moved about rather a lot. Sometimes the ‘props’ get damaged, no matter Martin I will just sow some more.
Sharon Louise Signature