Sowing Seed Techniques & Potager Progress

blog salad in poly cups

Seed can be sown in ‘home-made’ containers on the kitchen window sill (see description below) – inexpensive and practical

Although our vegetable plot is not yet in a fit state for sowing and planting, nature invariably manages to catch up – if we give it a helping hand; a headstart. If you have a greenhouse, polytunnel or cold-frame, fine; if you don’t, resort to seed trays and pots under cloches, with added fleece if necessary on frosty nights. Or use a covered porch, conservatory or kitchen window sill. A method I discovered some years ago has added advantages: ‘polycups’ – polystyrene coffee cups or soup bowls in different sizes. The polystyrene acts as an insulator (almost a mini propagator in themselves), they are cheap to buy and easy to prepare.

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Rooting Around – in and out of the garden

hazel catkins

Spring is surely on its way when the sun shines!

I’ve been outside today, walking around the whole of our plot, delighting in the sunshine. It’s relatively warm and gone for the moment at least are the grey skies. How good it feels; for what with all the rain and earlier heavy frosts and snow covering, I’ve been working indoors for almost two months now. At least it’s given me time to catch up on reading and also allowed me to play around in the kitchen, trialing recipes and ways of preparing those vegetables we managed to store last Autumn. So this post offers some basic ideas for using roots: carrots, swedes, turnips, parsnips – if you have none stored, at least they are cheap to buy.

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Planning the Perfect Potager

discussing garden design plans

Discussing a secluded area in our Cotswold garden sorely in need of reclamation; almost a total makeover – but I have such plans (though bringing them to fruition will take time, and hours of work).

Rain in the wind, and falling from the sky – and I wonder when I will ever get back to the joys of plunging my hands in the warm soil, and actually sowing and planting anything, let alone harvesting young and succulent salads and vegetables. I return to my series of photographs taken around the garden in early January, and the plans that I was trying to formulate in my head for this year; always more than I can ever accomplish! Last week I blogged about my passion for herbs – but that is as nothing when compared to my PASSION for POTAGERS. Potagers? Best described perhaps as productive yet ornamental kitchen gardens. Not just food, but glorious colour, and the ongoing delights of watching edible plants grow, whilst also accommodating beneficial wildlife, no matter how small the space.

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Herbs and Herb Gardens

The Kennels herb garden
High summer at ‘The Kennels’, in the herb garden not long after it was first established.

In my days off since last blogging, and writing the Dobies February e-newsletter, I have been travelling – indulging in one of my passions: herbs. Down to the Goodwood Estate near Chichester, discovering a fascinating little herb garden, and a little of its history. Even in Winter, the magic is there; bare earth, mulched and cosseted, plants sleeping in geometric beds: just a hint of the culinary pleasures to come, once Summer arrives. And then imagine the plucking and snipping, the chefs taking only a few short steps from ‘The Kennels’, across the road and into a sun-kissed walled garden, returning with handfuls of fresh leaves to chop and garnish, releasing their saviour and fragrance in delectable dishes.

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Venturing back into the garden

Spring onions thriving under a cloche

Spring onions thriving under a cloche

Last weekend I finally ventured back into the garden as we had the first dry weekend after the cold weather. It does look quite desolate in parts but there are signs of hope. One or two spring bulbs are beginning to poke out of the soil and, unlike last year, all of our delicate perennials have been safely protected with fleece.

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