My mention in last week’s e-newsletter of ‘Twelve – a Tuscan Cookbook’ – had me thinking of food, and reorganizing my potager plan to include ‘Continentals’. Some, already ordered (potatoes), are now planted; or sown in the greenhouse (peas). Others are awaiting their turn to be sown in my raised beds, as yet to be assembled – when I’ve finished preparing the 8ft x 8ft (2.5metre-squared) patch where they are to be installed. I’ve ordered seeds: french beans, sugar pod peas, courgette, pumpkin, corn salad, rocket, artichoke and edible flowers; and plants of fennel, squash, climbing french beans, aubergine and asparagus crowns, to regain time lost over my belated start.
First early potatoes laid out in egg boxes in the greenhouse were by now well-chitted, and dry conditions during late March meant that the soil was in fine fettle, far earlier than in most years. A furrow was hoed out and the tubers laid at the bottom, about 45 cms (18ins) apart. The soil was raked back over the furrow and we await the first signs of emerging growth. Horticultural fleece will be needed on frosty nights. Can’t wait to eat the first potato salad. Of course, if we didn’t have the space, we could use planters.
And then I read that Dobies once again have topped the ‘Best Buy’ charts, in the April issue of Which? Gardening: two tomatoes received a 5-star Best Buy rating. So I ordered some tomato plants as well (Tomato Apero F1). There just won’t be sufficient space in the potager for all these ‘continentals’ as well as everything else, so I’ll have to make use of pots, planters and other containers, overspilling into other areas of the garden.
I’ve devoted quite a bit of greenhouse bench-space to the peas, but it really does give them a head-start. All you need are some trays and a length of plastic guttering cut into tray-lengths. Place compost into the base of the guttering, sow with pre-soaked peas, cover with more compost and a sprinkling of vermiculite, and for protection on cold nights, top with a piece of plastic DIY window-glazing (this also deters mice).
Meanwhile the potager is taking shape: backtracking in time, my diary outlines some of the progress at the end of March – and I’m STILL digging out the wretched winter heliotrope. I suppose the best news is that all this activity and removal of so much undergrowth has not deterred the birds; they visit the feeders even whilst I am out there digging.
Next week I’ll be covering ‘square metre’ gardening; ideal for small spaces, so do bookmark this blog so you don’t miss the next phase of the ‘potager progress’.