Sowing the seeds

It’s March and it’s unseasonably warm 21 degrees in the sunshine. Okay it might not last but who cares it’s time to get those seeds planted!

I usually get the parsnips sown in February but that month has flown by so March it is. Parsnip seeds can be sown direct by making a drill 1 inch deep and scattering the seeds thinly. Cover, label and water. It will be about 21 days before these seeds germinate which, unfortunately, means that many weed seeds will have germinated before them. Sowing seeds in straight lines makes the parsnips easier to identify when gently teasing out the competitive weeds. Once parsnips get going you can pretty much forget about them until they are ready to harvest, after the first frost. This leaves plenty of time to concentrate on the fun stuff.

Lettuces and salad leaves  are  easy to grow crops that can be ready to harvest in 8-10 weeks. Although they can be sown direct I prefer to sow them in trays and cosset them for a few weeks on the window sill. This allows the roots and shoots to develop before they have to fend for themselves, affording them protection from the insatiable slugs. Fill a tray with seed compost or multi purpose and sprinkle the seeds on the surface. Cover with a vermiculite and water from below. Germination takes around 7-10 days.

Radishes are another quick crop which I usually sow direct when the soil has warmed up. Looking back  I realise that we are not a family who tuck into radishes on a daily basis, I think a handful a week will suffice, so this time I will grow them in a pot, planting seeds little and often.

Peas are another favourite but again I won’t be planting rows and rows. I grow these because, picked and eaten straight from the pod, their deliciously fresh flavour is second to none. I grow a few just for the sheer joy of having them to hand as a tasty snack when I am working in the garden.

I’m glad I am not one of the tidiest gardeners around, particularly when I am planting in the edible garden. In late February I cut down the spent raspberry canes and left them lying around in a heap. Now I have discovered these rough twigs make perfect supports for peas.

Other crops are tough enough to take care of themselves. The rhubarb for instance is romping away undeterred by its lack of desirability. The onions and shallots are in, planted in wavy lines soon to be joined by companion plantings of delicately flowered summer savory and the irresistible, flouncing, frilly lettuces.

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