Saturday, 21 March 2009

Make mine a '99

It's been a glorious week, the spring sun has been warming the soil,the rain has stayed away and the wind hasn't been so bad either.
Oh, just for the record, I've been on holiday this week, using up the last few days of my entitlement before the end of the financial year. Not that I'm gloating or anything. No, really.
So I've been spending a few hours a day at the plot, with the exception of Thursday due to other commitments. I've sowed, weeded,watered and hoed. I've dug ,forked, sawn and hammered.
Into this mix, add several coffees, several hours of radio broadcasts and a few good chats and you can see my time hasn't been wasted!
Today, I sowed a few rows of catch crops and things that would need transplanting, like Spring Cabbage Greyhound and Cauliflower All Year Round. I have been guilty in the past of avoiding growing anything that needs a long growing season but , after too many springs with nothing in the ground until June, I am in for the long haul this time. I still have some Cauli's and Purple Sprouting in the soil from last year and I am due to sow the seed for next year's Sprouting Broccoli tomorrow. It still seems a huge waste of resources to utilise all that soil for such a duration in order to have just the one crop. I like to get my money's worth out of the soil, cropping and resowing and catch cropping in between so one crop over a period of 10-14 months really hurts. The benefit is ,of course, the fact that you can harvest something for your kitchen in each of the twelve months, even if it may only be Kale or Turnips some weeks.
The past few days have been very summer like , with even a regular return of the season sound of the off key, wobbling wail of the Ice Cream Van heard in some streets. If anyone is buying, I'll have a '99 with raspberry sauce please. I'm sure , if the balmy weather lasts to the next weekend, we will soon be smelling the burnt offerings of the early BBQ grills too, but the simple fact is, it is spring and we can still experience a frost right up to the end of May. This of course plays into the hands of the doom merchants, who will bemoan the fact that 'Summer is over now' as soon as the grey skies return, however briefly.
Onwards and upwards.
My list of seeds sown this last week includes, the cauli and spring cabbage as mentioned,plus a couple of rows of Turnip 'Snowball', Iceberg lettuce 'Saladin',Parsley 'Plain Leaf' and more onion sets, Sturon variety. The French bean seeds saved from last year's Blue Lake crop have been in the soil since January and have shown no sign of life so I will be making some sowings in pots at home for planting out later as replacements. The early onion and shallot sets have all shown new growth as have the early peas 'Feltham Early' , but the later broad beans are lying dormant still. I have to decide whether or not to try again or to stick with the early rows that are about 4"high and very healthy. I'd prefer a succession rather than an early but unique treat. It may be down to pots in the mini greenhouse with those too.
On the subject of the mini greenhouse, I have been utilising it to rear my sweetcorn, tomatoes,sweet peppers, leeks and butternut squash. I started them all in segmented trays on the sunniest windowsill and started moving them out into the greenhouse during the day, once the seedlings were up and well established. I have since potted on my squash plants and now leave them outside all day and night, although the trays still remain in the mini house. They have been outside for three nights now and show no sign of suffering.
I found a packet of Sweet Dumpling squash seed during a shopping trip this week so have sown half a dozen seeds on the plot directly in the soil and will match them with the same in pots in the mini house at home. I've always wanted to try this type of small squash in the past so grabbed the packet on sight and rushed for the tills. I find myself searching through seed racks in more and more supermarkets and DIY stores now than ever before and this can only reflect the rise in the number of people turning to home grown foods.
I cant help but feel, partly due to my involvement in the local business world, that the economic situation is going to get much worse before we see any improvement and that the price of foods, fresh foods, will become more difficult to afford. This may, hopefully, lead to more choosing to turn to the soil and produce their own food for the table rather than buying in. Any thing we can produce that will reduce the outgoing costs of raising and feeding a family must be encouraged. There will be many bills that can only be met by conventional means, such as mortgage and heating , but food bills can be curbed and not at the cost of quality but to the benefit of it.
All that remains to be seen is where these people will tend those crops, whether our well fed council will eventually find plots for those who want them, or not as it appears so far.
My hope is they will, my fear, and to be honest firm belief, is that they will find excuses not to.

No comments: