Little and Often

How are your gardens doing?

Here, the damson tree is in full bloom.

The small, furry buds on the pear trees are just about to follow and the quince and apples will probably flower in the next couple of weeks.

And yet there’s been a cold north easterly the past few days that’s brought icy hail showers to the garden.

I’ve managed a couple of hour long sessions so far this week – one to plant out self sown lettuces and the other to dig out compost to mulch the raspberries which like their roots kept cool and moist.

I used a small sturdy stool to sit on to dig out the compost and had help from my Mum, barrowing the compost up a short way from the heap. I find I have to pace myself – I can no longer do a whole day in the garden and “little and often” has become my mantra in more ways than one!

Autumn fruiting raspberries are starting to shoot in the foreground while the summer ones are standing tall at the back all freshly mulched with new compost

The lettuces/salad leaves are interesting – the overwintered ones have really burst back into life and are ready to eat now.

Landcress is on the left, centre is Arctic King and on the right are Winter Density under the 30gsm fleece.

I’m picking the outer leaves and leaving them them to grow on – hopefully through April and into May.

I’ll replace them with some that sprung up amongst the sweet peas I sowed in February – the seeds had obviously got into the compost I made over the past year. At first I thought they were weeds!

I have separated some of the new self sown seedlings and planted half a dozen under fleece. This means you don’t have to harden them off (acclimatise them by putting out during the day and bringing inside at night) which can be very time consuming.

There’s another technique called “brushing” used in Japan which I haven’t tried yet.

According to Joy Larkcom, in her book Grow Your Own Vegetables, lightly stroking the seedling leaves with paper or cardboard for a minute a day achieves the same result and toughens up the young plants ready for their life outside!

The third batch of lettuce, which I sowed two weeks ago, are at the two leaf stage and need pricking out.

Five different varieties – some germinate much better than others.

This means separating thickly sown seedlings and selecting the strongest to “pot on” into modules which will then be planted outside in a month or so’s time. No dig guru, Charles Dowding shows you how in this video.

Other plants like tomatoes and annual flowers can be treated the same way and then “potted on” singly into bigger containers as they grow on. Monty Don shows you how to prick out cosmos here – he differs from Charles as he thinks pricking out should be done when the true leaves appear.

Why not try both and see how you get on?

If you don’t fancy pricking out – you can sow three lettuce seeds per one inch module and leave them to grow together and plant out in a clump.

Sow salad leaves little and often at this time of year to avoid gluts and you’ll ensure a steady even supply of your favourite leaves.

Other seeds to sow

Now is the time to make your first sowings of carrots and parsnips – both outdoors, direct in the ground.

I wrote a post about it last year and I’m pleased to report that with a barrier in place the carrots did really well all summer and into autumn.

Early potatoes and onion sets can go in if you’ve not already planted them and things like peas for shoots, spring onions, spinach and leeks can be multi sown in modules – don’t hang about though – these need to go in now.

And to finish – another delightful salad green that’s not quite ready to pick but is coming on leaps and bounds is claytonia or winter purslane¬† which self seeded outdoors over winter.

Its heart shaped leaves will grow fast and eventually give rise to tiny white flowers.

I hope that by gardening together this year we can renew our faith in nature and look forward to better times.




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