Easter has been and gone, I’ve eaten far too much chocolate and I need to get out in the garden to burn off those easter egg calories. The weather however had other plans for me. Easter Monday was miserable, grey and wet, I was grateful for the rain though, it’s the first real rain we’ve had in weeks. We’ve been experiencing some stereotypical April weather this week, lots of rain showers, very windy, some hail, warm when sunny, bitterly cold when it’s cloudy, the weather doesn’t know what to do with itself really. At least now that all the raised beds are finally built and the plot is taking shape, I’ve been able to focus on planting.
You may remember, I planted some Jerusalem Artichokes a few weeks ago, there’s still no sign of these but they do have a very long germination period. Jerusalem Artichokes are not actually from Jerusalem and they aren’t really artichokes. They’re a cousin of the sunflower and are a root crop. The reason I mention them is, on Tuesday, I planted two Globe Artichoke plants. These are worlds apart from the Jerusalem artichoke. These are actually a perennial thistle which grow large edible buds which are delicious to cook with and are often found in Mediterranean cuisine. I love artichoke hearts so I can’t wait to harvest my own. Each plant has a yield of about 12 hearts per season so I planted two, this should be enough for me. There has been some frost of late so I fashioned two cloches out of plastic bottles for my artichokes should they need the extra protection.
It may only be April but I’ve already been planting some winter crops so my plot doesn’t look totally bare in the leaner months. I planted some Salsify this week. Salsify is a root crop that has a long cropping season and will provide a nice winter crop when other crops are scarce. The long roots taste like oysters and are often named “oyster plants” for this reason. It needs the same soil treatment as carrots and parsnips, fine, well drained soil, I planted it in the same bed my carrots will be planted in. I bought some purple sprouting broccoli today, this is another long cropping vegetable and will not be ready for harvest until early next spring, but this will give me something to pick when nothing else is ready in the garden.
Today I planted Pumpkin seeds and Borlotti Beans, I’m growing a miniature variety of pumpkin called Baby Bear, they are quite a lot smaller than average pumpkins but each plant should give me 5 pumpkins, I plan on making lots of pumpkin pie, pumpkin soup and the seeds are delicious when toasted, pumpkin seed bread is particularly yummy. Borlotti Beans are a variety of french bean, great for drying for use over winter. I got a dwarf variety which don’t have quite as high a yield as the climbing varieties but I planted twenty plants which should be enough for a good crop. The beans are very pretty (I may have bought them purely for their aesthetic quality) and apparently make the best beans on toast, Dave’s favourite!
It’s not just winter planting I’ve been focusing on. I’ve also been getting ready for summer. I planted some Borage this week. I’ve been looking for borage seeds everywhere the past few weeks and couldn’t find any. I have a thing about growing plants from seeds, nothing beats seeing your little seedlings poke their heads above soil, but I’ve had to buy my artichokes and borage in plug plant form as I can’t seem to find the seeds for either anywhere. Borage is a herb, it has beautiful blue star-shaped flowers that are wonderful for attracting bees. The leaves have a cucumber flavour and the flowers have a sweet honey like taste and are one of the few naturally blue-coloured foods. I planted one of my borage plants near my strawberries as it is said to protect them from a lot of pests. I planted some lavender, cornflower and sweet peas too, I’m hoping these will not only attract some pollinating insects into my plot but also provide a splash of colour in the summer months.
I planted some lettuce to be transplanted to the plot in a few weeks, I planted two varieties, Little Gem and Lollo Rossa, both easy to grow and delicious in salads. This week I also planted courgettes, celery and beetroot so all in all it’s been a very busy planting week. The plot is still looking very brown but there is some colour starting to creep in, the onions are starting to throw out green shoots and the potato shoots have a lovely, velvety purple/green hue. There’s some flowers on my strawberry plants too. My little greenhouse is really filling up and the windowsills are full of chili and tomato plants. All in all, I’m starting to feel like the hard work is paying off, before I know it, it will be summer and my plot will hopefully be green and full of life.