Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Growing Greens - Rearing to Go

The recent warmer weather has been drawing me out into the garden. I am longing to plant up the tunnel, however we are heading towards another cold snap this weekend. I'll try to exercise restraint in spite of the sap rising in my veins.

The ex tomato / new root section of the tunnel has almost been cleared of the last stragglers. Some dug-in river sand will hopefully please the carrots-to-be. I have left in one celery plant, the last few swiss chards and one clump of mizuna (Japanese Greens) busy going to seed. We are eating the gorgeous Spring Onions faster than they can mature, but not fast enough for the parsnip seeds waiting to be sown.
I will also be sowing salsify, beets, carrots, and later, some red onions into these beds. Last summer the salsify didn't germinate. It's said to taste like oyster. It sounds fascinating enough to try again this time.

The ex root / new potato beds have been well mucked with manure and compost and are waiting for the chitting potatoes which are just beginning to sprout.. I just have to remove the last of the rocket giants from one of the beds once they have gone to seed. I am hoping to sell packets of rocket at the farmer's market on Saturday.

The brassica's haven't performed very well over winter, unlike the commercial, fertilizer-loaded brassicas on the farm. They germinated beautifully and then have been stunted ever since. I think my homemade aphid spray was too strong for them. Organic gardening can be very humbling for a novice gardener like me. If they don't hurry up, they will soon have to make way for the miscellaneous veggies - tomatoes, peppers, brinjal and co., some of which have already started germinating in their indoor pots.

The leeks are slowly giving way to legumes, as we are picking them bed by bed through the winter. Nothing is more comforting in winter than cheesy leek pie, or leek and potato soup.The broad beans are looking promising, as are the mangetouts. There is no sign of the fancy foreign peas that looked so exciting in their packet.

The asparagus is still fast asleep, the rhubarb that we transplanted in Autumn is peeking out of bed,

the strawberries are biding their time,

while the giant garlic plants successfully fought their way through the cold winter. Only half the garlic plants germinated, so we will have hopelessly too few bulbs for the kitchen in the coming year.

I can't help fussing over my indoor seed pots ... spraying them, counting germinated plants, sowing far more than I planned to, planning the planting in detail on paper and online and generally hyper focusing in anticipation of a bumper summer.

The tantalising and promising seed names dance around in my head: Parisian Pickling cucumber, Little Gem lettuce, Purple Dragon carrots, Detroit Darling beetroot ...Cherokee Chocolate, Blondkopfchen, Brandywine and Estler's Mortgage Lifter tomatoes, to name a few. Ironically, it's the Moneymaker tomato seeds that haven't germinated at all.

Each seed type is carefully labeled so that I can identify their fruit later in the year. I have discovered that wooden sucker sticks work well for this task. The label follows the plants from seed to garden and back to seeds that I collect at the end of the season. I found coloured sucker sticks in town, so now the plant groups are colour coded too. Red for curcurbits, yellow for tomatoes and peppers, orange for roots, green for legumes etc.

The ubiquitous Flat White Pumpkin is called Boerpampoen (farmer's pumpkin) in Afrikaans. I confusedly labeled mine "Wit Boer Pumpkins". I am sure they would not sell well with that name in the now liberated South Africa. Sadly last year we lost our whole crop of weird and wonderful heirloom pumpkins when the horses stomped all over them. Each plant carries many more years of potential plants within it's seeds, so this was a big loss. The Atlantic Giant pumpkin seedlings, saved from the year before last,  are leading the way in the germination race. At least they can give us a whole lot of pumpkin for our effort.