Sunday, 30 January 2011

January Gardening

I've been busy doing "January Gardening". That is, not bestirring myself to go out into the actual garden, (brrrr!)  but flicking through seed catalogues, and thinking what I would be doing if only it wasn't so cold and mudddy out there. What a wimp I hear you say, a real gardener would be out there come what may. I bet Toby and Carol aren't sitting by the aga nursing a cup of tea. And to be fair, on the odd decent day, I do go out and flail around a bit. Today I managed a quick sprint down to the greenhouse, where I made a temporary repair to a broken pane of glass with some plastic and sellotape, which helped raise the temperature in there to something slightly  less arctic. I cleared off the propagating bench, last year's new construction, turned on the power, and put a few seeds in a pot. So a start has been made.

Most of the rest of the day has involved hunting high and low for the plastic box I keep my seeds in, and which I was beginning to think I'd thrown out by accident, which would have been disastrous, since like many gardeners I keep seeds for several years, and also save some of my own. This helps to keep costs down,- most seed packets contain many more seeds than you will use in the course of one season, and with certain  exceptions, seeds remain perfectly viable for several years. Following a suggestion on ferris' blog, I have made some trial indoor sowings, particularly those that I have some doubts about, either because they are more than two years old, or are self saved.

I started with this kind of thing, bits of damp kitchen towel, a label, and cling film to cover, and left them by the aga to see whether they would sprout

and rapidly realised that I could get through a lot more if I just numbered the seed packets
 and the bits of kitchen towel (I do have rather a lot of old half used seed packets). I won't be using the seeds as it's far too early in the year for most of them, but I will know which ones are viable and which will have to be replaced, which should save me time and effort later on.

And how is it by the way, that you can search the shed for something three times, and it's definitely not there. And then, suddenly on the fourth search - there it is. It was there all the time, and you just didn't see it. Does this happen to anyone else or is it just me? I think strange forces are at work in my shed!

In case anyone is looking for suggestions, these are the veg seeds I've done best with in recent years.

Perpetual spinach - excellent crop. Still standing in the garden now even after all the snow. I no longer bother with the summer spinach  except as baby leaf for salad. Rainbow or Rhubarb Chard is also good, but has not weathered the winter in my garden.

Kale  Redbor. This is also still providing some pickings, and has withstood the winter along with Cavolo Nero.

Garlic Music. This variety always does well for me.

Sweet Corn Lark. This is an F1 hybrid, so you can't save seed, but it's always quick to grow and crops well in my garden.

Onion Kelsae. I only did well with these because my brotherwho is a champion onion grower grows them from seed and gives me the plants. They were whoppers though.

Runner Bean Wisley Magic. Grew this for the first time last year, and will grow it again. Lovely flavour, not stringy.

Tomatoes, many and varied. It was a great year for tomatoes, all my heritage varieties did well, as well as the modern variety Sungold, which never fails and tastes lovely. If you only grow one I'd suggest this.

Failures
Broad Bean, Masterpiece Longpod, made poor plants, wouldn't bother again. Will go back to Bunyards Exhibition this year which has done well in the past for me.
Late crop sweet corn, can't remember the name, was a waste of time, I'll stick to Lark this year.
Brussels Sprouts. I never grow decent sprouts here in Wiltshire, even though I had good plants, they mostly didn't come to much. Nothing wrong with the variety, Trafalgar, it's just me.

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