The days finally seem to be getting a little longer and it is now light until early evening. We’ve had some cold bright days and I have managed to get out into the garden and tidy up a little, looking forward to spring when the garden begins to look more like this!
I’ll dig out the compost bins and any fully composted material will go on the vegetable beds, the rest will go back to finish rotting down. We add the chicken manure to the pile of garden and kitchen waste and it helps to rot down.
On milder days, I can turn the soil over and dig the compost in. There’s not much planting going on this month apart from moving the rhubarb from its current spot and putting in some garlic cloves.
We only have enough space to grow a row or two of each of our favourite veg but usually it is enough to keep us going through the summer months and into autumn. 2015 was a bumper year for fruit and we are still using up apples and plums from the freezer in pies and crumbles.
I started to plan out what to grow this year. We try to get as much productivity as we can out of our small vegetable plot. We grow plants that are more expensive to buy or those like beans that are often imported. Some like carrots and cabbage that need to be in the ground for a long time, we buy from the greengrocer as they are usually cheaper.
When looking at seed companies, I came across the vegetable planner that is available from Sutton Seeds. You get a 7 day free trial which helped me to plan how many plants I could comfortably accommodate in rows and how many rows I could fit in each bed. There are lots of features on this app. It was easy to use so would be very useful to anyone with a larger plot. After the trial it costs £19 to subscribe and if I had more space or an allotment, I would definitely use this. This is how the plan looked with a bit of editing.
As our current space is small, I decided to use the scheme I’d been able to create during the free trial as a layout guide and create a sowing and harvesting table in a spreadsheet which I can use in future years. It will help me plan what needs sowing in which months and when plants will be ready to harvest.
Our vegetable line up for this year is:
Barlotti, French and Runner and Broad Beans
My favourite beans are french beans but we also grow runners as they usually crop heavily on our clay soil. Both are good as a green veg and also in par boiled and cooled, then used in salads. Barlotti beans can be cooked in the same way but I prefer to leave them in their pods and dry so we have some beans stored over winter to use in casseroles. My Husband loves broad beans so we usually have a row and pick them when they are very small as I don’t like the stronger taste they get when they are older.
Garlic and Onions
You can buy commercial sets to grow garlic and onions but when it comes to garlic, I split cloves from a bulb I have in the kitchen. They usually grow well and I’ve had some nice, round bulbs this way by summer. I’ll be getting the garlic in the ground this month. Onions follow slightly later.
Greens – Kale, Spinach and Chard
We love our green veg and a few rows of kale, perpetual spinach and chard keep us going through the summer and this year we’ve had some over winter and although straggly, still getting a few leaves now in February.
Salad veg – Lettuce, Rocket and Radishes
We start early planting the hardier seed mixes that have Japanese leaves. Some of these can be quite fiery, especially those that have mustard and mizuna. Once these have run their course, I’ll sow another mix of oakleaf, cos and iceberg lettuce as a cut and come again crop. A row or sometimes a bucket of rocket and radishes adds to the salad selection.
You can’t beat a few rhubarb plants as they produce so many stalks come early summer. I find it a versatile plant that can be used in anything from a refreshing rhubarb bellini drunk on those first summer evenings, through to pies and other puddings, jam or cakes.
Wimbledon and strawberries just go together! Somehow, watching the tennis isn’t complete without a bowl of strawberries and cream or a scone piled high. A small patch provides us with enough strawberries for treats but I go on the scrounge when I need enough for jam!
In the greenhouse…
Our greenhouse is fairly shaded which is not ideal. We get just about enough light in spring to get seeds going a little earlier than planting them outside and we can grow plants like tomatoes and cucumbers that need some extra warmth to mature through the summer. Usually, we grow small, vigorous varieties such as Gardener’s Delight or Moneymaker, varieties that our grandparents grew. I usually try to get a few tumbler or cherry tomatoes in the mix as they are so nice when picked in the evening for salads, eaten a few minutes after harvesting.
Do you grow vegetables and have you any tips?
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