The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Garden update: March 2009

Photo: Self seeded crocuses

Photo: Self seeded crocuses

Even though our broad beans were planted in November they have only just come through over the last couple of weeks. Usually they appear by late December. I was beginning to think that the seeds might have failed.

John Coe planted his own beans a good couple of weeks before he sowed ours. Just before Christmas we stood surveying the kitchen garden.
“Your beans will be coming through very soon. Mine started peeping through last week.”
But the freezing weather in late December and January must have set them back.

I don’t mind at all. We just will begin feasting a little later than in past years.

The prolonged sub zero temperatures may finally have knocked the blight spores on the head. We’ve battled with blight on our spuds and tomatoes these past two years. A combination of mild winters and sultry, wet summers. The spores are carried on the wind and can travel for miles. But if you leave infected spuds in the ground, they can shoot the next year and the infection is sitting in your border just waiting for the right conditions to multiply (an extended period of wet warm weather in July). Then it’s only a matter of time before your entire crop will succump and possibly perish.

I decided last year to stop growing spuds. It’s so disappointing to have to dig up and burn blight ridden potatoes. Danny looked wistful. He loves floury potatoes (these are normal in Ireland). If I plant them in March and harvest them a bit later than recommended in the UK he can eat floury spuds straight from border to kitchen. But the mild winters and damp summers were teasing us.

Freezing conditions can kill the spores in the soil. So I rubbed my hands with glee when the snow didn’t clear for ten days in our garden this winter. Resident blight spores and a host of other fungal diseases should have been knocked on the head.

When I saw the shelves of seed potatoes in the garden centre, I was tempted to give them another go. Perhaps we’ll have a hot summer this year and our automatic water butt drip feed system can come into its own again. I love playing with this watering system. It’s fun and hugely efficient in a hot summer. We pay for every drop of wter so why not make each drip go a bit further?

I’ve also decided to try shallots again this year. A dismal failure for the last two years. But if we have a warm summer and good harvest, they store well and I love using them – much subtler flavour than standard onions.

Our winter sprouting broccoli doesn’t have quite the same conformation as in past years but I’m expecting a reasonable harvest in April. Remember to snap of the top florets from the tops first, to encourage side shoots to sprout.

The garlic that I bought at Hampton court is doing well. 36 feet of strong green shoots.

“Wouldn’t it be good if we had a hot summer this year?” My mum remarked last Sunday.
I do hope so too. These past few days of sunshine and showers have been a joy. I love taking a few minutes in the garden to examine what’s pressing through. The teeny leaves and fragile stems of Aquilegia (columbine), and Lupin hold the promise of so much more in a few weeks time.

At the moment the real stars of the show are the crocuses. Shy in shadow, when the suns touches the spot where the groups have happily self seeded they open like stars and bask. Attracting the bees and nectar gathering insects within seconds. Often I pause to exalt these divas too.

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  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Kate (uk)

    I’m hoping that the freezing weather this winter has killed a lot of the blight spores that have been lurking for the last two years!

    Like you I’m going to try growing our toms in the greenhouse as well as outside (the one’s outside have a much better flavour).

    Crocus, primrose and daffs in bud- a real riot of new life this spring.

    Apparently aubergines need a really long growing season to fruit. Ours didn’t fruit last year so I’m giving my watering arm a rest this year. I think that I’ll start the seeds in January 2010 and hope for a long hot summer.

    Hi Samantha

    Early broad beans are so delicious that I don’t think that I could forgive my hens if they ate the baby sprouts that are just appearing.

    Poor you discovering that your peas and broad beans have been feeding armies of mice.

    Best of luck with your new seed sowing!

    Hello Mike

    The cold winter weather set everything back in our garden too. Your beans will germinate in time.

    Vegetable gardening can be a bit of a bumpy ride but once you taste your own veg (particularly broad beans) there’s no looking back!

    Hope that you are going to grow runner beans. They are a great investment. We live off these for 2-3 months each summer/early autumn and they freeze well.

    Hi KarenO

    “Spring is a time of hope” – I so agree. The appearance of leaves and shoots always seems magical to me.

    Well done with your peas.

    We planted our broad beans in November and started to see shoots two weeks ago so MD may very well be right! Thanks for dropping by.

  2. I’ve only planted my broad beans and peas about a week – 10 days ago (I think – stupidly I didn’t make a note of the date) but they are just beginning to shoot. Monty Don says that things planted a bit later when the weather’s warmer always catch up, perhaps he’s right. They’re only tiny beginnings but lovely to see. It’s the 1st time I’ve got peas to germinate so I’m tickled pink. It is a lovely time of year, magical. Great to see all the promise of new life & warmth ahead. I always think Spring is a time of hope.

  3. Everything has been late in our garden. I planted some broad beans between christmas and new year (I couldn’t plant them sooner – I got the seeds in my christmas stocking!). I expected them to germinate in a few weeks but there’s still been no sign of them yet. It sounds like I need to be a bit more patient.

    We have some crocus in the corner of the garden and only a few of them have flowers on them. Most are still just green shoots. And the green manure I planted in autumn in still looking quite straggly. This is only my 2nd year of gardening so I’ve still got a lot to learn.

  4. samantha winter

    As our broadbeans & peas have been mouse meals in the greenhouse we are planting more this weekend. My autumn planted ones were enjoyed by the chickens!! The girls are moving to their now home in a few weeks in the field so we will fall out less over what is and isn’t available for them to eat.

  5. kate (uk)

    It is lovely to see things moving at last- crocus and primroses are fantastic this year, seem to have liked the wetter summer. I have a lot of hellebore seedlings again this year, very exciting. My garlic is disappointing- the blackbirds kept pulling them out, I kept putting them in but only a few survived the repeated uprooting. Next year I shall net the bed straight away.
    Despite two years of no fruits I shall try aubergines again, can’t resist… everything tastes so much better straight from the garden. I’m going to grow all my tomatoes indoors this year in the hope of avoiding blight- especially on the yellow fancy ones that seem particularly ready to curl up and die just as the fruit is about to ripen!

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