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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