Although my allotment digging is still behind schedule I always get excited about the new season ahead. A few bright days and some dry weather mean that I usually manage to catch up with digging through February and begin to sow some early crops such as Broad Beans in good time.
Some of my fellow allotment holders sow broad beans in autumn, but I wait until early March because I don’t like the plants sitting in cold, wet soil through the winter. My early spring sowings all but catch up with the autumn ones as long as the mice leave them alone!
This week I have been to my local garden centre to peruse their selection of seed potatoes. Last year, by storing our second earlies ‘Estima’ and main crop ‘Sarpo Mira’ the crop lasted us until Christmas. As well as these two later varieties, I also grew ‘Arran Pilot’ and ‘International Kidney’ (also known as ‘Jersey Royals’) as earlies, which we used from the ground as required. I have plenty of room again this year and although cheap to buy in the shops, potatoes are a low maintenance crop once they are planted and not fussy about soil. They always seem to taste so much better dug straight from the ground! I will return to buy my potato ‘seed’ as soon as I have made my decision on varieties, before the popular ones sell out!
My next job is to start saving egg boxes so that the seed potatoes can be put into them for ‘chitting’ at the end of February.
I have planned my crop rotation for the coming year and have made a cropping plan, which I first did last year. Having a record of what was planted and when has been very useful to look back on and hopefully rectify any failures! I must learn to be more patient in the spring once the ground is dug over and wait for the soil to warm up before I sow lots of seed. Sowing too early can be an expensive mistake and very demoralising when the germination is poor or non -existent!
As well as planning for this seasons bumper crops, we are still using vegetables that were planted last year, including Purple Sprouting broccoli, which will crop from now until May if the spears are cut regularly. The parsnips, which were so promising early on, are suffering with canker; I think due to the wet, cold soil so I will make it a matter of urgency to lift these now and freeze the surplus. Mrs McGregor cuts them into batons and blanches them before coating them in flour, egg wash and breadcrumbs. They are great with any main meal roasted straight from the freezer! My leeks, although small, have been very tasty and there are still plenty for use as we need them, along with the last of the sprouts and my Black Kale (Cavolo Nero) which I will certainly grow again for its sweet flavour!