Saturday 19 March 2011

The cloches come into action

First thing I want to say today is that I was very touched to receive so many messages of goodwill on my Birthday from my blogging friends. Thank you all very much!

I received lots of lovely gifts too - including a very comprehensively-featured carrying case for my camera and all its bits and pieces; a couple of photography books; some more plastic mini-greenhouses, etc. Also through sheer coincidence I received some plants that I had ordered about a month ago, including a very handsome addition to my Cornus collection - Cornus Kesselringii, a black-stemmed variety. Finally, this week saw the completion of a task I had long been anticipating: - the removal of the tatty apology for a lawn outside the front of our house. This has now been replaced by brickwork and shingle in the same style as the main part of the back garden. I'll write a post about this soon...


I have put my new cloches into action for the first time now - I used them to protect some newly-sown beetroot and parsnip seeds. Actually, the cloches have been in place for the last couple of weeks, helping to dry and warm the soil. So I had to remove them temporarily while I prepared the raised bed and then sowed the seed.

I realised that the cloches are wide enough (at 45cm) to accommodate two rows of seedlings, working on the assumption that the cloches will probably be removed when the seedlings get to about 15cm tall. So, with two cloches side-by-side, I can put 4 rows of plants in one raised bed. Here's a pic of my two rows of parsnips going in. Actually it is one-and-a-half rows of parsnip ("Panache" this time), and half a row of Hamburg Parsley, which appears to be closely related to parsnips. I have never eaten or grown Hamburg Parsley before, and I am growing just a little of it this year in order to see how it performs and whether it is nice as a kitchen ingredient.

The photo doesn't really show the shallow drill that these seeds are sitting in, but it is about 2 inches deep. As you can see, the parsnip seeds are quite big, and it is perfectly practical to sow them individually when you are only dealing with a small quantity. They are very lightweight too, so choose a still day for sowing or they may blow away! You will probably say that I have sowed the seed too thickly, but I know that not all of them will germinate, and even if they do I can thin them out when it becomes possible to see which are the strongest ones. Ideally, parsnips should be spaced so that the roots do not touch when they are fully grown, so I would allow about 8 - 10cm between seedlings, after thinning.

As well as the parsnips and Hamburg Parsley I also sowed two half rows of beetroot - Boltardy and Red Ace. I think you will see from the next photo why it was two half-rows rather than one full row. I intend to sow two more half-rows of beetroot when one of two things happens (whichever is the earlier) - I acquire a fourth cloche, or the weather warms up a fair bit more.

Can you see what's missing???

After watering-in the rows of seeds, I replaced the cloches, and it's now just a question of waiting to see how the seeds perform. I have sown these seeds about 3 - 4 weeks earlier than I would have done if I did not have the cloches. This, in my opinion, is exactly why you buy cloches - to extend the growing season. And of course, in my case, to stop the foxes digging up the seed-bed!


  1. A very good tip about not sowing parsnip seedson a windy day - we learned some years ago - the hard way!

  2. U've got a great start on things! Very organised indeed.

  3. Oh you have lovely, lovely, row sowing skills Mark. I can't wait to see your little battalion of vegetable soldiers all lined up and standing to attention. I love "proper" gardens like yours, I'm relatively sure it's something I'll never achieve, but that only makes me admire yours all the more :)


  4. I love the cloches! I want some! Yes I agree, you are very organized and nice neat straight rows (I never have made a straight row, just run the hoe down it and I am done, but they never are straight, lol).

  5. Happy Belated Birthday Mark! I was a bit busy and didn't read your post yesterday.

    Your garden is looking good! I think that the cloches will work well.

  6. Hamburg Parsley is interesting to me. It looks like "a white-carrot" at a glance but it's a turnip.
    Your cloches look so strong that even foxes can not break them!

  7. You are very well plan and organised. I made plan each season but never follow it. Hence, our garden never look organize.

  8. Being neat is easy when you have a small garden! Nobody in their right mind would try to sow seeds individually in a full-scale Allotment or Community Garden patch. One little tip though: to make a nice neat "drill" for sowing your seeds, lay the handle of your hoe flat on the surface of the soil and just press it firmly. This makes a shallow (but dead straight) depression deep enogh for sowing most types of seed.

  9. Fantastic cloches! Happy belated birthday Mark! Great tip with the sowing.

  10. I need to get some cloches, would you recommend these? They certainly look the part...!

  11. Petra, for more on the cloches, see my post from earlier this month -
    They are OK-ish, but not as robust as I had hoped.

  12. You are impressively organised! Breeze free day up at allotment yesterday. Until I opened the parsnip seed...


Thank you for taking time to leave me a comment! Please note that Comment Moderation is enabled for older posts.