Thursday, 16 February 2017

A blank canvas

I haven't seen my veg plot as empty as this for many years!

Four of my five raised beds (one not seen in photo above) are bare at present. The only vegetables left from last year are 3 leeks, one solitary Chicory, and the four PSB plants.

At least the PSB is looking as if I will be able to pick some before long:

As you know, this year I am aiming to have the garden look a little less cluttered than it has been in recent years, and striving for better quality at the expense of quantity. This is why I am currently resisting the temptation to sow and plant too early. Despite the fact that it's still only half-way through February, many other gardeners are proudly writing about all the seeds they have sown this month. I'm not going to join in with the trend though: I'm deliberately leaving things a bit longer, because I know that seeds started off too early often struggle in the cool temperatures and low light levels. I want sturdy, strong plants that will give me a good yield and be more resistant to pests and diseases.

The beds and pots are ready to go, when the time comes. I expect I will be sowing my chillis at the end of this month, and tomatoes in early March. Likewise, the first potatoes will be ready to go into these big pots in the first half of March, with some protection from the more-or-less inevitable frost.

Even I have sown a few seeds already though - onions, leeks, parsley and Broad Beans. All but the beans are in little pots indoors, and the beans are in pots inside one of the plastic greenhouses.

I'm also beginning to see new growth on many of the herbs, like these little Thyme seedlings, raised last Autumn and over-wintered in a coldframe:

Those will be planted out within the next few weeks too, because I will soon be needing the coldframe for raising chillis and tomatoes.

Another job I need to do soon is re-pot the Mint, which is beginning to show signs of new life:

I always grow Mint in pots (several of them), because it is very invasive and will spread rapidly if given half a chance. I discard most of the plants each time, reserving just a few nice shoots for re-planting in fresh compost.

One other thing that will need replacing is this pot, which holds my Olive tree:

The big crack appeared about 10 days ago, when we had that prolonged spell of very cold weather. Terracotta pots do have a habit of doing this. Water gets into them, and when it freezes, it expands and can crack the pots. To be fair, this particular pot is fairly old, so it has had a good run for its money, and is in any case hosting a big plant whose roots are presumably putting the pot under considerable pressure. Incidentally, one way of reducing the risk of frost-induced cracking is to stand the pot on purpose-made "feet" or just some pieces of brick. This will reduce the amount of water taken up by the pot.

The last part of the blank canvas I want to show you today is this:-

It is the border on the side of the garden opposite the veg-patch - in other words the North-facing wall. I know, because of its orientation, that this border is not ideal for this, but I am going to attempt to grow some flowers here. To this end I have removed some of the big Dogwood shrubs (and that wasn't easy, I can tell you), to make space for planting the root-division "cuttings" I took last Autumn. I have several each of Rudbeckia, Echinacea, Helenium and Verbena Bonariensis, most of which will go into the vacant space. These are all reasonably tall types, so hopefully they will be able to cope with the continued presence of the remaining Dogwoods - I couldn't bear to part with them all.

By the way, I just want to say Thank You to all the people whole left me comments about using spare Onion sets to produce Spring Onions / Green Onions, by planting them in pots. I have done this with a few because I had loads of sets which would otherwise have remained unused. Here's the evidence:


  1. We don't really start seed sowing until March and many seeds later than that. It is hard to resist though when others are reporting about seed sowong, however the weather at the moment is helping to keep,the brakes on.

  2. I love this time of year, the bare soil is like a blank canvas waiting to be used,and I too am a late sower of seeds and planter of plants.

    A couple of years ago I did a trial, sowing seeds in early February and mollycoddling them and planting exactly the same seeds right at the end of March, within weeks all the plants were at the same stage of development, but the late sown plants were happier stronger and got away with gusto. While the earlier planted ones seems to limp along never gaining the vigorousness of the others. So now I hold fire and sow late and make the most of this dormant period to fine tune my beds and get everything ready for the growing year ... oh and that means lots of coffee drinking and magazine reading, well you have to get your research in :-)

    1. Well said, Sue! My thoughts entirely.

    2. Plants will catch up but often when plants are checked at an early stage they never really recover.

  3. Hi Mark! Do you still plan on testing whether "earthing" up potatoes makes a difference?

    1. Hi Anton; TBH I had forgotten all about that. Must have a think about it, though I am still reluctant to change my ways!

    2. I'll keep an eye out in case. There's a lot of opinion either way, but no-one seems to have any evidence up.

      Thompson & Morgan (whose website is still pretty iffy) reckon they've tested it for bags, and presumably the same is true for pots - just fill them to an inch from the top and plant the potatoes 5" deep then let them get on with it. I'd like a few more facts and figures to work with.

      Anyway, thanks for getting back to me. Plenty of good stuff on here.

  4. I think you're very wise to delay sowing anything for a while. The big rush will come soon enough and I prefer to make sure everything is in place first. Your garden certainly looks very tidy now!


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