The first day of the spring quarter saw the garden covered in a generous layer of snow with an overnight temperature of -5ºC and a brisk wind.
That was not the start we either wanted or expected but round here you can be pretty sure that snow in March will not hang around for long. Sure enough, by the 9th the maximum temperature was 10ºC with a dry, calm day and I couldn’t wait any longer to start sowing seeds. These all went into pots and were put in the utility room and my office to germinate. The first brave soul to appear was our very first collard. We have high hopes for collards – a new plant for us but comes with the promise of a long season.
This was closely followed by some marigolds. I haven’t had to buy marigold seeds for a couple of years as they are so easy to harvest and save. The germination rate is not brilliant but as each plant produces so many seeds and I am slow to dead head them this is not a problem. Marigolds are advised as a companion plant in the veggie patch as they deter whitefly. This has worked well for the last two years with the tomatoes so the plan is to plant some in the kale patch as these were badly affected by whitefly last autumn. We now also have curly kale, kohlrabi, pak choi, chard, spinach and cavolo nero.
Hopefully, the cold winter we have had will have reduced the bug population. On the other hand it may well have had a negative effect on the garden birds – we have not seen Bob the robin since the March snowfall. We still have not seen any hedgehogs but maybe they are just being cautious. Getting out of bed on a cold morning is hard for all of us. The blackbirds tend to nest early in the season and a female has helped herself to one of the aubretias to make into a cosy nest lining.
The veggie patch has been totally cleared now. The broccoli did not provide much more than lots of huge leaves but these were useful for putting into smoothies and making into crisps. We shall not be growing broccoli this year, they were far too unwieldy. I have taken the opportunity to water the beds with liquid seaweed fertiliser and EM-1 and am now digging in our home made compost. The compost we have added over the past year, along with the dried grass cuttings, has certainly helped to break up the new soil that was added when the raised beds were put in last spring.
We recently purchased an apple tree. We use apples quite a bit for adding to smoothies, making apple sauce for the nut roast and coarsely grated and dehydrated for really tasty chips. Our two blueberry bushes are looking well and bursting with fat buds. They served us well last year. A kind neighbour gave us a blackcurrant bush last autumn and that has been joined by another blackcurrant, a redcurrant and a “patio” raspberry. As we don’t know the full history of these plants we cannot claim they are organic. But the original soil in our vegetable patch is not certified as organic anyway, so we could not yet claim that label for any of the food we produce. We, however, will tend all these plants as carefully as we can without the use of any unpleasant substances – all the compost and feed we use is strictly organic – and as we will be the only consumers we are happy with that.
From the lessons we learned last year, particularly about spacing and timing, this year’s plan has been carefully thought out and discussed at length. (This is true of all our projects!). No doubt many more surprises are in store and many more lessons will be learned but I am confident of seeing better results each year. We enjoyed great bounty last year and have no complaints, it just all ended too quickly.
Got any tips or questions of your own about getting vegetables started in spring? Leave us a comment below, we’d love to hear from you.