Salads, seeds and signs of spring

What a difference 10 days make! We’ve been away in the UK and have returned to some welcome signs of spring: the sun is warm, the birds are singing their little beaks off and the garden is bursting with colour.

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It’s not all good news, though. The ground in many places is still totally saturated – we won’t be planting anything here in a hurry.

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Thankfully, other areas are drying out nicely and with the soil warming rapidly it is definitely time to get planting. First in, a row of ‘White Gem’ parsnips in ground I’d left deliberately un-mucked. I lifted the last of this year’s crop along with a handful of purple carrots and some skinny leeks, perfect for some trays of roast roots and veggie soup.

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There are more leeks to go and we are just days away from some purple sprouting broccoli, after all the hassle we had nursing the brassicas through the summer that is going to be a mouth-watering treat.

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Next in, two rows of peas: ‘Douce Provence’, an early variety we’ve never grown before and the ever-reliable ‘Onward.’ It feels good to see the first cultivated ground of spring and I can’t wait to see those fresh pea shoots, just hope the pigeons have their minds on other things…

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Our neighbour Rolande tells me we should be eating dandelion leaves as a spring tonic. While I value the wisdom of her words, I think we have more than enough in the way of salad leaves in the tunnel without having to resort to that. Warmer temperatures have given them a real boost: oriental leaves, ‘Winter Density’ lettuce, rocket and lamb’s lettuce are going great guns.

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I’m delighted to see the landcress through the ground, too: the seed packet picture looked more like flat-leaved parsley but it’s definitely the stuff I was hoping for to give our spring salads a peppery kick.

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I’ve planted several more rows of mesclun, mixed salad bowl lettuce, mizuna and some ‘French Breakfast’ radish (eyes off, slugs!) to see us through the next couple of months. With more rocket, baby chard and chervil outside and last autumn’s parsley gathering strength, we shouldn’t be short on flavours.

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Time for more sowing. A tray of leeks in the tunnel, two varieties this year – ‘Musselburgh’ which is one of our favourites and also ‘Blue Solaise’, a traditional French variety. The peppers and aubergines are going well in heated and unheated propagators so I’ve slipped in a couple of extras: pepper ‘Sweet Chocolate’ and aubergine ‘Bonica.’ Ah yes, then there’s the tomatoes. Anyone reading my blog last year will know that these were a nightmare from start to finish – not growing in the spring then, despite a long, hot summer, they were stricken with blight. To be fair, we were never short of fruits but I didn’t have the roast-and-freeze glut I’d hoped for. So, this year I’m taking a slightly different approach. First, I haven’t rushed in to plant the seeds so early; second, I’m using a good British compost as I still think poor quality was a factor last year; third, the plants will eventually go outside in clean ground a long way from the veg plot. On account of feeling more optimistic, I’ve gone over the top and planted 10 varieties: ‘Marmande’, ‘Moneymaker’, ‘Bambino’, ‘Gardener’s Delight’, ‘Dattelwein’, ‘Tamina’, ‘Red Alert’, ‘Roma’, ‘Super Roma’ and an organic beefsteak. When Roger finds out, he’s going to have kittens (but think of all those wonderful salads and pasta sauces, my love…  🙂 )!  

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Finally, way behind everyone else it seems, I’ve put the seed potatoes to chit. We’re having a change from our usual ‘Charlotte’ this year, growing ‘Pentland Javelin’ as first earlies and ‘Nicola’ as second earlies – we’ve never tried the latter, so we’re interested to see how they taste.

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Jobs done, time to join the bumble bees and enjoy some spring flowers.

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4 thoughts on “Salads, seeds and signs of spring

  1. Got to stop reading these blogs and enjoy my break in the sun. Trouble is I just want to be back in the garden. I can’t believe your daffs are in bloom already – plumonaria looks lovely. Hope that soil has dried out a bit and you can start planting. Considering trying to bring back to France a couple of huge agapanthus from the local garden centre 5 euros each and they are in huge pots…roll on home time.

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    • Oh, enjoy the sun while you can! I told myself I was going to adopt the laid-back attitude of the locals to planting this year instead of rushing in . . . but I just can’t help myself! Actually, the weather is gorgeous, really warm and everything is going mad so it’s hard to resist the pull of the garden. Go for the agapanthus, we have a large pot here which has thrived on the south-facing terrace, basking in the heat – they are too beautiful to leave in the garden centre! 🙂

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  2. Go for dandelion (blanch the leaves first, though, by putting a bucket on them)! It might be a way to get rid of them – when they see they are being useful I’m sure they’ll die off…

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