A Good Friday . . . and not a bad Saturday, either.

All my hurts my garden spade can heal.’ Ralph Waldo Emerson

I love that quotation; for me, it sums up the pure pleasure of being completely absorbed with jobs in the garden. I spent the whole day yesterday and today doing just that. Not that I had any hurts in need of healing but just to be able to spend all that time digging, raking, weeding, sowing, planting and planning was wonderful.

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I’m trying to be organised with seed sowing this year- a necessity born of being back in full-time work – so I’ve written lists on a calendar of what needs to go in when; needless to say, April has by far the longest list. (This is just what’s going in the kitchen garden patch, Roger’s in charge of everything else).

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I set up a workbench on the picnic table to give me somewhere to sort all those seeds out.

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As I’d dug much of the patch over a few weeks ago, the bit I wanted to plant didn’t need too much preparation; another raking over and quick stone pick and I was ready to go. In went mixed lettuce, oriental leaves, rocket and wild rocket, giant goosefoot and rainbow chard; carrots in three colours – orange ‘Nantes’, ‘White Satin’ and ‘Cosmic Purple’ – they look colourful all grated into a salad together; white ‘Paris Silverskin’ spring onion and red ‘Crimson Forest’; finally, two lots of beetroot – ‘Bona’ and those pretty striped ‘Chioggia’ (thanks to Sarah for the seed). Still plenty of other bits to plant once it warms up a bit.

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The odd shape of the patch left me with a couple of squares to fill. In one I planted a bloody sorrel plant, bought last autumn.

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In the other, a bed of parsley. This can take ages to germinate and there is much British folklore associated with it: it has to go down to the devil and back nine times before it germinates, only wicked women and witches can grow it, where it grows well the woman of the house wears the trousers . . . Read into this what you will but I’ve never had any trouble growing parsley 🙂 Quite honestly, spells aside, the secret is really a bit dull: when you’ve sown the seed, pour a kettle of freshly boiled water over to kickstart germination (don’t forget to include enough for a gardening tea break while you’re at it). I did read a Suffolk saying that parsley sown on Good Friday should come up double so I’m hoping for a good crop. Now, where did I put that broomstick . . ?

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Digging over the rest of the patch, I couldn’t believe how much rubbish is still coming out of it. We’ve experienced this in every garden we’ve ever had: rusty wire, broken glass, polythene, lumps of plastic, netting, medicine containers . . . how on earth does it all get there and why do people treat their gardens like rubbish dumps? Also, how come I never dig up anything interesting or valuable?

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In Victorian times, this area was a thriving lead and barytes mining community; in fact, the oldest part of our house was a miner’s cottage. Wandering up the garden to see how Roger was getting on with the polytunnel, I began to wonder if he’s trying a re-enactment thing – he seems to be going deeper and deeper and the rock just keeps coming out of the ground. This is the problem with hilly ground, nowhere flat to site a tunnel so the choice is to have one on a slope or dig, dig, dig. It will be worth all the hard work in the end. (Easy for me to say, I’m not doing the digging.)

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Staying on the mining theme, the claytonia (aka winter purslane and miner’s lettuce) I planted a couple of weeks ago has germinated well. This is a new salad leaf I’m trying from the Real Seed Catalogue this year, quite a peculiar looking little plant. The idea is that it will make a good overwinter crop in the tunnel but I couldn’t resist trying some now to see how it goes. The name has nothing to do with Shropshire lead mines but rather the Californian gold rush where miners ate it to prevent scurvy; apparently, it’s packed with vitamin C so should be a valuable winter food. My biggest problem now is keeping the slugs off it (and whatever else has been traipsing through the tray, looking at those paw prints).

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It’s good to see a few signs of spring around the garden. I’m really thrilled to see the asparagus has survived the move from France and made it through the winter.

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The first of the onion sets are through the ground . . .

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. . . and how great to see those fresh new leaves on the trees we planted in the autumn.

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Today we planted more ‘Early Onward ‘ peas and several rows of ‘Charlotte’ and ‘Desirée’ potatoes and I sowed flower seeds directly into the ground: calendula, borage, Californian poppy, love-in-a-mist, larkspur and hyssop.

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The polytunnel preparation is done and with the weather looking favourable, Monday is D-Day for the polythene going on. Two People and a Polytunnel? Mmm…. watch this space! 🙂

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9 thoughts on “A Good Friday . . . and not a bad Saturday, either.

  1. You’ve been busy! Yes, shocking what you find when you’re digging in the garden. We keep finding elastic waistbands from underwear in addition to the broken glass, scrap metal, bits of old polytunnel plastic etc. We actually took 60kg of scrap metal from the garden to the scrap yard and got £4 for it. Whoohoo. Good luck with getting the tunnel up today! Jim’s volunteered to level the ground for ours, but I’d be surprised if we got it sorted for this year.

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    • The experience all over EU seems to be remarkably similar! Here it has been sackfuls of strawberry plastic scraps (a bit funny as the previous owners seemed to have been growing for years only potatoes), an unending supply of glass and china shards, pieces of old agricultural equipment, horseshoes, oldfashioned keys. If you happen to jump on the piles of stones surrounding the field (we are well provided with stones here) you hear a crunch that discourages you from further exploration (an old TV set was literally unearthed during our early days…)

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      • I find it so curious when we have decent rubbish collections, recycling facilities, local authority rubbish dumps and scrap yards . . . are people just lazy, I wonder?

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    • Elastic waistbands from underwear? You really do have to wonder! Phase 1 of Operation Polythene is completed, we’re just letting it warm up in the sun now before the fun of stretching and pleating begins. Will put some photos in my next post although it’s a bit tricky taking them when I’m supposed to be helping! 🙂

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    • Mmm, I know what you mean. I’m not sure how to make it sound any more polite, the poor stuff is just trying to do its best! Maybe ‘red-veined’, ‘pretty’, ‘ruby’ sorrel instead? As for the claytonia, it’s all a bit of a learning curve, really. I followed the advice from the Real Seed Catalogue and planted it in a tray with a view to pricking out the seedlings, mainly because it’s slug candy so this is a good policy (and to be fair – so far, no slugs). Also, it’s really an autumn/winter plant so this isn’t the right time of year to be growing it (I’m just curious and breaking the rules as usual…). However, it seems to have pretty much stopped growing in the tray so I’m shifting it into the tunnel tomorrow in the hope of pushing it on a bit. You CAN sow it direct but just watch out for the slimy ones. On which subject, I’ve bought some ‘natural’ slug pellets which are ok for an organic garden. I hate using them, just hope they work. Have you tried them?

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      • What’s in them? Would rather not use anything but did plan to try the organic ones last year, just didn’t get round to tracking some down. I haven’t found any of the other “natural” slug deterrants much good; partly because some rely on good weather (when slugs aren’t such a problem anyway), partly because I think we have a lot of underground species. I just try not to plant anything out too early, pick off any I see and accept some loses. Will be interesting to see if the pellets work.

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      • The ones I’ve bought are called ‘Natria’ (by Bayer). Apparently, the active ingredient is a naturally-occurring mineral – ferric phosphate – which only affects slugs and snails. I’m hoping that’s right; like you, we’ve found the natural methods to be at best limited or otherwise useless. I’m very conscious that gardening by a stream means a big slug population but also plenty of frogs and toads which I certainly don’t want to expose to toxins (well, I hate anything toxic full stop). Will let you know how it goes. By the way, came home from work tonight to find Dad had evicted my courgettes, squash and anchocha from the propagator on the grounds that they had pushed the roof off. . . maybe I should set them on the slugs? 🙂

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