Wednesday, 27 January 2016

The Mangetout are Through

Not the most exciting photos in the world, but today was a big day in the 2016 growing season.

The mangetout peas I sowed for growing early in the polytunnel are starting to poke through the soil surface and reach for the skies. Green shoots and all that.

The sowing season has gone up a gear too. Today I sowed my aubergine seeds. It's very early and I will have to tend the delicate little things for quite some time, but until now I've had precious little success with aubergines. They are a temperamental crop. Some people do well with them. Some people just can't get a decent aubergine off them. I come firmly in the latter group. Until now. This is the year when I plan to join the former. The tender treatment starts now, with the seeds soaked in tepid water for 24 hours (obviously the water was cold by the end!) and now in a small heated propagator, which I purchased over the winter. It's just a crude, basic one but I'm hoping it is just enough to kickstart seeds into growth. After that, for most crops, double and triple cloches in the polytunnel should afford enough protection until springtime proper arrives.

I sowed lettuces too. I always grow too many at once and never keep up the succession properly, resulting in fields of lettuce all ready at the same time, most of which go on to bolt, followed by no lettuce whatsoever. This year, that changes and I've started by sowing some very early lettuce which I hope will germinate under bubble wrap in the tunnel - similar to the mangetout. The crucial thing with lettuces is that the temperature is not too low (below about 5C) and not too high (above 20C) for the first couple of days after sowing. The second of these is often far more difficult to achieve in the polytunnel and once we get into March I'll probably be using the cold frame for germination.
The varieties for so early in the year are the Cos types and the looseleaf (green rather than red). I have sown seeds of Little Gem, Lobjoits Green Cos and Buttercrunch.

Finally I have sown early carrots too today. Early Nantes, straight into the polytunnel beds. If we were in a cold snap, I would hold off on this, but the bees have been out for a couple of days this week, a song thrush was singing today and it is beginning to feel like spring already. I'm sure that winter will still have a say at some point. I hope so.

I've learned from last year and covered the rows with mesh. There always seems to be an interminable wait for carrotlings to emerge, so you can imagine how disheartening it was last year when first the chickens got in and destroyed a couple of rows and then Boris discovered that the polytunnel was a very good place to go digging.

Tomorrow the first turnips go into the polytunnel beds.

Meanwhile the outside  jobs are more winter-like. Moving, pruning and taking cuttings from dormant plants. Digging, shifting compost, rotavating when I can.

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