seductive February sunshine

Friday, 15 February 2008

Am I alone in being seduced by the capriciousness of our climate? Why is it that, despite the advise of wise old gardeners I look to sow earlier, harvest sooner despite knowing that a warm weekend in February doesn’t mean that summer has already started!

Last weekend was more like an April one. Chilly at night but sunny and in the sixties during daylight hours. Sorry folks, but when the weather is as good as that the last place I will be is sitting in front of a key board dashing off pearly lines of blather.

yes, I was seduced last weekend, but only moderately so. Nothing too foolish. I planted onion sets and soft-neck garlic. That was all, I promise. And, with a sunny Saturday on offer actually now is a very good time to get those alliums in.

Onions, shallots and garlic like ground that is slightly alkaline. Some talk of a pH of 6.7. I suggest that if you want to grow these crops on ground that hasn’t been limed for a couple of years then its probably a good idea to apply a generous couple of handful per square yard, (I am repeating myself I know), before planting. Alliums also need potash to grow well and this also helps to reduce rust, a real problem on my allotment. I planned to plant my Red Baron onion sets and my Isle of White garlic last Sunday. As the crop is following brassicas the ground was well enough limed but on Saturday I applied a top dressing of 100% pure wood ash, collected from the sitting room fire. If you don’t have a supply then sulphate of potash is great. I understand that salt petre is also a good fertiliser – if you can buy it without going to gaol first! I applied wood ash as a thin but clearly visible grey blanket and raked it in along with a small dressing of fish, blood and bone. A day later I was ready to plant.

Onion sets will push themselves out of the ground as the first roots emerge, so I draw up a shallow drill and press the sets gently into this at a spacing of 4″ in rows 9″ apart. This is quite dense planting but means I get nicely sized onions. You know you have it right when the mature crop is touching in the rows, rather like bread rolls as they come out of the oven. If the sets do push themselves out of the ground then push them back in. Birds often like to pull them out too, but then they just leave them. be vigilant until the crop is established.

This is the first year I have planted garlic in the spring. My early crop has been in since last October and is growing well. I have been told that spring planting for long-keeping soft-neck garlis is worth a try. So, plant your garlic cloves 6 inches apart in rows 12 inches apart and pray it doesn’t freeze!

Have a great weekend in the veggie plot.

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