Saturday, March 17, 2007

It's spring!

I'm in heaven. The allotment has dried out, the soil is warming up, and I've been sowing seeds all day. Spring is officially here.

I've had very mixed results from sowing directly in the ground - too often I've had absolutely no germination at all, for a variety of reasons including slugs, mice, tricky weather or all three. So in recent years I've taken to sowing all my seed into modules of one sort or another - usually the cell trays, 24 to a tray, which is happily one row in my raised bed with plants every 6", or two rows of larger plants with a 1ft spacing, plus a couple left over for luck. I also sow broad beans in loo rolls (they need a good root run and you also avoid disturbing the roots as you plant them with loo roll intact), and peas go into 4" pots, three to a pot, and get planted out almost as soon as they've germinated one pot per foot. It worked beautifully last year - hope it does this year too.

So far I've been struggling badly with my early broad bean crop, and in fact can probably write it off as a failure. First I was too impatient and sowed the autumn seeds (Aquadulce Claudia, so no problem with the variety) far too early - October, when temperatures were still quite mild. Fatal - by November they were already flopping over, and they had a bad winter when they really needed to go out onto the plot but it was too wet to even try. By the time I got to planting them out in February, they'd rotted away and I had to chuck the lot.

Then I tried planting broad beans straight in the ground: that was about 2 weeks ago, and I haven't had a snifter of a plant at all. I think they've all been harvested by the mice - I've trapped four now, but that probably means there have been a dozen or more running over the seed bed, taking no notice at all of my holly branches. Maybe I should have put a few more down. So anyway - I'll have to cut my losses, I think, and just plant mid-season beans instead.

The good news - my pea plants have picked up, and apart from a few losses (which I think were due to slug attack - I was late protecting them) they're now growing heartily. My next door neighbour, who's a coppicer, is due to deliver a batch of hazel peasticks any time soon, and then I'll dare to take off the fleece cloche and let them do their stuff. Won't be long now!

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