This week saw a mixture of sowing and planting out. First, we prepared our second outdoor potato bed and planted a favourite late main crop Pink Fir Apple, along with more of second early Wilja and a few left over early Sharpe’s Express. The Wilja and Pink Fir Apple will go into the store once harvested, whilst this third sowing of Sharpe’s Express should keep us in new potatoes for some time.
We then tackled the first major sowing of roots. We filled one of our four by seventeen feet beds with rows of parsnips and carrots. The parsnips – five rows of Guernsey Half Long and four of Tender and True – will be harvested in winter after the frosts have arrived. The carrots, Touchon, are a mid-early Nantes type and will be harvested in late summer and through autumn. We will sow the main crop carrots later in the year.
Whilst parsnips can be sown earlier in the year, I have found it better to wait until the soil has warmed up and dried out somewhat. Parsnip seed is notoriously tricky to germinate anyway and cold, wet soil can simply result in seeds rotting before they can get started. By sowing at this time of year they should germinate more quickly and more reliably and should grow away well. With appropriate thinning they will have plenty of time to achieve good sized roots before winter.
The root bed, which had been covered over the winter, was found to be in good condition and needed nothing more than a quick rake over. The root beds were the only ones not manured last year as too rich a soil can result in distorted roots. Shallow drills were taken out with a draw hoe, seed sown along the drill, soil raked back over to cover and very lightly tamped down with the rake. If it were not for recent rains, I would have watered the drills prior to sowing, but the soil was moist enough as it was. When the seedlings start to appear we will move some fine mesh covers over the bed to exclude the carrot root fly; these are currently preventing birds from pulling up our onions, but they should be sufficiently well established in a week or two.
Next we sowed the winter swedes, choosing a fairly modern sort, Ruby, this time. The usual advice is to sow direct, as swede forms a tap root and, like other tap rooted plants, they do not appreciate being transplanted. However, we have found that swede can be started in modules and, provided they are planted out in good time, grown quite successfully this way. It is arguably more convenient that direct sowing.
Finally, we planted a selection of crops in the polytunnel and glasshouses that were sown some weeks ago: our favourite sweet peppers Quadrato d’Asti in both red and yellow forms; Dolce di Bergamo and Friggitello peppers, which both bear narrow pointed fruits and are new for us this year, although we have grown various similar varieties in the past; our favourite glasshouse cucumber, Telegraph, which produces large, superb quality fruits; aubergine Black Beauty; and melons Charentais and Petit Gris de Rennes. The latter is another new sort for us, but one that I have wanted to grow for some years; it is an old, orange fleshed, French variety said to have superb flavour.