Sowing and planting this week

I have been a bit lazy in updating the blog with the latest sowing and planting. Over the last few weeks, sowing has been a bit neglected too, but there has been a lot to plant out. We did manage to sow another three lengths of gutter with peas, the reliable Hurst Greenshaft and the magnificent mangetout Carouby de Maussane, and more pots of broad bean Masterpiece Green Longpod. These are ready to plant out now, so will be one of the first tasks to attend to at the weekend.

We had a lot of plants held back in the polytunnel waiting until we were sufficiently confident that the frosts had passed. My timing was a little off this year and, with recent late frosts, some had to be potted on and a few were arguably a little past their optimum planting time. On the other hand, it is preferable to frosted plants. We moved the plants outdoors, protected at night in propagators, to become acclimatised to the cooler conditions than present in the polytunnel.

The squash bed is one of our most important plantings; we have two large wedge shaped beds that run down one side of the plot and alternate between them for the squash, as these need plenty of space to ramble about. The squash plants, once well established, cover the soil and prevent most weed growth, provide a substantial crop of one of our favourite vegetables, and need little attention if planted in a well manured bed. CT requested plenty of butternut squash this year, for which we planted half a dozen Waltham Butternut. We also planted out several each of the small squash Sweet Dumpling and Buttercup, along with the larger varieties of Marina di Chioggia and Whangaparaoa Crown. As seed of the latter is a bit tricky to get hold of here, being a cultivar from New Zealand, I plan to save some seed from it this year. It will take a few weeks for the plants to get properly established, but then this should be a low maintenance bed.

Our two wedge shaped beds differ in size. This year we planted the squash in the larger of the two, leaving space at one end in which to move the Globe artichokes, Violet de Provence, from their pots. Globe artichokes are deep rooted. I had previously moved these from their four inch pots, whilst they were still quite small, to some especially deep pots so as not to prevent proper development of their root system. That they are deep rooted can be seen in the development of the root ball in the bottom half of the pot. The current four plants were given plenty of space to develop. After a couple of years they will be divided and the patch replanted, perhaps with eight or nine plants in total.

In one of our normal four feet wide vegetable beds we planted out two courgette Striato di Napoli, already bearing the first young fruits. It can be tempting to plant two across the bed, but as they develop they will become crowded; instead, we gave them plenty of space and planted down the centre. This left a nice space which I plan to use for a late crop of sweetcorn; the first crop is already growing away in the polytunnel. In the four corners of the remaining space we planted ridge cucumbers, Marketmore. These will ramble about in this space and, hopefully, I will be able to plant the corn through them.

In another bed, intended for main crop carrots and beetroot, we planted out a selection of lettuce – Little Gem, Black Seeded Simpson, and Batavia Blonde de Paris. These will be harvested before we need to sow the carrots. At the far end I also slipped in a few rows of onion Paris Silverskin. These had been raised in modules with each cell containing anything from one to five plants. These were left in the clumps when planted out, as we will take them when young, for the salad, before their close planting would much inhibit bulb development.

Along with the planting out we also potted on a collection of brassica seedlings. A few of those we last planted out had been nibbled by yet another furry fiend, with two possibly ruined. The larger the plants are the less likely they are to suffer from such damage, so instead of planting out our small module grown seedlings, we potted them on into good sized pots to allow them to grow on. Once they are substantial young plants they can be planted out. In the current weather, when everything is growing so fast, that will only take a couple of weeks.

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