Spring sowing – winter squash, melons, alpine strawberries, seakale, and assorted herbs

Although I started the summer squash and cucumbers rather early this year, April is a more sensible month in which to sow. I waited a little longer to start the winter squash and melons. The melons are destined for the cold frames, but really do not like cold conditions. The winter squash will be planted outdoors when conditions permit. It is not just a question of frosts, which will quickly kill these plants, but of providing temperatures that will encourage continued growth. That may not be until mid to late May, so sowing these too early can create problems later as the plants outgrow pots and need to be kept somewhere warm.

For the winter squash I am growing the classic butternut, Waltham Butternut, a Blue Hubbard – an old sort of rather large thick skinned squash that should store well, and Delicata. In previous years we have grown Sweet Dumpling, to which Delicata is related. They share the same cream coloured skin with dark green markings inbetween the ribs, which later turn orange on ripening. Sweet dumpling is small and more rounded, whilst Delicata is a little larger and elongated. I hope they share a similar flavour and texture.

For the melons I have four old varieties: Prescott Fond Blanc, Sucrin de Tours, Petit Gris de Rennes, and Blenheim Orange. I am pleased to able to still get seed of these, some more readily than others. I was disappointed though, to find that another old variety on my wish list – Hero of Lockinge – could not be found anywhere. Another sign of the decline of the old varieties and the ever decreasing diversity in available seed. Hero of Lockinge was a prize winning melon in its day, and I would love to be able to grow it here. I am still looking for seed, but do not have much hope of finding a source.

I have also started Alpine strawberries, seakale, and an assortment of herbs – basil, lovage, sorrel, chives, chervil and oregano.

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