What’s the difference between a good gardener and a bad gardener?
That’s me, at least two weeks late with everything. Most of the autumn planting happened today, in delicious sunshine after three days of deep, seeping rain. Peter Cundall says my newly sown carrots (should they germinate, always rather unlikely – I got one solitary seedling out of the batch sown a month or so ago) will be pale and thin. Gothic carrots. Hopefully the spindly survivors will be the purple ones: seems more appropriate somehow.
I’m not very optimistic about my garlic either. In previous years I reaped, almost to the clove, an identical amount of garlic to the quantity I planted six months before (I have a similar success rate with potatoes). However, I live in hope that all that will change in 2014: “The Year of Lime”. I have been very slapdash with soil preparation in the past, hoping that cow manure and lucerne-and-straw mulch, with the odd splash of comfrey tea will do for pretty much everything. This year I’ve taken the same approach to dolomite on my leeks and garlic, that the Scottish other half takes to salt on his dinner: more is more. Hopefully it will make a difference. I’ve also put in not just the usual Italian White but also a day-length neutral type, Glen. Perhaps its not me that is harshing my garlic, but my latitude. Now I have a controlled experiment to settle it.
Having discovered the implausible passion of brush turkeys for the allium family, I’ve gone for a belt and braces approach to protecting seeds and seedlings. This year I’ve draped my usual little hoops of wire fencing with vege nets, partly to keep out the beasties and partly to shade the newbies in what’s been an unusually warm March. My home grown brassica and fennel seedlings are working with that same goth aesthetic and I fear that one sunny day might be the end of them. The nets have done sterling service with the beans, which are up and cropping well.
So since we’re in the dying days of March, it may be that my celery and rainbow chard, broccoli, kale and fennel are destined to spend the next six months in suspended animation waiting for the sun to hoist itself above the trees and get things going again on our chilly south-west facing slope. But then, I noticed only a few days back that the little pot-grown cherry tree that has, for the last five years stubbornly refused to flower or fruit, has spluttered into bloom at this most inpropitious time, and that the strawberries beneath the custard apple have sprung little white petals and even greenish fruits. I’m not sure what all this portends: the unnatural beginnings of climate change or just the confused reaction of temperate plants to subtropical seasons. Either way I’m hoping for a harvest.