Tag Archives: sowing

GWM – March 2011

Catkins on my twisted hazel

 

Spring is just about to spring! We’re just coming into this month’s Northern Planting Time (NPT), that happens on Saturday 12th March with the Moon reflecting the earth-sign of Taurus the Bull.

Vegetable Garden

This is a good time to get sowing if you haven’t already, especially root crops like turnips, swedes, parsnips, early carrots and to get those spuds you’ve been chitting into the ground. You’ll need to cover the spud-bed with fleece in most areas unless you live far enough south to be past your last frost date. It’s worth it though, to get the spuds started, especially the first earlies, so you have some to harvest along with the first peas and broad beans for a lovely warm salad.

Forsythia

I already have swedes and turnips coming in pots on the window-ledge but I’m going to get some early carrots started in boxes in the polytunnel. A fairly deep box is fine for them, especially if you choose an early variety like Amsterdam Forcing or Nantes 2. The Nantes – my favourite carrot – grow to about 16cm so your box needs to be a good 20+cm deep. I usually use one about 25cm deep. If you use a cardboard box then this can be dug into the ground once it’s warm enough and will rot down around the growing carrots so there’s no need to disturb them and cause deformed growth or flagging. This is a good trick to use with lots of veg.

  • Do remember though that you can sow anything on a root day – all plants have roots, need roots in order to grow, so they will get the benefit of root-day sowing.
  • You go on to cultivate – transplant, weed, hoe, generally care for – on the day relevant to the veg; e.g. fruit-day for peas, beans, tomatoes, peppers; leaf-day for cabbages, celery, leeks, lettuces; flower-day for broccoli, cauliflower, purple and green sprouting.
  • And, of course, you spray each with 501 on their relevant day too.

New Bed …

I found I really need yet another veg bed – who doesn’t? There was a piece of border along by the path in front of the house which was absolutely full of couch grass and buttercups suffocating the lovely plants I want like hardy geraniums, a blue aquilegia, lungworts and a pretty miniature rose. As soon as I could get out at the end of January I dug the whole lot out, potted up the plants I want and put the rest on the compost heap. I gave the whole lot a spray of 500 and covered it up with black membrane to warm it up and keep the weeds down.

I think I want to put the early broad beans in here so it’s now time to get a trench dug, bung in a good layer of bokashi and any other compost I have to spare and maybe a bit of manure. A layer of earth goes on top of the plant-food-layer, it’s no good putting seeds o

r plant roots straight onto hot compost! After a day or two I’ll sow the broad beans into the trench and put a row of pea-sticks to either side of each row – this has two purposes; to hold the plants upright when they get tall enough and to keep the kitties off! Nothing like a good hedge of pea-sticks to keep venturesome kitties at bay :-).

I’ll probably succession-plant this bed when the beans have gone with some autumn cabbages. If there’s a gap between those two I’ll fill it with some lettuces.

Flower Garden

Hellebore in the new bed

I’m also having a heave-ho in the flower garden too. Of course, there’s lots of weeding to be done now the plants are coming up and I can tell the difference between what I want and nettles, creeping buttercup and other weeds … definitely plants in the wrong place :-).

I had a go at that this afternoon and discovered that the heavy work I did last year had been effective, there were a lot less horrors than I’d feared. The worst problem was wretched purple loosestrife! This stuff, while lovely in a wild setting, seeds like it’s going out of fashion and always where you don’t want the darn things! And, just to make things worse, it has a creeping root-system of good thick stuff, belt and braces, seeds and rhizomes, just to make sure its genes get spread all over the garden. I was wondering whether to pot the things up and sell them at next month’s Farmers’ Market but I suspect my fellow gardeners are well aware of the problems and wouldn’t want them.

Purple Loosestrife

Purple Loosestrife is a problem-plant too, an in-comer from North America. It can choke our waterways and won’t do your pond too much good unless you’re willing to drastically cut it back every year and pull the roots out too.

I managed to get just about all I could see out but I know there will be some roots left so it’s a case of being vigilant and getting in there to dig them out as soon as I see them. Ho hum … a gardener’s work is never done :-).

The flower beds benefitted greatly from the cold and the snow. Last year’s vegetation disappeared and clearing has been very easy. The new growth is coming through nicely despite it still being cold with hard frosts some recent nights I’ve not pulled too much off the herbaceous perennials so it still mulches them, keeps the frost from damaging, killing, the lovely spring growth. This is something to remember – if you clear up too much and too quickly then you can seriously damage your plants! Nature knows, this is why there’s lots of “untidy” litter around in nature, it has the purpose of guarding the new growth from the frosts that are likely to go in until May in this garden.

Daffy Down Dillies

It does feel like everything is bubbling in the earth, the sprouting growth bursting out of the pot, the earth-cauldron, shortly to froth into blossom. I love this season :-).

Elen Sentier

behind every gifted woman there’s usually a rather talented cat …

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GWM – Not doing it by the book :-)

February is hard on gardeners and the garden. It can be freezing or it can be warm and sunny – I’ve got a sunburn in the February sunshine a few years back. This year we’ve got wind … so far. Lots of wind, 80mph at times, knocking the electricity out, blowing down the chimney and generally sounding just like the wind in Hans Anderson’s wonderful story, “The Wind’s Tale”.

One thing that is no good at all is to sow seeds, or plant out plug plants, into cold, wet soil with a harsh wind and little sunshine. Sowing is definitely for indoors, or the polytunnel, or greenhouse, or under cloches. I’m doing all of those. I’ve got turnips, early lettuces and cabbages Premier and Derby Day. I’m just about to sow tomatoes, aubergines, sweet pepper Jumbo, Feltham First peas and broad beans Aquadulce. They’ll start life in the propagator with bottom heat to encourage them.

I’m going outside the box here, biodynamically. For various cat-reasons sowing didn’t happen on the fruit days during the last northern planting time. To stay strictly in the rules I would have to wait 4 whole weeks for the next fruit planting time with all three factors right. Three factors? They are …

  • Northern Planting Time
  • Afternoon
  • Fruit Day

These three things mean the Earth is “breathing in” … i.e. the energy is being pulled down from the stars into the soil – that’s the NPT, northern planting time. Afternoon – that’s also when the Earth is breathing in, energising the soil with the star energy the Moon collects. And fruit day – that’s when the Moon is collecting and focusing the energy from one of the “fire” constellations, Aries (Ram), Leo (Lion) and Sagittarius (Archer).

Well, I’m not going to be able to get all three lined up, but I can get two of them together. As I said, if I wait for the next NPT it’ll be too long away so I’m going to go for it on the next Fruit Days, Wed & Thu the 9th and 10th of Feb. If I wait I won’t be able to sow until Fri 18th, over a week later. And a week is a long time in gardening, many seeds will have sprouted in that time.

Sowing the tomatoes, aubergines, peppers, peas and beans this coming Wednesday and Thursday I’ll have two out of the three lined up … I’ll be sowing on Fruit Days and in the afternoon. That way, the energy will be pulling down into the soil (afternoon) and the Moon will be focusing energy from the fire constellation Aries (Fruit days). Two out of three is a lot better than nothing. Planting in good time, not waiting another week, is good too. I’ll then cultivate the seedlings on fruit days in the NPT to help them establish good roots which will work fine.

Biodynamics is a process that helps plants do their very best. It is NOT a religion where you will be blasted to hell if you don’t do it exactly by the book! Do take that to heart, don’t be put off doing it just because you can’t always be perfect. Honestly, good enough is fine, is very good. Always just try to do your best and know that plants want to grow, even in the most adverse conditions they’ll have a go. A friend of mine had to keep her lovely hosta stacked between a couple of concrete blocks for 2+ years … and she lives in snow-stricken Scotland! It’s fine, it grows its leaves beautifully and flowers like mad. That’s an extreme example but it really does goes to show that plants want to grow and will give it their best shot all the time. Biodynamics helps them.

So go for it with your biodynamics even if sometimes you can’t do it perzactly right every time. I do … and it works.

Elen Sentier

behind every gifted woman there’s usually a rather talented cat …

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GWM – Flower Day

I did it! I got the dahlia tubers into pots today so they should come up early and flower all summer long. I’ve got 3 Bishop of Llandaff and 8 assorted cactus. I have to have Bishop of Lllandaff, living where I do, in the birthplace of the first Bishop of Llandaff, our Merlin-figure, Dyfrig of Madley. He’s the hero of the novel I’m writing at the moment. and I just love the cactus dahlias, so wild and exotic.

I was lucky in that I have the old soil from the potato bags. Seeds don’t need much nutrient as they have all they need within them, tubers do it in spades :-). The dahlia tubers are still half in hibernation and need to come out gently. I put some damp earth in the bottom of the pots then some dry earth from the potato bags which I used to fill in and cover them. then I popped a plastic bag over the top of each pot and stood them in trays in the scullery which is cold but doesn’t freeze. That way the tubers can wake up slowly, gently feel their way back into flowering life. I won’t need to water for a wee while but I’ll check them every day.

The old potato soil was given a dose of Prep 500 over the past 3 days so the tubers have that to help them as well.

Tomorrow and Saturday are leaf days so I’m going to sow cabbage and lettuce. Sunday and Monday are fruit so I’ll be sowing my first tomatoes of the year … watch this space 🙂

Elen Sentier

behind every gifted woman there’s usually a rather talented cat …

 

Wye’s Women Elen’s Books Rainbow Warriors

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GWM – Sowing Root Crops

Today is a root day in the northern planting time, the last for a little while so I’m sowing turnip ‘Golden Ball’ and radish ‘Rosa’ in plugs. It’s great to get started on the new year.

I’ve just got my seed compost together. My mix is

  • 2 parts molehill-earth
  • 1 part leaf mold
  • 1/2 part sand
  • 1/2 part well-rotted manure

I sieve the lot together and keep in an old potato bag in the scullery where it’s free from frost and handy to use. I use vermiculite to cover the seeds, lets in light and has nice volcano-energy.

Before I use the compost it gets a treatment of Prep 500 to help the soil-life and mycorrhiza, stirring up the energies so it all works well together.

Will keep you posted on how they do … 🙂

Elen Sentier

behind every gifted woman there’s usually a rather talented cat …

 

Wye’s Women Elen’s Books Rainbow Warriors

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GWM – Working in the Garden

December is the time coming up to the solstice which is a time most folk celebrate. At last after each day getting darker and darker, the sun turns about and the days begin to get longer again in the temperate latitudes. Part of the celebrations usually include a feast … and that means vegetables as well as your meat (if you eat it), so we need to care for and harvest the veg we’re going to eat.

This year, in Britain, we have heavy snow and extreme cold, like minus 12, 15 or 20 in the countryside, even the towns are rarely rising above freezing during the day. This makes life very difficult for harvesting. Winter vegetables are often very good at “standing”, i.e. remaining in the ground until you want to eat them, but getting them out when the ground is frozen is a whole other matter. Things like leeks, which are stems or rather leaves which have changed their form quite a lot so they all bind together into the familiar shape we know, are mostly water, and water freezes. Tugging at a frozen leek in the frozen ground means you break off a green icicle more often than not.

Here, we don’t have too much of a problem because we have cultivated and pampered the soil with tons (literally) of organic matter over the past ten years. In consequence the ground doesn’t freeze so solid, or rather it takes longer and lower temperatures to make it do so, so we can dig our leeks still, and our beetroots, swedes, turnips, parsnips, the root veg that make such delicacies at midwinter feasts. You can’t actually do much about improving your soil in this kind of weather – although mulches will help to some extent, but you can think about how you’ll change things in the coming year.

And you can look after the veg you have.

Brussels sprouts are famous for this time of year. If you like them, then picking them correctly will help the plants do well. Start by picking the sprouts at the bottom first and working up the stem. And don’t forget to firm them in regularly, each time you pick firm in the roots with your heel. The plants must have their roots in good contact with the soil all the time, particularly in the freezing weather. If they are not then not only with the roots freeze but, if they survive that they won’t be able to get water and nutrients unless the roots touch the earth. The contact enables the transference of food and water.

The same goes for the winter cabbages and sproutings. Make sure they are securely “seated” in the ground.

As you firm you can also make sure you take out any weeds that have survived too. You do this when you pull leeks, swedes, turnips, beets – any root veg that you’re going to pull out of the ground. The pulling naturally disturbs the soil so the weeds will come too. Don’t leave them lying about but put them into the compost straight away.

In the bad weather the birds will need food too and won’t be able to get it easily as they can when it’s milder. Your crops are there, available, they will want to eat them.

I always share with the creatures who live on the land with me. It’s something we all need to re-learn to do. But I also want the veg to eat for myself, it’s part of my livelihood. Like planting a couple of spare cabbages for the butterflies to lay their eggs on, I always have some spare crops in winter for the birds. And I also feed them seeds and nuts and scraps, make fat balls and fatty crumbs from the last of the bread and the fat from my bacon and sausages. But I also want to eat those veg so I protect them from devastation from the hungry birds. Netting the cabbage family from the pigeons is a good idea. It’s simple enough to do, canes driven into the ground with old plastic bottles on their tops will hold up some simple netting. Tie the netting to the canes with the ties from freezer bags and such – recycling really works.

The polytunnel is another good place and may be enough to keep the frosts off the plants – it’s too cold for that here without heating which we don’t have so our stuff has to come into the scullery, where it doesn’t go below freezing – at least inside. Fleece is good too and can help to make a micro-climate for the plants.

If you got overwintering peas and beans in before the snows came I hope you also covered them with fleece or they won’t have made it. If you didn’t then don’t try until after the snows have gone and the soil warmed a bit.

A good mulching of manure and/or compost covered with black membrane, once you can see the soil again from under the snow, will help to warm the soil earlier than leaving it alone. You’ll be able to sow a month earlier than if you didn’t make the effort so plan for it now. Make sure you have the compost ready, and the manure, and the covering. And plan your sowings so you know which beds need to be got going first. It’s a great way to spend some of the time over the midwinter celebrations, doing some planning for the year to come.

GWM – preparing for Midwinter

Midwinter snow

Snow! Lots of it. The garden and the pond are frozen over and all the soil life is well underground. It’s not sleeping but working like crazy, like a bunch of cave-dwelling gnomes making their jewels and fine thread-work of root connections ready for the spring opening.

However, it does mean I’m not doing a massive amount out there, in fact just harvesting some of the veg like leeks and beetroots is hard because the ground is frozen. It also means that planting the rowan tree as I’d intended is not even a starter, no holes get dug without a machine! And, in any case, the plants wouldn’t survive if I transplanted them now.

That happened for the strawberries, they must stay in pots until the ground warms up again, there was no way I could plant them in the outdoor tubs – couldn’t move the soil and the plants would have died. They’re sitting, a bit forlornly, in the far end of the kitchen as this is warm enough but not overly hot, being north-facing, so I’m hoping they’ll be OK, but I am going to get another dozen as some of them were less than content with being heeled in to the pots. I’ve now transplanted all the survivors into good earth and good pots so they should be OK … but you can NEVER have too many strawberries *g*.

I brought in the last bag of potatoes to the scullery when the snow and frosts began 10 days ago. I grew potatoes in those grow-bag-thingies they’ve been advertising recently. Not a bad crop but not as many as I would have got in the ground which is actually good as I don’t eat that many spuds. We have a nice crop for the Midwinter and Sun-Return feasts though, and on to 12th Night feast. Also, the earth is now in the scullery, thawed out and useable for potting and seed-sowing.

And that’s the next job, sitting like Persephone sorting seeds. Then planning out the sowing. The polytunnel is far too cold to use! All the sowing will have to be indoors, in the propagator and on window ledges and that mean moving Paul off the kitchen table where he’s rebuilding and doing up the household computers (excellent stuff!) but I want to use it for sowing. I foresee a slight “domestic” happening here LOL.

I collect the inners of toilet rolls for sowing, they work very well as individual root-trainer plugs that can be planted directly into the ground because they will rot and disintegrate nicely around the roots without disturbing the young plant. And it’s an excellent way of recycling. I think I may have to hunt around for more containers though. The plastic tub-things you get tomatoes and mushrooms and such from the supermarket are good for this … as long as they don’t have holes in them! We ate all our tomatoes that are not in the freezer a while back so are buying some again now as I have this penchant for salad, always do coming up to Midwinter, not sure why I’m so out of season on this!

I’ll be sitting down with the seed box over the next week, making my sowing plans and getting all the stuff together to begin. I find that once the sun has returned – after the winter solstice standstill from 21-24 Dec – germination is feasible again, provided they also have warmth and moisture. The three necessities for germination … warmth, moisture and light. The seeds really do know that the light is increasing even if it still gets dark at 4pm here. How my friends further north find it with a bare four hours of daylight each day by midwinter must be hard. I love seasons and the change from dark to light to dark and back but I’m not sure I could cope with so very little light each day as they get in Scotland, let alone further north. Likely I live in the right latitude for me *g*. I must go up to Scotland for midsummer one year though, my friends up there have near 24 hours of daylight and can certainly see to read a book at 1am without any artificial light. Yes, worth experiencing.

But to get back to the seeds, germination is feasible after sun-return on 25th Dec, so I shall aim to get going then. It makes the first couple of weeks after sun-return very hectic as we always stir 500 every day for the 12 Nights to 6th Jan. That means 2 hours a day are devoted to stirring for 12 days and, on the last day, we also stir the 3 Kings prep – gold, frankincense and myrrh. More about this next time but, briefly, we do it for the 12 days as 1 day for each of the 12 months of the year. It works very well, helps the soil and roots to begin their growing change after the solstice.

I always feel so excited as we come closer to the solstice. Each day there is less and less light as we approach the shortest day then, on Midwinter’s Eve (20th Dec) we have a big feast to celebrate the beginning of the solstice. It’s also Paul’s birthday – he’s my Midwinter King  – so there’s a double celebration. You really feel the difference as the change begins and there’s the holding-of-breath as the stillness happens, then the surge as the sun appears to move forward again on the 25th Dec. It’s amazing if you can do some of this at one of the old places. I’ve been with friends to Stonehenge for the solstice and sun-return, the surge there is phenomenal, but it’s pretty good here in the garden too. The Earth knows we work with her and enjoys celebrating with us as she cycles back into the light and growth again after the dark-time of working with the soil.

Solstice and Sun-Return blessings to all.