Home & Shop Companion #0119
letter from a small corner of far away
Dear Lynn, dear Everyone,
After a dry April, and a cool one too, spring this year has been a bit slow, but we had a nice drop of rain two days ago, and yesterday felt properly hot around midday, so things are getting going now. It’s always a toss-up when to start things off, in the garden especially, whether to go by the date or by how warm it feels, or a bit of both, whether to sow if the soil seeps cold into your knees or wait until your hands feel soil warmth as you plant and sow. For me, the earliest of the vegetable seeds, the broad beans, went in in early March I think, but only three emerged, so I sowed some more about a week ago, but none of those have emerged yet. The runner beans however, sown in pots in the greenhouse last week, are already up and I am starting to wish I had delayed sowing as we can still get frost until the end of the month, though the last week is usually safe. But since the beans are there, I started hardening them off today and will plant them out within the week, or else they will get too long with nothing to entangle themselves around. Seems like I got it wrong both times!
Next to the beans on the greenhouse staging, the zucchini are now in bigger pots, so will be a good size when I plant them outside to be one of the earliest crops to harvest, though the very first crop was some rocket and mizuna leaves we ate last night. Outside, the garden still looks a bit bare, except for the early potatoes under fleece which are six inches high, the spinach is just through, but that is about all. In the next week there will be some change as the cabbage family will need to be transplanted out of the modules before they get checked in growth, and I hope the peas will appear soon too.
Meanwhile, in the field I have been attending to the green manure patches which came out of the winter with a good cover of grass and clover, and some tall fodder radish which didn’t die off. Rather than mowing, I have folded the horses on it. Mostly, they have been leaving the radish, perhaps it is too peppery for them now, although they happily ate it six weeks ago, but in searching for more tasty fare they have trampled it all down nicely. The grass is cropped tighter than is ideal for easy regrowth, but that is what horses do when concentrated on a small area. When walking them to the far end to a small patch a couple of days back, along the potato rows, their feet exposed thousands of thread-like shoots of weeds, redshank mostly I expect, so I knew some cultivating was needed. I intended to do it on Friday, but with rain due, I left it, then on Saturday morning the ground was still quite damp, so it was this morning, Sunday, that I took the light harrows down the rows and have half flattened the ridges, exposing a few potato shoots, but not enough to worry about. Whilst there, I ran the harrows down where the carrots will be sown, then took the Pioneer cultivator between the onions. They are now two or three inches high, not particularly easy to see, so I set the cultivator quite narrow to lower the risk of grubbing any out. It has left a strip of around six inches untouched, but the middle is at least weed free, and in another ten days, I can do it again and get closer to the onions. But for now, it is good to see green just in the rows.
William Castle is a violin maker, farmer & SFJ contributor who lives in Shropshire, England.