The daffodils are in flower, the currant bushes in bud and nature is saying that spring is nearly upon us. So time to get sowing in the potting shed although the boffins in the Met Office tell us a cold snap is imminent, hold the outside sowings for a bit. Worrying statements from the farmers about food supply problems.
First March Sowings
Started the under heat sowing in the potting shed. Being very aware of electricity costs now, I’m trying to be as efficient as I can. Make best use of the propagators etc. When things like energy are cheap we tend to become sloppy and wasteful in our usage. Still, good food ain’t cheap and investing in its production is worthwhile.
Everything sown has fitted into one Vitopod which I’ve set at 23ºC. That’s around the optimum germinating temperature for everything sown.
The main tomatoes I’m growing this year are Crimson Plum which is great for freezing or bottling, Sungold for the flavour, Ailsa Craig as a tried and tested standard tomato and a new to me beefsteak, Crimson Blush
I’ve also got some Gourmandia seeds – a beefsteak – left so maybe one plant in case Crimson Blush is a bust. Some Black Krim, another beefsteak and Black Cherry completes the range. Both the black varieties are well past the sow-by date but worth a try.
Cucumber partner, a small gherkin type. They’re pretty early and one plant will keep us going until the main Marketmore come into production for the summer.
Little Gem and Black Seeded Simpson lettuces went into Bustaseed modules along with some chard.
Getting parsley going under heat in compost is not difficult. At its optimum temperature of 22ºC, germination is less than a week. Popped into a border it grows quite large but pots can always be set on the kitchen window sill so it’s available when wanted, whatever the weather.
Started three 9cm pots and a row in the Bustaseed. I’ll plant up 3 or 4 larger pots later in the season. With three sowings it’s possible to have parsley available all year round. Parsley is now under used which is a shame as it’s low in calories but very rich in important vitamins A, K, and C. It’s also a good source of the minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium.
Starting brassicas to prick out into pots and grow on for a bit in a coldframe prior to planting out in the brassica tunnel.
I’m trying out three new to me varieties, all F1s. Skywalker, Amoresco and DePurple. Skywalker is a normal white cauliflower with self-wrapping heads to protect the curds. They’re said to retain their texture well when cooked.
Amoresco is a new yellow Romanesco style which I thought interesting to try. At near 40p a seed not exactly frugal but a relatively inexpensive experiment. DePurple is a pale purple cauliflower that’s appearing all over.
I’ve always liked purple cauliflowers after fooling some kiddies they were space cauliflowers. Hey, it got them to eat their veg!
Same as last year – Brodie and Red Bull
Red Acre and Greyhound sowed. The red cabbage did well last year and Greyhound is a good spring cabbage although I prefer Hispi – which may or may not germinate as I explain below.
All the other brassicas were sown in 9cm pots to be pricked out but I sowed about 40 seeds of Calabrese Green Magic F1 in a half seed tray to give them more space.
Chicken feed – microgreens
I’ve a load of Hispi cabbage seeds that should have been sown 5 years ago. Amazingly some still germinate so I sowed 250 seeds, five packets, in a half sized seed tray. Assuming some germinate, I’ll prick out some out to grow on and leave the rest in the seed tray to grow there for the chickens.
I’d also got some turnip, spinach and chard seeds that will have poor germination at best being old and stored in the shed. Surprising what you find on a tidy up! Sowed the lot in another half tray for the hens.
Cold Snap Coming
According to the boffins in the Met Office we’ve got a bit of a cold snap on the way. North wind doth blow and we may well have snow. By Tuesday welding shops will be unable to cope with the queues of desperate brass monkeys. Seriously though, something to keep in mind when early sowing.
Talking the other day, I wondered if my concerns about our national food security were overstated. OK we’ve had a hiccup in the shops regarding some imported salad crops but that’s a far cry from a major problem. We went shopping the other day and there didn’t seem to be any shortages apart from cucumbers.
Then I took a look at Farmer’s Weekly and found a piece on the situation. Farming organisations are warning that food shortages in certain sectors could last for weeks and even months without urgent action by the government to take home-grown food production and security more seriously
From Farmer’s Weekly
Jack Ward, chief executive of the British Growers Association, said the current fruit and veg shortages are “the tip of the iceberg”.
He added: “Supermarkets could soon experience shortages of carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, onions and leeks within weeks as a result of crops being compromised by the 2022 drought and other weather factors.
“The future of British apple and pear growing is also on a knife-edge as growers are being forced to rip up orchards due to rising costs and stagnant prices.
“The current situation has highlighted just how fragile our fresh produce supplies can be, particularly in the face of volatile weather. This could have a knock-on effect on the security of future supplies.”
That doesn’t give me a lot of faith in our food supply chains. Time to take control, as far as we can, of our family’s food supply by growing as much as we can.
09/03/23 – just potted on 9 Summer Purple Sprouting plants, seed ex Premier Seeds Direct, 10 modules sown 02/03/23 with 2/3 seeds and placed into the into Vitopod @ 20 degrees.
Morning John, thank you for your newsletters. I look forward to them appearing in my e-mail box and find them interesting and informative. I’m sitting in my study looking out on the garden which looks totally beautiful with the trees and bushes covered in snow.
I have delayed my sowing till this cold snap is over but my pots are all clean and I’ve had my delivery of compost so I am longing to get started.
Hi John. Many thanks for your latest post which is as always full of good advice .
Last year I tried to grow tenderstem broccoli but lost a lot to caterpillars. Have you any thoughts on growing in net cages to keep the butterflies at bay? Any recommendations on size and keeping an easy access to the plants.
Best wishes, thanks and keep up the good work.
As big as you can, Geoff. I wrote about my brassica cage here.