It was the beginning of April and the garden was all ready for planting but there was a problem. In just under two weeks I was going to take the kids off on Easter holiday. There was my much anticipated potager, just waiting to be filled with seeds, but if I left it until we got back from holiday would it be too late to get proper crops this summer? It didn’t help that work was particularly busy at the time. I’m freelance and I was coming to the end of a contract, which meant long hours in the office on top of a horrible commute of about four hours a day.
The weekend was a frenzy of activity. I planted seeds into every possible pot and jiffy 7 coir pellet, I could lay my hands on. Jiffy 7’s (if you’re not sure what they look like see the photo in my previous post about sweet peas) aren’t cheap but they’re great, if you can find a nursery or garden centre that stocks them. Some of them are made of peat which is obviously unsustainable, but you can also get them in coir which is. They’re flat pellets about the size and shape of a draughts counter which expand massively when you soak them in water. Both of my children, normally not in the least interested in planting seeds thought they were so cool they volunteered to help. You put a couple of seeds in the top of each one, then if both germinate you sacrifice the weediest. The great thing is that you can plant the whole pellet out without disturbing the roots.
I planted peas, broad beans, carrots, rocket and radish seed directly into the soil of the raised beds and thyme, oregano, chives and rhubarb into the unraised beds closest to the terrace where I was planning an informal mixture of herbs and flowers. I’d picked up Alys Fowler‘s book, “The Edible Garden” from the book shelves at work and as soon as I started reading it, or more to the point looking at the pictures, I loved it. I’d already done the raised beds, a far more formal framework than the beautiful urban garden she created, but I knew that I wanted to incorporate at least some of her ideas into my small plot. In the Jiffy 7’s I planted Calendula “Indian Prince” and Cornflower “Black Ball” from Sarah Raven’s mail order. I planned to plant them in amongst the herbs.
As the time to go away approached I started fretting. The weather was fabulous and the skies were blue. The forecast was for at least another fortnight of dry weather. Luckily after half an hour of rummaging in the garage I found the electronic water timer which I hadn’t used for several years, which miraculously still worked and set up a sprinkler to come on for ten minutes every other day while we were away. When we returned we were slightly miffed to discover that the weather in the UK had been just as good as it had in Italy, but luckily the sprinkler had done its job and the plants were all still alive.
I celebrated their survival with new season’s asparagus which is found in farm shops all over Kent. Mine came from Taywell Farm Shop near Goudhurst and it was delicious. The green raised bed set at an angle to all the others is for asparagus, but with the crowns only just planted it will be several years before I can enjoy my own asparagus.