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Wow! I Love Spring

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I’m so excited about this coming season. I can’t stop thinking about all the things that are starting to grow and the plans I have for the kitchen garden. I’m most excited about planting some patterned beds and seeing if I can make it work the way I imagine it in my head!

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My Six Favourite Lettuce

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Every year I like to try at least one new Lettuce variety (sometimes two, or three). This year I’ll be trying this one, it’s a romaine crispy type called Garnet Rose. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a romaine this red before so I’m quite excited about it.

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For me, trying new stuff is what gardening is all about. There is little point in me growing the same thing year after year – I think I would die of boredom. That said, I do have a little tribe of Lettuces that I trust and love. And these I do grow every year, albeit in different formations and numbers.

They are pictured above. Left to right (early to late):

1. Lettuce Leaf – Red Sails (great for hearting or picking one leaf at a time)
2. Lettuce Butterhead – Tom Thumb (a very small, one-person salad kind of Lettuce)
3. Lettuce – Super Jericho – (nice shape, good flavour)
4. Lettuce – Merveille de Quatre Saisons (my all-round favourite, simply melts in the mouth)
5. Lettuce Cos – Parris Island (occasionally tricky to germinate but so worth the wait)
6. Lettuce Romaine – Rouge D’Hiver (love the colour on this one and tasty too)

Even if you sowed all of these lettuces at exactly the same time then you would still get a lovely steady stream of successional salad greens because they all mature at different rates. The first one, Red Sails grows very quickly (45 days I think) while the last one Rouge D’Hiver takes a full 68 days to mature. And the new one Garnet Rose would come at the bottom of the pile at a humungous 74 days! Sheesh it had better be good.

This is a great selection for me because it almost ensures that I don’t have a glut of too many salad leaves at one time. In the early days I was drowning in Lettuce as this post, entitled “79 Lettuce” demonstrates.

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Harvesting Micro Greens

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I’ve been meaning to sow some Micro Greens for these past couple of years and have either just forgotten or been engrossed in growing enough Lettuce to sink a small ship. But since I already have a nice collection of greens growing away in the greenhouse (Rocket, Corn Salad, Pak Choi and Lettuce leaves) I thought I would add the micros to the mix. I went for the Micro Spicy Mix, my reasoning being that if I’m going to eat a tiny bit of something then it had better have a kick to it.

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I snipped them with scissors and washed them in a fine colander. Then piled them on a cracker with my favourite stuff. Amazing! so fresh and tasty and green. A real treat.

In a flat tray I probably have enough for two or three more snacks like this. So I’m not sure that they are worth me growing them in large quantities but I’ll definitely be growing some at this time of year when there is little else around and for occasional treats like this. It only took them about a week to grow. Which is a pretty impressive ground to plate turn around!

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Time to Start Potting-On

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I’m potting on, yes it’s that time of year here. I sowed some Cabbage (Parel) and some Kale (Red Russian) a few weeks ago and they are already at the two true leaf stage. So I started to pot them on.

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I always find that there is an explosion of small pots in the greenhouse at this time of year and I simply don’t have enough tags to label them all. So I put them in rows and label the top pot, everything underneath is assumed to be the same plant. I have to trust myself later in Spring when I can’t tell the difference between a Cabbage and a Broccoli plant!

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I had a little helper too. My sweet 6 year old (how? why? when?) played ‘potting factory’ and filled the pots so they could go down the ‘production line’ and be filled with plants. Bless him, he’s actually quite interested in gardening. No forcing required.

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Patterned Garden Inspiration

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Recently while researching an article on patterned kitchen gardens I came across a book in a secondhand bookshop called ‘The Art of the Kitchen Garden, by Jan and Michael Gertley.’ A quick leaf through the pages told me that I had to buy it. The designs in it use vegetables and small annual flowers to create designs that are quite amazing.

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The book was written in 1999, and I think it’s out of print now. Although you can still buy second hand copies on Amazon. The patterns in the book are taken from quit designs and are, I think, a little out of date. Some of them are a bit twee and I could imagine them in my grandma’s garden.

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But… from a growing perspective what the authors have done with vegetables is very impressive.

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The designs tend to use Cabbage and Kale and different coloured and textured Lettuce. And the patterns themselves are kept ‘crisp’ by defining pathways in bright orange pebbles and using annual flowers like white Alyssum, purple Lobelia and Pansies to edge the beds. All of these can be easily raised from seed in great numbers.

I’ve always been interested in using patterns in the kitchen garden. I devoured Joy Larkom’s book on using vegetables to create aesthetic gardens. And with inspiration from this book I’m already working on some new designs of my own. Straight rows are lovely for hoeing between but I think I want more from my kitchen garden.

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The Orchard Is Here!

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This doesn’t look like much but believe it or not it’s my whole orchard! The fruit trees that I ordered back in December arrived last week when the snow was deep and the temperatures were well below zero. I kept them cold and moist in the basement until today when the snow began to melt and the soil was workable again. We planted all nine fruit trees and the three little white and blackcurrants too.

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Each one has two wooden stakes pushed into the sides of the planting hole. I also put a couple of Mycorrhiza packs in each hole. Read more about Mycorrhiza here. And the last thing to do will be to label them.

It looks a bit odd to be planting trees in the snow but it’s important to get dormant trees in the ground as soon as possible. And the temperatures predicted for the next week are positively mild for this time of year.

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So there you have it. The beginnings of my orchard. I feel like I need to pop the bubbly!

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Unexpected Snow!

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We’ve had constant snow storms here for about three days. It really has been beautiful to watch. Snuggling under blankets and watching the snow swirl round, and the city grind to a halt. This is what my kitchen garden looks like. You can see how deep the snow is because the box bushes are almost covered. Everything is frozen. Even the flag on the kids’ pirate ship is frozen! The schools are closed and the severe weather warnings tell us not to go out unless absolutely necessary. There are people on skis! Really. I cut some herbs today and they had about 1/4 inch of ice covering them. I’m worried about my Camellias. They look beyond repair.

With the Daffodils poking through last week I thought the Winter was over, but apparently it’s not.

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Tulips Emerging

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It’s been gently snowing here all day. Nothing is sticking but it’s freezing cold and the fountain is rock solid again. The heater in the greenhouse is clicking on and off in an attempt to keep the chill off some perennial flowers that I sowed. And the Calvolo Nero seeds that I sowed last week are popping through regardless. They don’t care about the snow.

And this? This is my sign of Springtime that will keep me going throughout the next month.

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Greenhouse Greens

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There’s meagre pickings outside in the garden here. We’re working on the last of the Leeks and Beets but once they’re gone it will be a blank canvas. Not so in the greenhouse. We’re thankful for the greens that are happily growing in the greenhouse. Above is some Bok Choi that is not yet fully grown but can be used leaf by leaf.

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Here is the Rocket (Arugula) bed. We’ve already been picking from this and as you know it just keeps coming and coming.

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And here is the Radish bed. The Radish are not quite ready yet too but over the next few weeks we’ll soon be eating them.

We’ve already eaten the Winter Density Lettuce that I sowed and thought was killed by the frost but managed to bounce back. And yesterday I re-sowed some more Radish and cut and come again Lettuce.

The greenhouse is not heated. I have a heater set on its lowest setting just to keep the frost at bay. That’s all.

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Desktop Heather

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It’s time to trim my Heather plants back so that they don’t make leggy plants next year but some of them still have some flowers on them. So I collected what was left and put it in a tealight holder on my desk. I just love the colours.

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