Feast & Famine

Wow, this nice weather has certainly come with a bang. Or is that a vengeance – in a You Lot Whinged So Much About The Rain, Let’s See How Much You Like This Dry Baking Sun-kinda way. So I’m not whinging, but secretly hoping that the predicted yet elusive showers this week come my way at some point – because the ground is painfully hard and dry now.

Since the ground started to dry out, I’ve been able to cultivate it with the rotovator, and actually get a lot of stuff in: runner beans with their four-pole pyramid teepees to climb up; brassicas (broccoli, kales, a few mixed cabbages and a few rows of red cabbages); sweetcorn; celeriac; and courgettes. Plus a whole load of drilled seeds, including spinach, rainbow chard, beetroot, more sweetcorn, spring onions and dwarf French beans. And although I do have a few sprinkler stands out in the field, it feels a bit wasteful to use them when the days are so hot; and they never do so complete a job that a nice rainshower would do. The poor plants are now getting pretty desperate, and looking pretty sad. Maybe just a short, sharp shower then; at night, with more lovely sunshine in the day? Not that I’m fussy, eh?

Sun! Tomatoes!

Quick! Do stuff! Get stuff in! Sow more stuff! Now!

This is the week of industry and productivity: as well as sowing more lettuce, squash and sweetcorn (and the weekly micro leaf tray too of course), plus trying desperately to make more rrom in the module tunnel by placing some rainbow chard and brassicas out outside to harden off a bit before planting out.

I’ve been mainly sorting out the tunnel ready for the tomatoes – and by Monday evening the last one was planted, hurray! I’m trialing about a third of a trowel of charcoal with a few varieties, to see if the charcoal improves either the yield or flavour, or maybe makes the toms last longer/come earlier. Charcoal should in theory be beneficial as it should improve water retention around the roots; plus provide a nice structure for microflora and fauna, and fungi, to live in and around, therefore making soil nutrients available to the plant rootlets. So for Berner Rose and Gardener’s Delight, I’ve planted 5 pots potted on in Carbon Gold charcoal compost with an extra dose of charcoal in each hole, and 5 without the charcoal; and planted 5 plants potted on in West Riding compost with some charcoal, and 5 without. I’ve also tried some Sun Gold cherry toms with and without charcoal, and some St Pierre. Should be interesting… Right, back outside now, stuff to do!

Carbon Gold (left), and West Riding (right) potted on tomatoes ready for planting

Home Grown

Saved dill seed on the right; packet seed on the left

While I know that I should be saving more of my own seed, it’s just so easy to order an extra packet from the nice seed companies – plus I feel a bit nervy about relying on my own skills for next years’ crop. However, last year I did try to save some of the easiest seeds to collect and dry, so I had no excuse. I cut some dill heads and left them to try in my shipping container, collected the sweet peas when they were dried out on the plant, and the amazingly prolific calendula, plus some chilli seeds. So far all the saved seed has germinated super quickly: as they were collected from healthy plants just at the end of last year (ie not stored for too long), they seem to be bursting with vigour. I tried comparing my saved dill with some bought seed, sowing them at the same time next to each other in one big tray; and the results were pretty impressive – plenty of germination, and over a week earlier than the bought seed. So maybe this year I might try and save some more easy-to-harvest seeds, such as beans and tomatoes; especially as any plants that do well will pass on the genes to do well in these conditions (ie my soil type, weather, light etc). I can create my own GM seeds: Generally Magnificient.