This post is dedicated to calendula: pot marigolds cheer me up no end, they battled bravely through the dank summer, shinning their glossy petals of vivid orange, yellow, red and brown my way; and giving the bees something to feed on too. The calendulas in the bed near the module tunnels fought on right into winter, and when they seemed dead and gone, tried manfully to reshoot in February too (this last cold spell has definitely spelled the end now though). However, I left a couple of plants at the top of the Marmalade polytunnel (in there to attract pollinating insects such as hoverflies and bees – and to look nice) since it’s not in the main cropping alleys anyway, right in the corner of the plastic. And it’s been flowering ever since! A pair of wrens seem to be cavorting around it every time I go in there now, before scarpering through the gaps in the doors when they clock me: they also seem to be delighting in its brilliant colour and vigour. In whimsical mood, I like to think that they are impressing each other with present of golden petals. So three cheers for this miracle plant!
Right, I’m just going to pretend that it really is spring, and that there isn’t a shed-load of snow forecast in five days, following a week of -2C nights. Fortunately, everything in the polytunnels and module tunnel seems to be happy to go along with my current delusion: the celeriac at last began to show itself last week (sown 25th Feb, I was beginning to think about resowing until the first tiny green shoot showed itself on Friday); some lettuces have germinated too; and the mixed salads are their usual brilliantly unfussy selves, just growing away quietly (although slowly without the sun). I think I found the first beetroot leaves showing from the line I sowed next to the carrots in Marmalade tunnel a few weeks ago too.
I’m too much of a chicken to really go and look at the field at the moment though; I probably should start clearing the brassica stalks away so that if the soil does warm up and dry out, I can rotovate ready for the maincrop roots – but I just don’t have the heart for it at the moment. I can probably justify it to myself in other ways: maybe the pigeons will leave the remaining brassicas along, and I’ll get another bag or two of kale or PSB out of them; and I’m sure those empty rotting stalks are a great home for wildlife in these freezeing temperatures. The truth is that I really don’t want to do it. So there. I’ll stick to working in the tunnels this week, pretending that it’s actually 10C outside.
I’ve sown some spring and summer salad leaves, to take over from the pungent mustardy winter leaves when they finish: I sowed groups of 50 modules with 3+ seeds in each of fenugreek (smelt amazing); shungingko (chopsuey greens); green perilla/shiso; green purslane; bronze fennel; green fennel; red veined sorrel; cress (a variety called ‘Bubbles’); and salad burnet – amazingly large seeds (see picture) for such a delicate-looking and tasty plant (flavour like cucumber). My thinking is that if I carry on with this spring delusion, the weather will be fooled too and join in the fantasty…
I had a mildly terrifying journey to the farm this morning: I’d been given an ice cream tub full of frogspawn (in pond water), and was panicking as I drove along, scared that any sudden movements would spill the whole lot everywhere. Such responsibilty! I managed to get there with us all in one piece however, so then set about trying to make my pond (roughly dug and lined in a fit of rainy pique last ‘summer’) more hospitable.
I still don’t have any pond weed or other plants in the pond: it’s just a big hole full of water at the moment. I’ve been adding big stones when I’ve come across them though; to create sloping shelves at either end. This is to make it easier for any wildlife such as birds, hedghogs or amphibians to get access to the water without falling in.
So until I do get some weed (I think oxygenating hornwort is the way to go), I’ve just put in a large terracotta pot on its side to provide something for the spawn to latch on to, and provide a bit of shelter; left some sticks in the pond as floating ladders or floats; and placed some trellises over the top to keep birds and other predators from scoffing it all. There’s a lot of useful info here on frogspawn.
I’m hoping that at least some of this precious spawn will develop into a slug-eating army of frogs. I’m also hoping that a local hedgehog charity will release some recovered hedgehogs here too; maybe I should get uniforms for them all, and the hedgehogs can be the generals and the frogs will be the infantry?