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Jim McColl: What should we be getting ready to sow and plant right now?

Rooted in love: There's nothing better than growing your own fresh vegetables like these tasty potatoes.
Rooted in love: There's nothing better than growing your own fresh vegetables like these tasty potatoes.

Do you remember my comments a week or so ago, about the changes which are happening to our weather, as a result of climate change?

Some crops in 2021 did not perform as expected, even some commercial crops were affected.

If you go along with that opinion, will you be a little more observant this year?

This thought came to me last week as I journeyed to Buckie and back (to Oldmeldrum).

Our daffodils are just beginning to open up whereas, along that bit of coast they were in full bloom!

Now, they may always be much earlier than ours but I have never noticed it before. Am I just havering or is this Mother Nature at it again because of the seasonal weather?

Onion sets planted to start sprouting.

We can only wait and see but I, for one, will be checking outdoor sowing and growing conditions a little more carefully as we swing in to the busiest season of the year!

Are you ready for the off’?

What should we be getting ready to sow and plant right now?

With that weather forecast in mind and, by the way, I’m sure I read that some areas of Scotland may get heavy snow in the coming days, check the soil conditions and be prepared for the first outdoor sowing.

Where the soil shows signs of drying, check by rubbing a few lumps through your fingers, hoping for that crumbly state we are looking for, referred to as ‘friable’! THEN we might consider sowing the first carrots.

Customarily I would sow the quick maturing, stump-rooted types like Early Nantes or Amsterdam Forcing following on from that with early turnips and planting early potatoes.

Chitting or sprouting potatoes is a fun activity to do. It is simply the process of forcing seed potatoes into growth before they are planted out.

Garden fleece

It does pay to have some garden fleece to hand, sometimes referred to as a ‘floating cloche’.

It is there to be used as a cover for the early sowing, should the occasional spring frost be forecast.

Maybe I am being over fussy BUT, you can’t make up for lost time!

Garden fleece is ideal when Spring frost is forecast.

I accept that you can make another sowing by repeating the exercise but that will cost time and money!

Enthusiasts may make their first sowing/planting under cloches which have been put in place a week or two before the due sowing date – to prevent the soil from being soaked perhaps and to aid the drying and warming processes.

Early vegetables

Those of you with a walk-in polythene tunnel may also choose to devote some of the space to a selection of early vegetables.

At one time I did that very thing in our last garden and we certainly demonstrated the idea in Beechgrove from time to time.

 

Springing to life: Those with a walk-in polythene tunnel may also choose to devote some of the space to a selection of early vegetables.

I have no doubt that some of you will be ‘taken’ by the cookery styles seen on television (which I referred to last week), selling the notion that ‘baby’ vegetables ,which look delightful on the plate, are worth using.

In my view, unless they genuinely mature quite small that’s fine but if they are regular varieties harvested when they are immature they are only for show because for the most part they will be tasteless.

Mind you, in modern cooking methinks their lack of flavour will be disguised by the sauce.

Slugs

Back to the gardening, there is nothing more irritating than to find these early sowings have been attacked by slugs.

How can they be controlled?

The simplest way is to get out at night with a torch and a ‘pooper-scooper’ and collect them but not such a good idea if your allotment happens to be a mile away.

Pooper scoopers come in handy when slugs attack.

Beer traps

Next on my list would be beer traps.

Take one glass jam jar, fill one third with beer (I understand that ale is more successful than lager!) and bury amongst the crop, up to the rim.

Organic growers use ferric phosphate pellets but the latest organically acceptable material contains microscopic nematodes (eelworms).

Beer trap:

Now available from some garden centres.

To protect individual plants in the flower borders or in containers, there are barriers made from crushed shells which are applied like a mini-mulch around each specimen. As well as solving the problem, they are actually quite attractive.

Onion sets

Concurrently, a number of vegetables will be sown in the greenhouse for planting a little later along with the onion ‘sets’.

Originally started from seed by the merchants when they reach a given size as mini-onions, they are dried off and stored.

Come spring we acquire these young onion plants in the dormant state classed as ‘onions sets’. Plant them now indoors in trays to start growing with a view to planting them in the veg plot in mid May when the danger of frost has passed.

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