It feels like I’ve been on the starting blocks waiting for the full force of Spring to arrive for a couple of weeks now. Every time there are clear blue skies, temperatures rise a few notches, I get ready to shoot out of the blocks and go into gardening overdrive. But then the big F re-appears….Frost that is. Overnight. Once or twice. Just to remind you not to be too hasty….
While waiting, I can use the time to begin hardening off my seedlings, so that they will be ready to be planted out in their final location. This will, hopefully, coincide nicely with all risk of frost having passed.
Hardening off involves gradually preparing seedlings that have been nurtured under a protected environment, to be outside. They physically have to toughen up. So it begins with leaving them out for an hour or two on their first day, somewhere sheltered, out of the sun and preferably covered with a light fleece. Then they go back inside and return outside the following day, for a little more time. This is repeated each day, increasing it over successive days and in time exposing them to sunlight little by little until eventually you can leave them outside overnight covered with a light fleece. Finally a few days before they are planted out, you leave them out all day and night without any cover. This process should take a couple of weeks.
This year I have also carried forward the School Project I began last year and have been busy making plans for a planting scheme for the school garden’s raised beds.
I have simplified the system this year, basing it on a three-year rotation (this now being the second) and growing fewer family groups of vegetables but more variety within each group. For instance within the Legume family, I’ve picked three varieties of Bean alongside one Pea.
Salads – Lollo Rosso, Iceberg, Maravilla de Verano- form the borders between the sections of crops in each bed. The lettuces will be continually harvested until late August/September, after which they will be replaced with a sowing of a green manure crop. This will add valuable nutrients back into the soil before the frosts return.
Flowers- some edible, some to attract pollinators and some to distract the pests from the juicy veg! Calendular, Nasturtiums and Sweet peas.
Wigwam with Climbing Beans- Runner Bean, Blauhilde, Cobra.
Carrots- Purple Haze, Cosmic Purple, Atomic Red, Milan- surrounded by Garlic Chives
Kales- Westlander Winter Kale, Redbor
Chard- Rhubarb, Rainbow
Radish interspersed with the lettuce
Wigwam with climbing beans (as in Bed A)
Summer Squash- Gold Rush (Yellow courgette), Sunbeam (Pattypan)