Real Men Sow

Should I Sow Early? Weekend Notes from the Allotment

purple sprouting broccoli

I spent a perfect afternoon at the allotment with my mum this weekend, which not only served to banish any hint of plot laziness, but also led me to take stock on all things allotment.

The allotments are the wettest I have ever seen them. The soil is really claggy and heavy, which made planting our raspberry canes and gooseberry bushes a bit of a mission.

Digging holes (albeit small ones) was backbreaking, and I certainly wouldn’t want to be digging a whole plot over at the moment.

Mild Weather – Should I Sow Early?
However, it might be wet, but boy are things mild down here. According to the Essex Weather Twitter feed, one day last week was twice the average temperature for this time of the year.

This got me musing: could I risk sowing a few seeds in the greenhouse now? It’s really early, of course, and not something books would advise, but if we don’t get a cold snap I could be laughing. I’ve got early peas (Kelvedon Wonder), and broadies which I might chuck in pots.

If a cold period is forecast, I can always cover the sowings in fleece to raise the temperature a degree or so. As my mum says, they’ve got two chances. :)

PSB, Leeks and Chard
Harvests are getting scarcer as Winter progresses and we near the Hungry Gap. I’m already short on sprouts, kale and cavolo nero, courtesy of the Brassica Massacre, so I’m back on a veg box delivery.

I have picked up bonus purple sprouting broccoli from the previous plotholder on my new allotment, which is a result. I harvested a bagful at the weekend, which did seem early, but it could be one of the new early varieties. As a devoted PSB man, I’m going to grow these and normal varieties this year to try and drag out the season.

My perpetual spinach is getting nibbled by something. I’d normally guess that slugs are responsible, but I’ve been doing night time checks and can’t see any. Fingers point at pigeons, clocking that this poor allotmenteerist has to go out to work Monday to Friday and that his chard is fair game.

I’ve got plenty of Musselburgh leeks though, and harvested some good specimens for a lunchtime leek and potato soup. I like this unfussy recipe from the Guardian, but with 5 Musselburghs for a good leeky kick.

Meeting the Neighbour
I also met my neighbour, who is a very friendly chap. It’s always nice to have nice neighbours, and I was spoiled at the previous plot. My new neighbour offered to home my compost dalek in his shed until I’m ready to use it so that it doesn’t blow away – a nice gesture. :)

Those Nights are Drawing Out…
Best of all though, we stayed until gone 4.30pm. The temperature dropped, but we have plenty of light. Those nights are drawing out, and Summer will be here before we know it…

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  1. Alan @ It's Not Work, It's Gardening!January 20, 2014 at 9:51 pmReply

    If it were me I’d take a chance and sow kale. Lettuce too — once lettuce germinates it’s remarkably cold-tolerant.

    • Jono

      JonoJanuary 22, 2014 at 9:32 pmReplyAuthor

      Alan – perfect, I’d forgotten about lettuce. Can use the baby kale as salad leaves too.

  2. JennyJanuary 21, 2014 at 9:46 amReply

    I also enjoyed an afternoon in the garden on Sunday. I finally got around to clearing away the remains of last years annual flowers to discover patch after patch of bulbs coming up. The daffs were obvious, but as I weeded I came across the early sprouts of bluebells, tulips, hyacinths and anemone’s too. Fooled by the mild weather do you think?

    • Jono

      JonoJanuary 22, 2014 at 9:33 pmReplyAuthor

      Hey Jenny – would have to be? Not seen any daffs coming up yet, but can’t be far off. Can’t wait for the bluebells. :)

  3. RyanJanuary 21, 2014 at 6:56 pmReply

    Good isn’t it, a bit more light and time in the veggie patch! Just need rid of the rain and everyone is happy.

    I would plump for kale and broad beans to be planted out now, some nice early beans and then get the second lot ready for later in the year.

    • Jono

      JonoJanuary 22, 2014 at 9:34 pmReplyAuthor

      Thanks for the comment Ryan. I put my broadies out very early last year, but they’re hardy and survived a big dump of snow. amazing really. :)

  4. ScottJanuary 21, 2014 at 8:01 pmReply

    I’d agree with lettuce. I’ve actually got some in a raised bed which completely overwintered with no protection. Getting slightly ragged now but still edible :)

    As long as you’ve got enough seed why not experiment with lots of really early sowings? If you lose the seedlings there is still time to sow again.

    • Jono

      JonoJanuary 22, 2014 at 9:35 pmReplyAuthor

      I’ve got some radicchio which has done the same Scott.

      Have you tried the oriental greens? They’re incredibly hardy.

      • ScottJanuary 25, 2014 at 8:12 pmReply

        I’ve got Giant Red Mustard and Mizuno still just about growing, definitely plan to try more oriental greens at the tail end of this year.
        Plus more salad in the greenhouse if I ever finish fixing it and putting it up.

  5. StuJanuary 21, 2014 at 10:13 pmReply

    According to a ‘What to do each month’ book I got a couple of years ago, which sparked our interest, Peas can be started this month.

    Our little plot is mostly dug now – though I noticed a tenacious dandelion which must have escaped the initial clearance work, which will have to come out at the weekend. Currently looking at options to build the raised bed, possibly decking, unless I can find a couple of pallets.

  6. Jono

    JonoJanuary 22, 2014 at 9:36 pmReplyAuthor

    Hi Stu – Naomi from Out of My Shed made pallet raised beds. Looked smart:

  7. margit199January 24, 2014 at 2:36 amReply

    I would sow early. All it will cost is a little time and a few seeds. What better way can you spend your time than hoping growing time will come early?

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About Real Men Sow

meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope. However, over a decade later, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

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