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Geoff Hodge Web Editor Peterborough

I've been a horticultural journalist for 20 years, a gardener for longer than I want to think about and a veg grower for 25 years.

  • Date Joined: 21 Nov 2006

Busy, busy --- and busy!

Posted by Geoff Hodge on 17 Mar 2008 at 11:19 AM

As it was an awful weekend weather-wise (not sports-wise - Wales beating the French at rugby and winning the Grand Slam), I spent most of the time indoors - but luckily I had plenty to entertain me there, too.

The seed potatoes were put out to chit - yes I know it should have been done earlier, but I had no room in the conservatory to put them and I wasn't sure whether I was going to chit or not this year. Anyway, I convinced myself to do it and now there's a tray of ‘Rocket', ‘Charlotte', ‘Desiree' and ‘Pink Fir Apple'. The shoots had only just started to show, so no damage done there.

Indoors the sowing bug has well and truly started. To join the pots of young chilli seedlings ‘Numex Twilight', ‘Hot Portugal' and ‘Georgia Flame', there's now a pot each of ‘Cayenne', ‘Tropical Heat' and ‘Pretty in Pink'. I grew the latter last year and the small purple fruit looked innocuous enough - but packed a punch when bitten in to. I dried most of them and they're sitting in the pantry adding plenty of heat to lots of meals over winter and spring. Just so that the sweet peppers didn't feel left out, I also sowed a pot of ‘Romano'; this produces those lovely long peppers.
I also managed a pot of tomato ‘Costoluto Fiorentino' (my favourite beefsteak) and a cell tray each of kale and Savoy cabbage ‘Tarvoy' together with a tray of self-blanching celery ‘Full White'.

Outside, the broad beans and lettuce in the growing frame are doing well. I've put in some supports for the beans - comprising canes at each end of the row and string wound through the plants.

To ensure I get a nice long cropping period - after all broad beans fresh from the garden are one of my favourite things - I've sown some more to get another later crop; these are ‘Bunyard's Exhibition' - an English heirloom variety introduced in 1884. It is very heavy cropping and produces smooth, narrow, 17.5-20cm (7-8in) pods and well-flavoured white beans. I've also sown the first crop of peas (‘Celebration' and ‘Kelvedon Wonder'), but as I'm not too sure how the weather is doing (they're predicting snow at Easter!), they've been sown in modules in the lean-to frame. The frame also has cell trays of shallots and onion ‘Sturon' growing on ready to plant out at the allotment.

In the raised beds, the garlic has established nicely, I've planted out some young spinach beet and sown the first radishes.

But I still don't feel that far advanced - the recent cold weather and wind has made me cautious. If we do escape the snow at Easter then I'll get some more sowing done outside, and try and cram even more indoor crops of aubergines, tomatoes and cucumbers into the propagators. Yes, there's two on the go now - one with young seedlings under the growlight in the garage growing on and the other in the ‘nursery' in the conservatory germinating seeds.

Sunday evening was spent in the Hodge Soup Kitchen and I made gallons (well, it feels like gallons - and the freezer is certainly full to the brim) of soup - there was cream of celeriac, Jerusalem artichoke and carrot, Jerusalem artichoke, carrot and beetroot (a bit of an experiment but it certainly looks tasty) and leek and potato - as a Welshman this is one of my favourites.

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