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Warming soil at last

Posted by Guy Barter on 16 Mar 2009 at 01:44 PM

With warming soil at last, the newly rotovated and fertilised soil was raked level and marked out for winter brassicas.  The winter brassica plot was marked out, with pegs, for three rows of Brussels sprouts, one row of purple sprouting broccoli, one row of winter savoys, one of red storing cabbage, one of swedes, one of January King cabbage, half a row each of white storing cabbage and autumn cabbage and finally a mixed row of kale, purple cape broccoli and spring cauliflowers. 

These are or will soon be, sown in pots for planting out in May and June, but in the meantime the spaces between the rows, which vary from 90cm between the sprouts, to 45cm for swedes and cabbages can be sown with small quick-growing intercrops that will use the vacant space until the brassica leaves meet over the rows in July:

• Beetroot – A full 10m row of ‘Solo’ beetroot which being a monogerm will produce just one plant instead of a clump that needs thinning as do most other beet
• Lettuce – Full 10m rows of ‘Little Gem’ (mini cos), ‘Tom Thumb’ (mini butterhead) and ‘Chobham Green’ (butterhead).  These will be cut as soon as the leaves are usable as leafy salad until hearts form in June
• Radish – a 1m run of radish ‘Flamboyant’
• Rocket – a 1m run of ‘Voyager’
• Spinach – a 5m run of ‘Napoli’ that resist downy mildew
• Turnips –  a 5m run of ‘Atlantic’,  a quick-growing, small leaved purple topped turnip

Successional sowing will be made on a much smaller scale every two to three weeks until May.  For now the soil is still relatively cold and inhospitable and as losses of seeds might be heavy, a seed is sown every finger width to ensure that there will be enough plants for a full stand.

Joining the shallots and garlic that went in during February was a strip of ‘Sturon’ onion sets planted through white faced black polythene to limit weeding and, this is where the white bit comes in, reflect light back up in to the crop to boost growth.  Red onion set ‘Red Baron’ won’t be planted until April – it is more prone to flower if exposed to cold night.

Using some soil on which until recently raspberry canes had been growing were sown Spring onion ‘Eifel’ and Leek ‘Toledo’ beneath fleece.  The leeks are for lifting in June as transplants.  As the site has been under raspberries for 15 years and was scrub before that the soil should be disease free leading to healthy leeks ready to follow the earliest lifted spuds, also planted this weekend.

Well-chitted tubers of ‘Accent’ were planted in a strip of land warmed with clear polythene since December.  They were planted in the base of a shallow trench with a moderate dressing of fertiliser.  The trench was then loosely roofed with some fleece, and the clear plastic then replaced stretched taut over the fleece to make a kind of greenhouse.  The polythene spent last summer over the sweet potatoes and is on its last legs but should help to warm this crop while the fleece will, I trust, exclude the nasty spring frosts so common in the Thames Valley.


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