One of the few vegetables that positively benefits from these wintry conditions is garlic. I planted garlic bulbs back in early December and it was good to see their green shoots poking through the blanket of snow this week. Below-zero temperatures encourage the clove to split into new cloves and the sooner that happens the more time they’ll have to fill out. It’s a fairly ordinary variety this year: Provence Wight, a softneck, on the grounds that the hardnecks I’ve grown the last two seasons really didn’t keep that well in storage. Softnecks definitely stay usable longer.
Playing safe was also the order of the day when planning 2019’s tomatoes and peppers. I’ve pre-ordered grafted plug plants rather than starting from seed. The grafted F1s I grew on in 2018 were very strong and prolific. This year I’ve ordered:
- Tomatoes Santorange, Giulietta and Crimson Cherry
- Chilli Medina
- Cucumber Carmen
- Pepper Ace
- Aubergine Moneymaker
- Courgette Tuscany
I’ll grow plenty of other things from seed – leafy plants, beans and so on – but it’s good to know that the critical things above are all assured of a good start. I do still have some serious concerns about the soil in the raised beds. Some of last year’s plants gave very low yields, especially the courgettes and potatoes. I always dig in fresh compost but am thinking now there must be some big nutrient deficiencies, so I’ve ordered a high quality testing kit, not just a pH tester but one which provides separate readings for nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous. If one or even all of those is exhausted, it should be a fairly simple matter of replenishing them with an appropriate feed.
One thing I grew by accident last year – and may grow by design this – was radish pods. Some radishes bolted in the hot summer and quickly produced seed pods at the top of their stalks. I’d only recently seen a TV programme showing them being cooked in India, so gave it a go and it was very nice.
Also slightly unusual were the tiny ‘pearl’ chillies. Each not much bigger than a chickpea, they took a long time to ripen but once they had I pickled them in a jar of spiced vinegar.
Another late season crop was several pounds of figs, which found their way into a fig and feta tart. Likewise, some of the big Crimson Crush tomatoes were good for a tomato tart.
A good crop of aubergine, spinach, peppers with freshly cut thyme and oregano just needed some Greek cheese adding to make a tasty grilled meal and to string out the essence of summer I harvested and dried a whole lot of lavender, which has lots of healthy uses as well smelling fabulous.
All those snippets of last year fill me with anticipation for the coming seasons. Bring on Spring!