I’m not impatient, I’m following the instructions!

It does seem a little early in the year but my excuse is that I’m just following the instructions that were included with the box I had delivered from Marshalls Seeds. It is  a little annoying that after you complete your order online they will not send anything until the time is right but I can see some sense in this and it certainly stops me getting ahead of myself!

In fact  I could develop a liking for this annual delivery event and I can imagine that over time it will become yet one more sign at the start of each year that Spring must be heading our way.

Chitting tray
Chitting potatoes using every available space

This year’s box contained some seed potatoes – Swift – and the included instructions for these were very specific that these should be opened and set out for chitting as soon as possible after arrival.

Apparently the seed potato crop suffered badly with last year’s wet weather and I get the impression that they are worried about rot. Who am I to argue with the specialists and they provide cardboard trays for free so I might as well get it done.

I’m sure that I ordered the same sized small bag of seed potatoes as last year but I definitely got more in the bag this time around – perhaps that is an indication of the smaller size available this year? It remains to be seen whether the smaller sizes this year will be slower to get started or will produce a reduced yield.

Seed potatoes
Another tray of seed potatoes

Also included in this order was my selection of seeds to try out this year. When ordering these I tried to find interesting varieties that wouldn’t take too long to reach maturity so that even if we manage to sell the house and move, we might stand a  chance of eating something that we harvest from the garden!

More seeds and a handy garden knife
More seeds and a handy garden knife

There is nothing more on order now so unfortunately, apart from getting in some seed compost, the garden shopping is done for the moment. I just need some warmer weather and longer days so I can get started!


Confessions of a rhubarb virgin

As a result of the lame efforts of the postman (who didn’t wait after ringing the doorbell) and despite the recent wintry weather, I took a trip to the local Royal Mail sorting office to collect my parcel of rhubarb crowns from  Marshalls Seeds. I had ordered a pack with two different rhubarb varieties so I can compare the difference as they grow (aka spreading the risks in case one dies!).

One variety is called Stockbridge Arrow (allegedly) one of the best varieties available with long, thick stems that are topped with arrow shaped leaves.

The other one is Champagne, an old variety is  reliable and easy to grow. The young plants  quickly mature with crowns big enough to harvest around 2 years after planting.

My plan is to grow them together in a large (approx. 3ft diameter) pot for the moment so that they can be easily transported when we finally sell our house and move to a new place.  The conditions were admittedly not ideal when I got the parcel back home but the instructions included in the box were very clear – plant the crowns out as soon as possible after receiving them. Luckily I have had the pot ready for some time and it has been covered with bubble wrap as a token gesture to “warm” the soil. I doubt that it has made much difference but it should hopefully have prevented the worst effects of the cold weather recently.

The pot has now been moved into the garage as we don’t have a greenhouse or similar that could be used and the crowns were planted according to the instructions included. The only change I made was to cover them with a clear propagation tray lid in the hope that keeps off the worst of the temperature drop. There might not be quite enough organic matter in there but I’m hoping that this is only a temporary home for a year or so and no more than that.

Obviously there isn’t much to show at the moment but pictures will follow as soon as there is some action!

Once the current snow, sleet and ice has cleared I can move the pot back outside again and hopefully by that time my order from Greenfingers.com will have arrived. I don’t urgently need the new spring tine rake that I’ve ordered but the protective garden fleece will come in very handy!

This will be my first attempt at growing rhubarb so I have read up on information around the web and I thought it was worth including a selection of links here for reference purposes as I’m always misplacing useful web links:








Weekend achievements

Something that has been on my list of things to get around to one day has been the re-glazing of the cold frame. This is an existing cold frame which had problems right from the start when I got it a few years ago – I broke a couple of the panes just putting it together!

At the time I decided to use perspex so that my clumsy repair attempts would end in the loss of more glass or may be worse a couple of fingers!

This approach worked fairly well until it became clear that it wasn’t the best way to do it when the perspex sagged a bit on the top. However by that point I’d lost the will to live and didn’t need it so much anyway because the weather had warmed up.

Now that I have properly re-glazed and reassembled the whole structure it looks as good as new to my untrained eye. I’m sure that this year’s harvest will be noticeably improved as a result – failing that at least some of the earlier plantings will stand a bit more chance of success.

A thing of beauty as I’m sure you’ll all agree and I’m just ignoring the fact that this replacement glass probably cost more than a new one!!

Fully glazed cold frame


A limited seed order for 2013

I have spent the last few weeks pondering which vegetables to plant this year whilst not wasting any time, effort or money on crops that we won’t see through to harvest if we manage to sell our house in the coming months.

Rather than spend the next few weeks repeatedly changing my mind, I decided to just go ahead and order a small selection of vegetable seeds for this year but I tried to focus on those which are ideally early planting and thus early harvesting. I will just have to accept that in the event we are lucky enough to sell fairly quickly that means some crops may be left for the new owners.

However all is not lost as I have a cunning plan to use various containers for some of the slower growing or longer term crops so that we can (in theory at least) take those with us.

Most of these will be started off under cover anyway – assuming I ever buy the replacement glass needed for the cold frame – but some may be planted out directly under cloches in the raised veg beds.


This year I have again gone for first early potatoes (Swift this time) which if the website is to be believed could be ready for harvest “in as little as 7 weeks from planting” – I have my doubts about this but I’ll be interested to see how it turns out.

The Thompson and Morgan potato growing guide has some great information, particularly the planting and spacing guide but also about the various problems when growing potatoes.


A variety called “Early Onward” which is (allegedly) a “heavy cropper, maturing some 10 days earlier than Onward“. I think that these are destined for one of the veg beds that are now covered with cloches but there’s still no guarantee that the weather will warm up quickly enough to suit my impatience!

The guide to pea growing on the Thompson and Morgan website is a handy reference but doesn’t specifically mention this variety so I’ll just make it up as I go along!


This will be my first attempt at beetroot but it was a special request so it’s worth a try. This is a variety called Boltardy which “is the perfect variety for early sowing“. This will most likely be planted up in a number of medium sized pots/troughs so that I can handle succession sowing to get a decent crop over a longer period while still keeping it slightly portable.


A rather interesting looking variety called Purple Haze which can apparently be sown “under frames or cloches in February as soil starts to warm” and unsurprisingly this is a nice shade of purple! Apparently the taste is excellent but I may need to eat them with my eyes closed – after all I’ve always known carrots to be an orange colour!


Finally I decided to take the plunge and try some rhubarb so I ordered a double pack with 1 crown of Stockbridge Arrow and 1 crown of  Champagne. This is definitely one for a large (3ft?) tub which has nothing growing in it right now and I’m hoping that my calculations are good enough so I can fit both crowns in there with no adverse effects 

There is a handy rhubarb growing guide on the Thompson and Morgan website which I found very useful and I’ll be going back over that when the delivery arrives

Left overs

There are also still some seeds left from last year – particularly the Nantes carrots and Apollo leeks – so assuming I can find any spare space they may get planted at some point. Unfortunately they aren’t as exciting as the new stuff I’ve just ordered so they’ll probably get forgotten but I’d hate to waste the space!

I can now spend the next week or two watching for the delivery man with my parcels… and waiting for warmer weather of course!

The end of year garden clean up

The weather has been kind around the end of December and so we managed a good couple of days work in the garden to end the year – to my untrained eyes at least it makes quite a noticeable difference. After all the wet weather and the lack of any decent chance recently for things to dry out I wasn’t sure when we started that anything constructive could be done though.

Luckily a little bit of weed control fabric and some strategically placed cloches seem to help bring things together on the veg beds at least. We are already starting to see some shoots coming through which I guess must be the snowdrops so I need to keep the chickens off those flower beds if I want to see them grow!

Raised veg bed with plastic cloche
Raised veg bed with plastic cloche

Now that the leeks are all harvested and eaten all 3 veg beds are now tucked up for a couple of months while I try to decide what to do next year.

Raised veg bed with weed control fabric
Raised veg bed with weed control fabric

And chickens really enjoy it when you dig over the compost heap, in this case I was redistributing the contents of the current compost heap and adding a little of the contents from an older heap to liven things up. I can’t help thinking that the chickens will have cleaned out any worms that I managed to transfer though so maybe the effort was wasted.

Chickens love a good compost heap
Chickens love a good compost heap

What to try in 2013?

We are still hoping to sell the house in the early part of this year so there aren’t any major plans for the veg beds but I can’t just leave them empty. Maybe a quick peek in the seed catalogues and some fancy planning with a calendar will throw up some ideas for vegetables that are happy with early planting and give a quick harvest? Of course there are always a few pots of various sizes dotted around which I could plant up and then if necessary take with us when we move so maybe all is not lost!

I’d better get off to study the catalogues and vegetable books but any suggestions or past experiences would be most appreciated…