Early signs are encouraging

The rhubarb crowns that I planted in pots earlier  are beginning to show signs of life although the fact that I originally planted one on its side probably didn’t help.

Stockbridge Arrow
Stockbridge Arrow is the first to show

My excuse is that it wasn’t easy to figure out which way was “up” when I received the crowns through the post.

Luckily I had my doubts within a few days of the originally planting them and it was a quick thing to fix with hopefully no adverse effects on the growth and future cropping!

Although i planted both varieties in matching pots with the same compost, it’s the Stockbridge Arrow variety which is looking the best. Perhaps this is the result of using bubble wrap over that pot instead of the horticultural fleece which covered the pot with the Champagne variety?

Champagne rhubarb
Champagne rhubarb is not so promising (…yet)

These pictures really highlight the difference and if I wasn’t such an optimist I might have had thoughts of giving up on the Champagne variety.

However it’s still very early days and I’ve never grown rhubarb before so it makes more sense to keep an eye on it and let nature do what it does best.

They can be easily transported with us when we move house and I have no other use for those pots at the moment!

The cheap lettuce seeds I bought in the sales that were planted only last week are already showing promise which encouraged me to plant some more vegetable seeds this weekend. This even included some beetroot and peas in the garden veg beds which had been covered for a few weeks in preparation.

The cloches went straight back on again afterwards as well because the weather is unlikely to be in my favour just yet! I’m also choosing to ignore the fact that with any luck our house move will take place before these reach a suitable point for harvesting – the new owners can treat them as a house-warming present though.

I hope I don’t regret that in the future when I have too many plants and nowhere to put them. I can always give them away I suppose so watch this space in the coming weeks as there maybe a vegetable plant give away!

Promising signs from the lettuce seeds
Promising signs from the lettuce seeds

Just a few seeds planted

It was going to be a matter of principle for me this year to follow the general advice and wait patiently for the right time to start planting. I have read so many articles and books emphasising that it is better to wait one more week than to plant too early because it won’t affect the results too badly and  planting too soon can be a big mistake.

At first this wasn’t too hard to do especially when we had a couple of spells with a few days of  snow and some very low temperatures overnight. More recently it has been getting harder especially as I’m very aware that March is rapidly approaching – I happily choose to ignore the fact that I live in the North East, UK where spring comes a little later than most!

I had been doing so well but I eventually gave in to the temptation and opened some seed packets yesterday which I had bought over the last few weeks. We have  had a few consecutive days of relatively good weather (for the time of year) plus I had prepared some seed trays which have been “warming up” in the house for the last few weeks.

This was only a very small sowing just to ease me in so only 1 tray has been used and no more than 10 of anything was planted. This first batch includes:

  • Onions from seed as I’ve only grown them from sets before
  • Beetroot because I’ve never tried growing that before
  • Squash because I’ve never tried it before (and I bought the seeds in a sale!)
  • Lettuce just because the seeds were cheap and I didn’t want to risk any other seeds yet

There’s not much to show for the effort yet of course but I’ve included a picture anyway and I feel more like spring is on the way at last.. (just until we get the Easter snow of course!)

First sowing of 2013
First sowing of 2013

A promising start to 2013

We are 2 months into 2013 and looking back now I can see that although things have progressed, there is still some way to go. My efforts are focused on avoiding potential mishaps or delays but I’m told that this is a form of negative thinking – Personally I’d rather be prepared if possible.

Nice weather for a second viewing
Nice weather for a second viewing

Now that we have our buyers in place, the paperwork in motion and mortgage dealt with we have been able to assess the chain of purchasers. This is pleasantly short with only three property sales involved and first time buyers at one end and our sellers moving into rented accommodation. There is always a faint worry about the chain collapsing somewhere else but the  fact that there are so few links should help.

It felt a little odd to  have a second viewing after our offer had already been accepted but luckily there was nothing of any great importance to put us off – not even the weather could dampen the enthusiasm for the future.

I have so far beaten my usual impatience and managed to hold off sowing any seeds but I think this week will see some seeds going into trays/pots indoors. For some reason I feel the need to get things moving especially if it encourages the arrival of spring but I know that anything planted out before moving house will be left for the new owners.

This year sees some new vegetables that I’ve not tried before  so I’m keen to learn what will happen and at least I can take that knowledge with me even if the plants are left behind! I think a few beetroot and carrot will be the first phase but I’ll wait until this weekend before planting out the peas just to be certain the current cold spell is over. I’ll also be sure to keep some seed back for later so I can also try them when we get to the new place.

The 3 chickens are still laying intermittently with just an occasional “jelly” egg (perhaps once a week) which I think must be an egg with little or no shell on it. They are all in good health and are enjoying trashing the far corner of our garden now that some new fencing is in place to keep them there!  I had expected a more noticeable slow down in egg production or even some days with none at all but so far we always get a couple – except when egg collecting duties are handled by an over enthusiastic 6-year-old.

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!