Chitting, sowing, planting and blossom

It’s the end of March… what happened to February?! Last month clearly went by in a whirl, so this post will condense two months on the allotment.

February and March are essentially ‘tidy-up; sort-out; plan and prepare’ kind of months. Not much is growing apart from the tail end of last year’s winter veg, if you have any, and anything planted to ‘over-winter’.

In tidy-up mode, I treated us to some new raised beds, reducing the number but increasing their size and in the space that was left have created two ‘in the ground’ beds which, after much deliberation will be used to grow cut flowers.

I’ve been caught up in the Dahlia Mania that is sweeping Instagram at the moment – I started growing dahlias last year and had so much pleasure from them that I knew I was going to grow more this year. They really are a beautiful flower and with so many to choose from, it’s easy to get addicted. These ‘in the ground’ beds will be planted up with Dahlias; Cosmos; Zinnias; Ammi; Astrantia; Echinacea; Rudbekia and anything else that takes my fancy.

Part of the preparation for the growing year ahead is, of course, sowing the seeds and ‘chitting’ the potatoes and, my goodness, there is SO much advice out there that it really can be overwhelming. “Plant things now, don’t plant them now”, “wait for this, don’t wait for this…”, you name it, somebody somewhere has got an opinion. This isn’t meant as a criticism, it’s just that there is so much out there it’s hard to narrow it down sometimes. In my view, the best you can do and what I am doing this year, is going with what worked for me last year…. with a small exception.

Last year I sowed all my seeds in March. I looked after them, planted them out at the end of May and all but a few I had a good harvest from, so why would I do anything differently? In my zeal to be ‘perfect’ (my own eyes roll upwards this time), I thought I would sow according to the seed packets rather than all in one month, so, in February I sowed quite a few flowers and veg seeds as well as ‘chitting’ our first early ‘Arran Pilot’ potatoes.

First earlies ‘chitting’ on the windowsill

Not having a poly tunnel or a greenhouse means windowsills and the kitchen floor are put to use, and at one stage started using my three-tier baking cooling wrack for extra space! In the end I bought a more substantial temporary green house and popped the trays in there. Not the best time to be doing so in my view, as we were still having some cold snaps, but they survived thank goodness.

I can see the value in sowing seeds in February, if for no other reason than space-saving, but seeds need warmth more than light at the germination stage so to sow early, you need to be able to create the right environment. There are all sorts of ways to achieve this, you don’t need to spend lots of money on heat pads and propagators if you don’t want to. A warm windowsill with pots covered in clingfilm will do the same job. So for now, until we get either a green house or a poly tunnel the windowsill and kitchen floor will have to do!

I set myself the task of preparing the ground on the new plot and gave myself until the end of March to finish… I haven’t finished. If I spent everyday at the allotment and had all the resources I needed then I would have managed it, but because life away from the allotment has been a bit hectic, I havent been up there as much as I would have liked but even though there’s still some beds to prep I’m much further forward than I might have been.

Progress so far

Because I’m determined to be ‘no-dig’ this year, it’s meant collecting huge amounts of cardboard and compost to this area! The new plot has basically been sponsored by Amazon, with kind donations from neighbours and friends and bike boxes from Halfords. This all sounds great, until you realise that we have to keep the cardboard until I can get up to the allotment and for reasons I wont bore you with, we have no room in the garage to store the boxes, so they are stored in the house or the car…

The rest of the seeds not sown in February got sown last week and are germinating nicely.

Enjoying the sunshine ready to go back inside when the sun goes in and the temperature cools down.

and the new dahlias that have arrived have been potted up ready to be planted out with those I lifted last year.

Couldn’t resist the colourful pots… and there are another nine dahlias not in the photo 🙂

Back on the plot and the end of March is when it’s recommended you plant your first early potatoes, so I duly did so along with some broad beans I sowed in February.

This year I wanted to try a different way of planting the potatoes. Trying to be ‘no-dig’ but cautious of not covering the shoots proficiently enough, I wondered if I could come up with a way to plant the potatoes deep enough without digging a trench and disturbing the soil unnecessarily and then covering the shoots in the usual way when needed. I came up with the idea of using this bulb planter.

It was very easy to use, I twisted it deeper than you perhaps would for a spring bulb, as I wanted to achieve the recommended 5/6inch depth, popped the potato in and covered it with the removed soil. All very quick, easy and with minimal disturbance. I’ve no idea if it will make any difference whatsoever, but worth a try.

For the eagle-eyed among you, you may have noticed that one of the broad bean plants looks different to the others. This is because it is one of the surviving ‘over-wintered’ plants that has been in the ground since October. It has been outside it’s whole life, running the gauntlet between coping with wind, rain, hail, snow and sunshine and being picked over by birds or mice and to me looks all the stronger for it. The newer plants are more leggy in comparison and have been molly coddled in the warmth. I’m assured by the experts that all plants that ‘over-winter’ catch-up with those planted in the spring so you get an even harvest. I’ll be interested to see if there is a difference in the yield between those planted last week and what I consider to be the more strong and healthy plant.

The other over-wintered veg and perennial fruit bushes are all showing signs of life and the plum blossom is out and is pretty as a picture.

Plum blossom on the allotment

Bring on the plums 🙂

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