Chooks & Cooks

Chooks & Cooks

Food, Foraging & Adventures from the Heart of England

Vegetable Gardening | Getting Set for 2016

Baby Tomato Plant

It’s March. It still seems a stretch on particularly cold mornings, but spring is definitely in the air. It’s not just the nodding daffodils and bashful snowdrops either – the garden is starting to come to life and there is a touch of warmth in the sun’s rays. After a grey, wet winter where the last thing I wanted to do was get outdoors, I am finally getting itchy fingers – the desire to spend hours humming to myself whilst gardening in the greenhouse is starting to set in. And so, this weekend, I started planning (and potting) for the veg growing season to come.

Early Spring Vegetable Planting

Now I don’t know about you, but if I’m getting seriously productive urges then my best bet is to roll with it. Even if that means planting some seeds early and some bulbs late. After all, I still have alliums left that were meant to be planted last year – but if I’m finally feeling enthusiastic and kneeling on the still damp ground then I might as well give them a chance at survival anyway!

The results of this particular greenhouse session were plenty. What I’m going to try and do here is set out what I’ve planted, and my reasoning behind it. If there is any!

Gardening for small spaces

So I have a greenhouse, and a garden, but I don’t actually have much space for veg growing. If you have a small space then much of what I am doing in our ancient, slightly broken greenhouse can be done on a sunny windowsill or a warm balcony. So despite my thoroughly rural setting, I suspect my veg-focused gardening in many ways isn’t that different to how urban gardeners approach things. That said, my flower gardening is much more appropriate to a country cottage, as I have deep borders to work with!

The main difference for me this year is that rather than growing everything in the greenhouse (aside from courgettes I squeezed into the border, which was actually quite successful, and the lettuce I planted in the dark shade of the herb garden and which went bloody CRAZY HUGE), I will have two reasonably sized veg planters.  I’ll do a post about the planters in more detail, but here they are:

Large veg planters in a rural garden

Buying Reduced Plants

Baby Tomato PlantI am a big advocate of saving money through buying from the reduced section. I did it with food (a whole conversation is probably worth having about my ethical views on this), and I do it with plants. For plants, I find that a lot of garden centres, DIY stores and supermarkets will get rid of slightly old stock (or flowering perennials that have run out of flowers), which can offer a really good cost saving if you are willing to nurse them to full health.

This weekend’s haul included a 13p pot of flat leaf parsley from the supermarket, and 5 little tomato plants. The supermarket herb was the least healthy – they make the plants grow really fast in order to maximise “efficiency”, which means any pot of herbs has WAY too many individual plants to be able to survive. To keep them alive, that means that have to be divided out, re-potted into larger containers, and you have to bring yourself to throw away some of them that are two weak to go on. It works surprisingly well, and there is something very satisfying about a rescue herb!

The toms, meanwhile, were perfectly healthy but presumably getting a bit too big for their teeny-tiny thimble-sized plug pots – so the garden centre wanted them gone. the advantage here is that I don’t have to grow from seed, and instead can concentrate on popping these up to grow them to the right size for planing in the ground. This is really convenient!

As for the other young plants (chilli, cauliflower, cabbage, sprouts)? They’re shortcuts to avoid the seed growing time, or treats to myself (because chilli plants are darn rootin’ tootin’ gorgeous). They’re so easy too!

What am I growing from seed?

I’m following instructions with a number of plants that I am hoping to grow from seed, thin out, and then plant on – either in the ground of the greenhouse for those than need warmth, or outside for plants that like the unpredictable British climate. Here’s the full list:

  • Tarragon
  • Coriander
  • Basil
  • Thai Basil
  • Dill
  • Carrots
  • Beets (for growing in patio pots)
  • Cucumber
  • Cucamelon (yes, it’s a real thing, Wiki page here)
  • Courgettes
  • Aubergines
  • Peppers
  • More Tomatoes (may be overkill…)
  • Radish

I’ll keep you updated with their progress!

1 comment

  1. I never could weed out the little plants and throw them away to give the others a chance. IT made me feel like a murderer. May explain why I am such a rubbish gardener.

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