Saturday 25th March
It's been a lovely day in the garden today. Everything seems fresh-minted. In the greenhouse I already have nasturtiums, Empress of India, flowering profusely. Their green young leaves are at their best now. As the summer progresses nasturtium leaves can become rough and too peppery in anything but the most feisty of salads. Their smaller, fresh, young leaves taste subtler. As they grow the flavour develops, but in many cases older leaves can be too powerful. I try to get leaf crops to grow fast. If they slow up, that means to me it is time to harvest and re-sow!
The early potatoes in the greenhouse are looking fantastic. They've now been earthed up twice. This year I'm using my own compost, not a purchased mix, so I'm being a little more careful to feed them. (Though I'm not sure that my home made compost mix isn't richer than some of the bagged compost that I have been forced to buy!) I know that I'm skating on thin ice, having simply planted shop bought Charlotte potatoes that had started to sprout. It remains to be seen how well they do. Potatoes I planted a little later, in the open garden are just poking through the soil. It is a bit early to see if they’ve taken okay.
In the raised beds I'm growing loads of spring leaves including mizuna, mustard leaves, ruby chard and lettuces (both hearted and cut-and-come-again). I’m sowing and planting out at intervals, determined to get a progression of leaves throughout the early summer. The seedlings I planted out only a week or so ago are already at the stage where a few leaves can be harvested.
In the living room my early seed trays have divested their first crop of seedlings and have now been replaced with tomatoes and courgette. I’m growing Moneymaker tomatoes (a reliable stalwart) and courgette Tromboncino d’Albegna – the only climbing courgette that I find reliable. They grow into long ‘trumpet shaped’ fruits, but are better if picked before they become too comical! I've got basil and climbing French beans (Cosse violette) in the greenhouse along with marigolds and sweet peas.
Suddenly spring is here. The grapevine has thick brown buds. The wisteria has furry leaflets and buds that look as if they've been fashioned from gold silk thread. The fan trained elder is in leaf and sports tiny propto-whorls of flowers.
The roses are thriving. Their leaf shoots are soft. Already a few aphids are on them. But I've spotted the first ladybird, a hardy harbinger of many, I hope. And the white skeletons of already munched aphids tell of hover flies already at work.
The herbs are fabulous at this time of year. My mint pots already need trimming. Their thick downy leaves stand ready for mint teas on sunny afternoons. The sage had been giving flavour to salads and casseroles for weeks. My parsley bed seems to have resisted the ravages of sługs since I liberally mulched with a kitchen mix of spent coffee grounds and crushed egg shells. I've taken a pot of each down into the kitchen so that we can have fresh parsley and mint with our meals. I do this swop-about all summer because my kitchen faces north. I can't nurture herbs in the kitchen, but once they are mature a pot will last well in summer shade. But trays of pea shoots and microveg do wonderfully in the shadier spots. So everything in and out of the garden is flourishing – so far.
I'm opening for Chelsea Fringe this year and running some workshops - see side panel for more details.