Finally, the frost has gone, the sun is shining and the world is hot. Boiling, in fact. The horticultural fleeces have been ripped from the trees and are now being used as shade for the vegetables I am planting out from indoors – a word on the wonders of fleece later.
I have been starting off pretty much all my seeds indoors this year. It was even too cold for the turnips to germinate outdoors and I did not dare sow my cosmos or lupin flower seeds outdoors in March with that strange weather happening. I think the only seeds I put straight in the ground that actually did really well this year were some spinach and radishes – they are huge, I just harvested some of the first the other day. Some Pak Choi, Tatsoi, spring onions and beetroot managed to germinate outdoors but not quite enough so I have tried planting some of all of these indoors for the first time. I just planted out the beetroot the other day and they are looking really good. I would recommend anyone to try sowing indoors, popping the plants daily on a sunny windowsill during daylight hours when they start to bud through the surface of the compost before planting them out when they are large enough to handle and the weather is forgiving.
However, now that the sun is shining I have a little more faith in sowing direct. On Thursday I took the risk of sowing some swede and more turnip seeds into the ground. Last year I was pleasantly surprised by how well the swedes germinated, and then tasted! I had never had a swede before and was pleased by how nice it was. We have tried it cup up and boiled along with carrots before mashing the two together with butter and serving alongside sausages (and Glamorgan sausages, in my case). We also have had them just boiled, like one would serve along with boiled peas, carrots, runner-beans, potatoes, so forth, at a roast dinner or again with sausages or chicken. They look like an odd vegetable but are quite hardy. I left mine in the ground, with no fleece all winter and they survived really well, only minor slug damage and still edible. The last couple that I have left in that were not worth harvesting due to their feeble size are currently going to flower and will either be a treat for my kune kune pigs or our friend’s collection of Jersey cows. I will put it out there right now, I love cows.
Anyway, back to sowing swedes: I planted the same type as last year, ‘Helenor’ that I bought from trusty Sainsbury’s (that we often manage to avoid for more than a month at a time as we are really not keen shoppers, hence the daydreaming of self-sufficiency and the good life seem so appealing). I planted them in well-rotted cow manure (courtesy of the Jersey cows), mixed in with earth and a good layer of mulch over the top to hold the water and nutrients in – I live on sandy soil so the goodness and water just runs away from the plants so feeding the soil is a constant priority to build it up. One sows seeds about half an inch deep, a hand apart is good enough. It is the same for the turnips. Now, I have never tried a turnip before and most people say it is gross, including my dad, but growing turnips is such a sweet old-fashioned thing and I am a sucker for the romantic old days, I just had to try it. Plus, Baldrick from ‘Blackadder’ loves turnips. I am trying ‘Purple Top Milan’, we shall see how they go. If they are really gross and I can’t shift them onto some poor neighbour then at least the pigs won’t be too fussy. You would be amazed how quickly they clean up their food at dinner time.
We shall see how the swedes and turnips grow. Until then, my next post will be coming very shortly, with a recipe intact…