Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Garden report - March

What a diverse month it's been - a premature spring, high winds, a deluge of rain and a snowy Easter!

Here is a round-up of garden highlights at the end of 'mercurial-March' . . .

In the greenhouse the rocket which was sown on 12 February, has been a huge success – it's been great to have home grown leaves in sandwiches and salads.

The mixed Italian salad leaves (Lattughino da taglio misto) are also nearly big enough to use.

When the Easter snow had melted I moved the peas which were sown on 26 February, out of the frost free greenhouse into the new plastic cloche on one of the vegetable beds. Now they've had a few days to get used to cooler temperatures they are ready to be planted out. I noticed that the growth of the peas planted in the cardboard tubes wasn't as good as those in the pots – I heard Bob Flowerdew on Gardeners' Question Time mention that he no longer uses cardboard tubes as the fungicide in the cardboard inhibits seedling growth – interesting!

I left the cardboard tube seedlings in the cloche and planted out the ones in the pots – they had fantastic root systems and individual plants were easy to tease out from the clump.

Here are 'Purple Podded' peas (left) and 'Carouby de Mausanne' mange touts (right) planted round the base of rustic wigwams in the new vegetable bed along the garden wall. This area was previously a nursery bed for perennials but as this year I'm growing seven varieties of pea and at least as many climbing beans I needed to use this area which is opposite my greenhouse for productive crops!

The reason gardeners today can enjoy growing and eating beautiful vegetables, such as Purple Podded Peas, is the existence of the Heritage Seed Library and other similar schemes to protect the rich diversity of vegetables from being lost forever – because only registered seed can be sold the unusual, non-commercial, local varieties are only available via 'seed swaps'. So this news on Daughter of the Soil's blog made me splutter expletives! The Association Kokopelli has a catalogue of thousands of unique heirloom vegetables, and apparently this gives them and "unfair trading advantage" over a big commercial seed company like Baumaux, so Kokopelli have just been fined €35,000 .

Let's hope that the Association Kokopelli survives this latest crisis and continue to save and distribute the thousands of vegetable varieties in their collection. I'm looking forward to my copy of Dominique Guillet's book Seeds of Kokopelli dropping through the letter box – I know it's a drop in the ocean, but if you're interested why not treat yourself to a copy and give them your support.

Near the wildlife pond vivid bursts of yellow have pushed up through the mud – Coltsfoot (tussilago farfara) flowers. Now, I know someone's going to tell me I'm mad to allow this plant into the garden as it's underground roots will run amock! I have pulled out quite a few clumps that appeared too near to some choice plants but the flowers are so cheerful I just had to leave some to flower.

So, after that lunch time garden work-out, what does a gardener have for lunch? Carouby de Mausanne pea-shoots (I had a few spares) and hop shoots with scrambled fresh eggs and crumbled Wensleydale cheese served on toast!


  1. Hi MC

    Those eggs look nice! I'm planning my rooftop garden now. Might have said before, but I no longer have a big garden after downsizing, but have a sizeable garage roof. So just bought a few plastic tubs and decent carrot, beet, courgette and tomato seeds to do a trial run. Fingers crossed!


  2. Oh my, I never would have though of eating hop shoots, yet they're so abundant when they finally begin to poke themselves from the earth.

    Yes, very interesting indeed what you learned from Bob Flowerdew. I was especially intrigued reading that you listened to his radio program. Over here across that expansive ocean, although I have his excellent book on organic gardening, I never would have thought of him being "in the moment" and talking over the radio waves. Well glory.


  3. Sad and stupid news about the French tactics. Good luck to all you northerners who vow to keep Kokopelli afloat.
    Also, interesting to note that about cardboard's fungicides.I switched to cardboard years ago as a protest against over-digging of peat.Time to switch again...?

  4. Very interesting about what Bob said about the cardboard tubes. It seems that there is something or other sprayed on a lot of things nowadays. Apparently old carpet is not allowed to be used either! My PPPs are doing well, they have quite a few side shoots coming out since I pinched out the tops a few weeks ago.

  5. Why not make paper pots? Just use a can to wrap newspaper around and tape the bottom. Bob Flowerdew recommends it!

    Your lettuce shoots look very healthy, I must start some as my pea shoots are almost finished.

  6. Thanks for supporting Association Kokopelli and helping to spread the word! The book won't so much *drop* through your letterbox as *thud* through it ... it's a pretty chunky volume! I hope you enjoy it.

    Your peas are looking great! Shame if cardboard tubes do turn out to be counterproductive ... I have about a year's worth of them stashed away in my airing cupboard. Is nothing safe from harmful chemical additives these days?!

  7. Lovely post Celia. I never seem to have enough time for my garden. Rhubarb, courgettes and raspberries were the sum total of my produce last year!

  8. How beautiful everything is! And isn't it a joy to eat fresh salad greens this time of year?

    Your pea seedlings look so strong and healthy! And thanks for the tip on the paper rolls. At a friend's suggestion, I was going to try them for the first time this year...but I think I'll pass now.

    We must be on the same track today. I had a little omelet with goat cheese, trimmed tops of leeks, and parsley thinnings (both under lights downstairs). Alas, no pea shoots yet in northern Minnesota...and certainly no hop shoots!


  9. Me again! Toffee Apple makes a good case for paper pots. But there was some research a few years ago that warned against "glossy" paper with a lot of coloured ink, which, apparently, can leach toxins. Newsprint should be OK.

  10. Hmm... Heritage Seeds. Will check it out.

  11. Beautiful gardening!!

    kari & kijsa

  12. Good luck with the roof garden David

    Diane - Hop shoots are a traditional by-product of the brewing industry. And yes Bob's as popular as ever on BBC Radio 4.

    Dinahmow - aren't these laws just unbelievable!

    Matron - I know you're a fan of Bob. Glad the PPPs are thriving.

    Toffeeapple - good tip!

    Rebsie - Derek the Postman staggered up the drive with the Kokopelli book this morning!

    Gina - last year was a duff year on everyone's veg plot!

    Deborah - looking at your blog you've got some fantastic crops underway!

    Meg - Heritage Vegetables are really any traditional variety - not bred in labs and distributed by the zillion. They have attributes useful to backyard gardeners - flavour, long cropping times, tender skin, etc but not good commercial attributes - regular size and shape, ready to harvest all at one time, long shelf life, etc. The laws now state only registered (and this costs money) seed can be sold, so no-one can afford to register most of the 'Heritage' varieties and they will soon be lost forever!!!!

    Thanks K & K


  13. Ohh this post has me longing for a day off and the chance to set some of my seeds.

    I'm so envious that you are already eating salad leaves!

  14. I went straight to the French media and read all about Baumaux and the legal procedings. I spluttered expletives in three languages!. I can't believe it. Well, yes I can. I found this whole issue so fascinating that I want to do a module about it with my students next term. I wish your post had appeared on the Blotanical list so that the gardening community there could have read about this. I'm sure not many here in North America are aware.

  15. Hi CS - yes! get sowing!!!!

    Hi WWW - spread the word! save those seeds! And get hold of a copy of the Kokopelli catalogue - fascinating reading.


  16. Excellent! I will make sure move your site into regular rotation so I can share in the unusual veggie love with you!

    I will check out the Kokopelli situation too...


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