Or in English, "Here comes the Spring, the day will be getting longer..."
So, the first of February has come and gone and it’s time for plans and preparations at last! Having managed to finally move house last weekend, the towers of boxes are now diminishing as things find their place and my gardening books have reappeared. I have a good few, which I dip into for advice or inspiration throughout the year, but I always find myself going back to the first one I ever bought. This is Sarah Raven’s “The Great Vegetable Plot”. She gives good, sensible advice, the pictures are beautiful, and she gives cooking tips throughout. As I was flicking through it over breakfast the other morning, I came across the section on companion planting. I’ve tried this before, eg planting french marigolds with tomatoes to deter whitefly, but she has a few more interesting ideas:
· Carrots and onions to deter carrot fly. I usually do grow these near each other anyway, but she suggests mixing the seed packets together and sowing this mix in a row. Apparently a ratio of four parts onion seed to one part carrot is required.
· Sweet pea and runner bean. The sweet pea will attract more pollinating insects due to their smell, which will mean more beans. (Does anyone ever need MORE runner beans though?!)
· Broad beans and potatoes. The idea is to plant broad beans in the valleys between the ridges of spuds. They should protect the spuds from frost, fix nitrogen in the soil for the spuds, and be harvested before the potatoes are ready to be lifted.
I carried out the annual seed inventory the other evening, quite an alarming event as the extent of my addiction is revealed. I have room in my poly for 4/5 tomato plants, and can squeeze in a few more outside. So why then do I have 14 varieties of tomato seed?! Added to that are 8 types of chilli pepper, 10 of courgette, 8 pumpkins, 3 ornamental gourds… some of these packets are a couple of years old and may not germinate but still, I think I may have a problem! Anyway, I’ve decided this must be the year of the pumpkin and courgette; I usually do two beds of roots/alliums and give a whole bed over to salad leaves and flowers, and just do one bed for pumpkins. Instead, this year I’ll squeeze the salads in somewhere else, just do one bed for roots/onions, and have three beds for pumpkins and courgettes.
I’ll have a whole new tiny back garden to plan soon too – as soon as the builders vacate, as right now it’s a mess of plaster and rubble. Eventually I’d like it to be an extra room for the warmer months, a second sitting room really. So comfy chairs and a table, herbs and flowers in pots, maybe some fruit, a chiminea, and still I will need somewhere to put a couple of dustbins, and a log pile and a storage box.
I visited the allotment briefly yesterday, everything was still standing in spite of all the storms. There was a little bit of heat in the sun, a relief after so much rain. Most things have been hit by frost or have died back to brown but the rhubarb and comfrey are sprouting again and the broad beans and garlic and shallots are doing fine. Someday soon I’ll find a day to spend cleaning out the poly and clearing beds.
“…is tar éis na féile Bríde, ardóigh mé mo sheol.”
(…and after St Bridget’s Day, I will raise my sail.)