As discussed at length in January, humbled by last year’s weather shenanigans, I am taking a simpler approach to this year’s veg growing.

I have not yet sown any beans, squash or courgette, tempting though that is. They grow so quickly but can’t go out into the plot until Mid-may when frost is unlikely where I live. Late April is soon enough, I reckon. I have put the canes out for the beans though, a satisying act of organised preparation. I plan to grow runners, probably Moonlight and a green bean, possibly Blue Lake

Onions – another epic fail on the seed front. I can’t blame the seed, or I don’t think I can, I got basically the same poor results with two or three different kinds of seed. I might try again next year, but for now I have fallen back to the old faithful, onion sets. I bought 80 sturon sets and set them out 9 to a square on 23rd March.

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I meant to cover them to protect from birds, but forgot. In fact it was the cats I should have been worried about. The very next day I found several sets disinterred and a couple of fresh cat turds. To add insult to injury, I suspect our own cats! I cleaned up, re-settled the sets and covered with some fleece. This should allow them to root up and sprout nicely. Some have taken already.

Beetroot – it’s not on my plot plan this year but somehow I felt compelled to sow some. I have sown Boltardy and Bull’s Blood, the latter because of the foliage which apparently was typically grown as an ornamental in the borders. I’ll find room for some of it among the salad. I’ll plant it out in the modules, 5 or 6 seedling per group. They’ll grow as a group, I can harvest one at a time.

Salad – I’ve had good success growing leaves rather than hearting lettuce so am not messing with a winning formula. I have one batch pricked out in modules already, growing on nicely, and another batch that I sowed last weekend. The first batch should be ready to plant out in 2 or 3 weeks, I am regretting not making an even earlier sowing. With a bit of fleece over they would have been happy enough outside by now I think.

Carrots – The pesky orange veg. Despite my better judgement I am back for more. Those of you that remember the Charlie Brown cartoons may recall Charlie Brown repeatedly volunteering to hold the ball while one of his pals kicked it. He invariably got kicked in the head, but still came back for more. That’s me and carrots. I tried sowing some (and some parsnips) on damp kitchen paper but that was a battle to keep damp, so I am not holding my breath with those. I have sown another batch of carrots direct, Chantenay and Nantes 5, two squares of each. I’ve put a few seeds at each station, 16 stations per square. I covered them with soil then trod them in. This was a tip I got last year (too late) – supposedly it firms the seeds in, ensuring good contact with the soil and thus better germination. I can’t vouch yet for the efficacy, we’ll see. I’ve covered them with some spare bubble wrap to keep the cats away.

Peas – this year I am growing Kelvedon Wonder and Oregon Sugar Pod. I sowed the first batch 2 or 3 weeks ago and planted out last weekend. They are hardy so will take a bit of cold if we get some. I’ve put one or two at the base of each cane, or in the case of the Kelvedon, in a grid 4 pairs to a square. They are a dwarf variety, not getting to more than 45cm, I’ve just used pea sticks for support. I like peas, but have found the yield to be disappointing. This year I’ve added some extra organic matter to the planting area. Hopefully that will give them some oomph. I’ve sown a second batch of each and will plant in the empty spaces when they’re ready.

Potatoes – the earlies (Red Duke of York) and second earlies (Charlotte) were chitted for 5 or 6 weeks then went out into pots around the 20th March. I did not bad with earlies last year but it was tricky to keep them watered in the hot weather.

The mains were terrible last year, drying out faster than I could keep them watered. This year I am growing mains (Desiree) in sacks again, hoping for more helpful weather.

Rhubarb – I still have just the one crown, Timperly Early. It is expanding with each passing year and I reckon I’ll get a useful few crumbles worth out of it this year. Easy to manage, just needs watering.

Garlic – the garlic is mostly going well, I planted 32 cloves, some newly bought, some saved from last years crop. Nearly all of thme are growing quite happily. A few were either duds or removed by some critter or other. Last year was my first year growing garlic. I am a fan. I still have some stored garlic from last year in the shed, although some of it is sprouting, perhaps those weren’t the long-keeping kind.

Sweet peas – I enjoyed growing these last year, another first for me, so am going again. I sowed in October same as last time, but for some reason the plants are looking very bedraggled. I’ve planted them out, nothing to lose. I hope that they will get a grip now that they are in some good compost.

Chillies – I got a crop last year, nothing to write home about. The cold spring delayed things and generally made things difficult in the chilli department. This year I sowed at the beginning of January and at the weekend I potted them on from 7cm to 9cm pots. they have been on a sunny windowsill the whole time, and latterly on a small heated propagator. In a new development, I recently got a deluxe Vitopod for my birthday. This is a totally over the top way of ensuring the right ambient heat and light conditions for the young chilli plants. There’s plent of room for them to grow, I hope they’ll be at home in there until it’s time to move them to the greenhouse.

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Tomatoes – another disappointment last year, with a poor yield. I plan to grow only in the greenhouse again but want to set up an automated watering system this time. I think I will also use solid feed pellets which should avoid the need to remember to liquid feed. this year I have sown early in January. The plants have been sharing accommodation with the chillies and are still room mates in their luxy new home. I am growing Roma, Gardeners Delight, Moneymaker, Red Cherry, Red Pear and something else, I forget what. I’ve messed up though. I didn’t label every pot when I first pricked out, grouping them in threes. I forgot about that as I was potting on at the weekend – I now have unidentified plants. Never mind, so long as they crop well. I’m on the look out for larger pots. More compost means more roots means better plants means more fruit, or so I gather. Last year I used 9L pots, I’d like 30L.

I think that’s it for now. I still haven’t given much thought to the second half of the growing season. I’d better get a move on, some of it will need sowing quite soon. How is your veg growing so far this year?

I’ll be back in a month or so with another update.

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