I seem to have gone up in the world in the last few weeks because I now have my own little patch of Mediterranean garden, not some second home on a Spanish hillside but a new glasshouse in our GROW HQ veg patch. I always reckon that a tunnel takes you (climatically at least) to the northern Mediterranean whereas a glasshouse takes you further south. Have I moved from Barcelona to Malaga?
It’s certainly a very inviting temperature inside the greenhouse, compared with the damp, cool conditions outside. A glasshouse giving you a much drier and more pleasant working environment even compared to a tunnel. Though, like head gardeners through the ages, I had to have someone else buy it for me. Though, again like head gardeners through the ages, I like to imagine it is mine. It just feels like the sort of conditions in which I’d want to grow if I was a plant. And as I have mentioned before a good grower should always empathise with their plants. Sowing seeds in the glasshouse, either salads in the beds or in seed trays for transplanting just feels right, a perfect antidote to my anxiety over my new potatoes (see last week’s ramblings). For those interested in such things my soil still hasn’t reached 8oC, the recommended soil temperature for planting potatoes. I’m getting apocalyptic visions of poor struggling seed potatoes quietly giving up on life in a cold hostile world. Maybe it’s possible to empathise too closely with your plant? Going down with your potatoes would possibly be seen as a little odd by many people.
The next crop I’m going to have to move on is my onion sets. In future I will be sowing onions from seed in January (in my new heated glasshouse!) but this year I’m using sets. Sets are quite prone to bolting as they are a biennial plant in their second year. The secret is not to let them know this. And despite my empathising with plants I don’t find it particularly difficult to con an onion set. You mustn’t let them know they have been through a winter. The first thing to ensure that they are unaware of the winter is not to plant them too early. If you put them into the ground while it is still cold then they can get the wrong (or I suppose the right) idea. April is usually plenty early enough for planting. Secondly ensure that you get small sets, bigger ones are more able to sense the temperature and realise they are being conned. And thirdly ensure that they are adequately fed, watered and weeded as this seems to encourage them to keep going and not give up on growth. It’s late years like this that make me appreciate crops sown from seed, seed will happily stay in a packet till conditions are right. I sow very little outside until the soil is 10oC, hopefully that will be soon enough. You will get a more upbeat diary when that occurs!
Any way I look forward to meeting some of you on Saturday 31st March at my Springtime in the Food Garden course, if you’re nice to me I might even let you into my new glasshouse!
You can read more of Richard’s musings on life and gardening on the GIY Blog.