Posted by in Features.

Well the good news about February is that winter is nearly over and March isn’t far away. However, after the December snow, it’s a braver person than me who’ll bet on us not having another cold snap. January was quite pleasant here but most days the thermometer rarely moved much above freezing.

It doesn’t help that we’re 600 feet up a hillside now, which brings me to planting times. Because of our micro-climate, we’re going to be at least a couple of weeks later than those down at sea level where it’s around 3 degrees warmer. Whilst those lucky people in the sunny south might be as much as a month ahead, we’re now equivalent to being up into Scotland. Always keep your individual circumstances in mind when reading the back of the seed packet.

Garlic & Shallots
If you’ve not done so, it’s really the last chance to plant garlic and shallots. At this time of year I’d start the garlic in pots rather than direct planting as it will get them caught up.

I made a little video about starting garlic in plots which you can find here: Garlic Video

Shallots are really easy and you can save the best bulbs to plant out next year. We’ve successfully stored shallots for 18 months. There’s an article about shallots on the site here: Growing Shallots

Broad Beans
Depending on the weather, you can start sowing your broad beans now. Being a bit traditional, I rather like Bunyards Exhibition but for a fast, productive crop try Express and if you don’t like broad beans why not try Epicure which is a red bean with exceptional flavour. You may well change your mind! These varieties and many more are listed on our allotment shop seed pages here: Broad Beans

Feel free to forward this newsletter to your friends if you wish or let people know they can sign up for their own copy here. Newsletter

The separate poultry newsletter is available here: Poultry Newsletter

New on the Site
We’ve made a few additions to the web site that might be useful to you. First of all we’ve a set of articles on making your own sausages by self-sufficiency expert, ‘Gardenfarming’ Sue. She really knows her stuff and they’re well worth a read if you fancy making your own bangers. Home Made Sausages

From sausages to rotovators – we’ve had quite a few more old rotovator manuals sent in and they’re online now for download. Incidentally, if you’ve an old rotovator manual you’re willing to share, just drop me a line. Rotovator Manuals

Personal Update
I’ve had a few emails asking how we’re getting on in our new place so a quick update. We’ve had the builders in since the beginning of January, which has disrupted just about everything. The first job was a new kitchen, as you know, Val’s very into cooking and working without an oven or grill tested her inventiveness to the limit. Now she’s getting used to the oven and I’m enjoying cheese on toast again. The fitters, who I knew from the past, did a brilliant job overcoming all the snags you find in an old house but the electrician drove me to distraction by tripping the power just when I was working on the computer. Still, it’s over now apart from the decorating.

The other job, which we were tempted to put off for a year, was the cowsheds that link onto the back of the house. I’m so glad we didn’t put the work off though, it turns out they were hanging together by willpower. Support beams had rotted through and instead of holding up the rafters they were actually hanging off them. The rafters themselves had been eaten away by woodworm and could be crushed in your hand! It really is amazing that they hadn’t collapsed years ago.

My gardening gear is all over the place and it’s quite impossible to get at anything but hopefully things will be a lot different in a few more weeks. There are times when I must admit to thinking we were mad to move but then I look around at the views and know we’re finally home.

I had another email asking about Derris. Derris was an insecticide made from a tropical plant root that was organically approved and that has been used in Britain since 1912. However, there was one study in the USA that linked a similar chemical to the active ingredient in Derris (Rotenone) to possible neurological damage so it was banned.

There are other insecticides available to the home grower, marketed by the big chemical companies and made from much more complex chemicals which is reflected in the price. I can’t say I’m comfortable with their safety even if they are licensed. But then again, I’m not a scientist and I am a bit cynical. Not that it would suit the big chemical companies to see a simple, natural insecticide banned, would it?

Book Sale (Shameless Plug!)
I’m happy to say the book sale is going well and with the support of Suttons Seeds for the free seeds and my publishers for free delivery, we are able to keep it running through February. Full details here: Our Books

And Finally (at last!)
Some people seem to have got confused so to clarify – registering for this newsletter is completely separate to the forum and vice versa. They’re different systems and if you want to participate on the forum (hope you do) – you’ll need to register on there. Originally I sent the newsletter to everyone who registered on the forum but had quite a few complain so I split them apart.

That’s it for now – sorry to have gone on a bit this time!

Thanks for reading and good growing.