I harvested a flavoursome array of fresh vegetables from my allotment for Christmas Dinner; sprouts, parsnips, savoy cabbage, Jerusalem Artichokes and even some purple broccoli. These were supplemented by potatoes, squash and garlic from storage. There was no one else on the allotment site on Christmas Day morning but it was well worth the mud and rain.
It is interesting that purple broccoli these days can be harvested from October right through till the start of April. This is partly due to improvements in breeding and is also partly down to milder winters. The broccoli Purple Sprouting Continuity Mix is perfect for long season cropping. Meanwhile broccoli (sprouting)-summer purple in a good year is ready to harvest from July through to September from a March sowing. For broccoli aficionados like me we can happily be almost self-sufficient in this wonder food from July to April!
I’m increasingly turning my thoughts towards the new season, which will be starting in earnest before we know it. The sense of anticipation increases now along with the gradual improvement in light levels. I can’t wait to get started and there is plenty to be doing this month.
The initial focus is the crops requiring a long growing season. They can be sown during January and February. Onions from seed fall into this category. I confess I prefer to grow summer onions from sets primarily. However it is fun and rewarding to grow some from seed too. During early New Year I will be sowing F1 “Bridger” in gentle heat in a heated propagator. This is a Japanese hardy type that has good resistance to bolting. After germination, I will grow the young plants on in gentle heat in the greenhouse.
My indoor sown broad beans “Aquadulce Claudia” from last month are starting to emerge now. Spurred on by this I will be sowing more. Next will be some winter mixed Leaf Salad. I’ll start the seed in shallow trays in the propagator or even on the windowsill, before growing them on in the polytunnel or greenhouse.
Outdoors if the soil is sticky and wet then it is far better to keep off it. We inadvertently do more harm than good in wet conditions; experience teaches us to wait a little longer. Patience really is a virtue in the deep throes of winter. Perhaps one exception is new plot holders who if they are anything like me can’t wait to get stuck in! If you really can’t resist doing some weeding or other soil related task then try to work from a path. If you have to tread on the soil, use strong boards such as scaffolding boards to stand on to minimise soil compaction.
Turning our attention back indoors and specifically to potatoes. When your seed potatoes arrive, start the chitting process as soon as possible. First and Second early varieties in particular produce heavier yields from chitted tubers. I use a frost-free windowsill and even a heated greenhouse if space is tight.