Garden update Monday 4th March

We’ve certainly had a bit of everything weather wise in the last week! From almost summer-like temperatures to lashing rain and wind! Meteorologically, 1st March was the first day of spring, however if you follow the equinox phases then you will have to wait until 21st March to call it spring. Whatever you call it, we are entering one of the busiest times of years for gardeners.

What’s growing indoors?

Nonetheless, things are growing. Chits are chitting, nature is just getting on with it.

Chitting potaties
Chitting potatoes var. Vivaldi

The first tomatoes to germinate were, once again, Orange Paruche. They made an appearance after just five days! Out of all the tomatoes I have grown these have always been the first and most reliable to germinate.

Tomato seedlings
Tomato seedlings var. Orange Paruche (left) and Gardeners Delight (right)

I invested in a propagator a couple of years ago, hopefully it will last for years and years. Mine is a fair size, similar to an A3 sheet of paper, but you can get small ones very inexpensively on Amazon. Here is mine.

Another very useful item is a light box. This is basically a cardboard box lined with tin foil, which helps to reflect light back onto your seedlings. I also invested in a grow light. This is a light that emits frequencies that plants respond to, which is red and blue wavelengths. They can also be called full spectrum lights. Again, you can source these quite inexpensively, like these.

On a budget?

If you cannot stretch to a propagator or grow light you can still grow successfully without them. A sunny windowsill is perfect. Using your light box to reflect light onto the seedlings by placing it behind them will throw a bit more light back onto them. This will help stop them from leaning towards into the natural light. Turning the seedlings around periodically will also help this.

Another method is to place a piece of plain white paper behind your seedlings to reflect light. I have a project to show you soon, on how to make paper light boxes.

What’s growing outside?

The onions and garlic are still growing well. I can see the stems on the garlic are thickening, to about the size of a pencil. They still have three or four months to grow so I am hopeful for my best crop ever.

In the greenhouse, sweet peas and pak choi are doing very well. The pak choi will be pricked out (put into their own individual pots to grow on) any time now. All of them have thrown down roots to the bottom of the cardboard tubes which is very encouraging.

Pak Choi seedlings
Pak Choi seedlings
Sweet pea seedlings
Sweet pea seedlings

What else am I doing?

This month I will be sowing a huge amount of seeds, both vegetables and flowers. Indoors and in the greenhouse, and also direct. Lots of preparations have been made, with more to do. The cold frame has been taken out of its winter home in the greenhouse and placed on the plot. The fruit bushes have been pruned and mulched. The rhubarb has been repotted into a bigger pot and fed with chicken manure pellets. My instagram feed shows you more of the day to day stuff I am up to. Be sure to follow me for more!

Next…to pot on the tomato seedlings, for the second stage of their development.

What are your plans for mad March?

You’re chitting me!

It’s time for all the chit jokes!

Let me explain. OK, simply speaking, chitting is the gardening term for sprouting potatoes. It gives them a little head start for when you do plant them.

Seed potato is also a bit of a misnomer as it is not a seed, it is just a potato. And to further complicate matters, potatoes do actually produce seeds! The berries, following flowering, look like small unripe tomatoes, however THEY ARE POISONOUS – DO NOT EAT THEM.

Back to the seed potatoes. In reality, they are only potatoes which have been saved from last years crop. They are kept in controlled conditions so they remain dormant. Then, they can be planted the following year for a new crop.

Mine arrived this morning, it’s very exciting!

Seed potato var. Vivaldi (second early)
Potato var. Vivaldi (second early)

These are a variety called Vivaldi, you might have seen them hailed as a low carbers dream potato due to their lower carbohydrate content than other varieties. They are classed as “second early”. They can be planted at the same time as any other potato, but they are the second earliest to mature, in about 12-14 weeks after planting. First earlies can mature as early as 10 weeks after planting.

If you have read my earlier post about choosing potatoes, you might have received them already. Don’t worry if you have not chosen, you have plenty of time yet. Here is where I purchased mine. Once you receive them, remove them from the packaging immediately and move on to the next step below.

Let’s talk chit

Sorry, another chit joke!

This is really simple. All you need is something like old egg cartons or a tray lined with newspaper. Place your potatoes “eyes up” like this:

Chitting potatoes
Chitting potatoes

The eyes are the little bumps where the sprouts will grow from. Place the potatoes somewhere bright at cool, I have mine in a spare bedroom. A windowsill or cool porch are ideal. Give the potatoes a quick check over and make sure they all look healthy.

Don’t forget to label them with the variety and date received!

Vivaldi potatoes
Vivaldi potatoes

The sprouts will start to emerge slowly, and healthy ones will be about 1/2 to 1 inch long (1.25 to 2.5cm) long and be a deep purple and green.

Potatoes chitting
Potatoes in position

For reasons I may explain another time, I have no windowsills in my house. Therefore, I have placed the potatoes on top of a propagator (for now) as near to the window as I can.

I check on mine every few days or so and then to make sure that they are ok. I like to ensure that none show signs of going bad, and to turn the box round occasionally so they get even sunlight. Any which start to smell bad, or look like they have rotted must be thrown away, they will only spread disease.

I’ve done the chit, what next?

The next question is, when can we plant them? Some people follow a tradition where they are planted on Good Friday. There is a problem with this, Good Friday can be anywhere from late March to late April.

Some, like me, will plant them about 4 weeks before the last predicted frost date. This great website can tell you when this is in your area (UK and USA only).

I will guide you through the next step when we get closer to planting time. In the meantime, get choosing, buying and chitting!