TWTW # 12 Welcome To British Summer Time

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The clocks changed last weekend, and my body & mind have been trying to catch up all week, and it’s been a pretty busy week!

On Monday evening I was giving a talk to Harwell Gardening Club. The talk was entitled An Allotment Year, but as Monday was also April Fools Day, I couldn’t resist talking a little about some of the “gardening” April Fools that there have been. These included Waitrose’s Pinanas; Tesco’s whistling carrots (so you can tell when they’re cooked); who could forget the great Panorama spaghetti farming story; and finally Herr Moler’s phosphorescent sunflowers so that you can read in the garden at nighttime.

I think the talk went well, and there was an invitation to come back another time, so a good evening was had by all.

I’ve also been mostly working on the delivery of the proposal accepted by one of my clients last week. It’s involved a lot of research, and I’ve started writing the main report. That will continue this week, and I hope to deliver the draft to the client next week.

I’ve had a couple of other meetings so it’s been a pretty busy working week all in all.

Although we are officially on Summer Time, it seems the weather has dropped several degrees in temperature. Gone are the shorts of last week and I’m back in jeans again. This will probably be short-lived (sorry for the pun), as it was getting warmer again yesterday.

The weather has meant that other than harvesting purple sprouting broccoli and leeks, I’ve not done very much on the allotment. Instead I’ve been busy transplanting broccoli and cauliflower seedlings into bigger pots, and sowing some sweet peas and a few other flowering annuals for hanging baskets and pots.

It’s possible that we might soon be able to see White Tailed Eagles not very far away from here. A licence has been granted for their reintroduction, and although that’s only a step in the process it’s moving in the right direction for a reintroduction in due course, possibly as soon as this summer. You can read more about it here.

The clocks changing has really mucked up my sleeping patterns, and with a busy week I’ve been a little bit too tired to read when I finally end up in bed. I’ve been dipping into Under The Rock by Benjamin Myers again, which although I read this last year, is coming out in paperback in a couple of weeks time and the publishers have asked me if I’d re-review it. They’ve also given me a copy of the paperback to give away here when that review is published, so if you’re interested watch this space (if you really don’t want to miss your chance then you can subscribe to posts in the box on the right hand menu – you can unsubscribe at any time, and I don’t give your details to anyone else or spam you with anything other than posts from this blog, one post equals one email).

That’s it for this week. Things are a little quieter this week, my main focus needs to be on my clients report. The sooner that’s delivered, the sooner I can have a bit of fun!

Sowing Seeds


It’s that time of the year, when spring is arriving and the ground is warming up and it’s time to sow some seeds directly on the allotment. I thought it might be useful to share the method that I use. It works for me, on my allotment, but there are other hints and tips, and some seeds need to be sown in other ways, but generally speaking for pretty much everything that I sow from seed directly into the ground this is the method that I use. Last weekend I sowed parsnip, turnip and radish. Let me walk you through the sowing of the parsnips.

IMG_20160409_092754119Firstly, read the seed packet.

I know I said that I use the same method, and I do, but you need to check there is nothing special about the seed that you’re sowing. Some seeds come “coated”, which can irritate your skin, and it’s advisable to wear gloves.

More simply you want to make sure that you’re sowing your seeds at the right time, and that you space them correctly and know whether you’re going to need to thin them or any other ongoing care that you’ll need to provide once they’ve germinated.

IMG_20160409_092453082Next I mark out where I’m going to sow.

Normally this is a straight row. I use a line, pegged at either end to keep it taught, and to stop it moving around.

This helps me to keep the row straight during the next step, and also gives me a guide as to where the seed is going. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it’s only a guide!

IMG_20160409_092530579I then run the narrow end of my adze alongside the line to create a drill.

I’ve had this tool for a while, and it was given to me by someone who couldn’t find a use for it. It’s perfect for this job, and depending on how deep or wide I need the drill to be, I’ll use one end or the other. For the parsnips I only need a narrow, shallow drill so I used the smaller, narrower end.

IMG_20160409_092922116Once I’ve made my drill, I water it.

I do this before the seeds go in. This means that the seeds are going onto slightly damp soil, which stops them from blowing out of the drill if it’s windy, and also aids germination.

I’ll still water them again when the seeds are sown, this is a pre-sowing water.

IMG_20160409_093250081Next I’ll sow the seeds, following the seeds, following the packet instructions, but also using my own experience and knowledge.

As these are parsnips I tend to sow more densely than recommended, because germination is notoriously poor with most varieties of parsnips. If they go the other way, and they all come up, then I’ll have more thinning out to do later, but that is preferable to having more germination or patchy rows taking up a lot of space for very few plants.

IMG_20160409_093422269Finally I’ll mark the row at each end, with the seed type and the date. I also keep a record of what I’ve sown when in my notebook, just so I can keep an eye on when things should start to appear.

Then I’ll remove the line, backfill the drill by scraping the soil back over with a rake, and water covered-over drill well. I’ll do this even if rain is forecast, as often forecasts are wrong.

That’s it. Simple. On to the next row, and next seed type.

Do you have any tried and tested methods that work for you? If so leave me a comment below, I’d like to hear what they are and maybe try them myself.