It’s happened already. I appear to be running short on growing space, and it’s only the start of April. For the last two years my seed sowing focus has been geared around growing plants for the books I have been writing. Both have had flowers at the heart of them and as a result my veggie patch has been a bit neglected. There have been lettuces and courgettes and plenty of fruit but edibles have certainly had to take a backseat. This year though the pull of supplying the kitchen with home grown produce is too strong. There are potatoes chitting on my living room windowsill waiting to be planted in the next week or so. I’ve had a delivery of hazel beanpoles and bundles of twiggy pea sticks from a local coppicer which will provide support for my broad beans, French beans, sugar snap peas and garden peas, and there are trays and pots of seedlings on every available sunny surface.
Of course, I couldn’t deprive myself and pollinating insects of summer blooms so the challenge this year is to put my energies into growing edibles and to keep a productive cut flower patch going. But, as I grow so much from seed it’s going to be a bit of a logistical feat. The first step in maximising my space has been the purchase of a foldaway shelf for the greenhouse. A nifty little idea that will make a huge difference during the height of the seed sowing season and then, once everything is in the ground, it can be folded away so that the tomatoes can grow away unencumbered.
My beloved cold frame is being employed too, taking the strain from the crammed greenhouse. I’ve had my cold frame for six years now and it has been a fantastic investment. Of course, it’s the perfect place to harden off plants but it can also be used as additional growing space at this time of year for any hardy crops. It’s easy for hardy plants such as sweet peas, scabious and broad beans to grow too quickly under the warmth of glass, whether it’s a windowsill or greenhouse. This might seem like a great idea but at some point they need to fend for themselves outdoors and for this you need stout, sturdy plants rather than lots of soft, sappy growth. For most of us the temptation to encourage plants to grow more quickly is too big to resist but grow on your hardy plants in a cooler spot and they’ll reward you with stronger, healthier plants which will need less mollycoddling. A cold frame can provide enough warmth to promote germination and if you open the lid on mild days but leave it closed for chilly, inclement spring days it will give any young plants an excellent start in life. It’s also an ideal place to grow edibles – try an old apple crate planted up with cut and come again salad leaves and window box troughs sown with radish.