New Year in the Vegetable Garden
January, usually not the most exciting month in the vegetable garden.
Other than preparing the ground when the weather allows and a bit of general maintenance, there is still some waiting to do before the planting season can get started.
This year, however, the addition of the new glasshouses from Gabriel Ash has given me the opportunity to start some crops early, thanks to the staging shelves.
October and November have been mild and, in order to avoid having broad beans damaged by frost in January, I decided to delay sowing until now. In the protected environment of the glasshouse they’ll germinate faster than in the ground and by March I’ll be able to plant them out safely without compromising the earliness of the crop.
I’ve sown the seeds, one per pot, in 9 cm (3 inch) biodegradable pots filled with general purpose compost, from three different varieties of broad beans: together with the very popular ‘Aquadulce Claudia’ I’m going to try a new introduction named ‘Valenciana’ and a reliable dwarf variety called ‘Robin Hood’. Unless the weather during spring and early summer will be unseasonably cold, I should be harvesting the first pods by the end of June.
Around the second half of February I’ll be sowing cabbages for summer harvest as well as lettuces. I find that the pointed types of summer cabbages such as ‘Dutchman’ are particularly good to be started early. Once in the ground they’ll grow quickly, ready for harvesting at the beginning of summer. Lettuces will benefit from the good light levels and the lack of heating will be ideal to avoid ‘leggy’ seedling.
I hope there will be some space left to ‘chit’ the potatoes, ready for planting out possibly around Easter. One variety of potatoes will be grown in bags which will be kept inside the glasshouse until the summer crops are ready for planting. By doing this, I’ll have an earlier crop of new potatoes as well as maximizing the use of the glasshouse space.
The variety I’ve chosen for the bags is ‘Jazzy’, one of my favorite second early potatoes. The tubers don’t get very big but are produced in large numbers and the taste is really good.
By late May/early June, tomatoes and cucumbers will be the protagonists in the two glasshouses. The newest glasshouse, named ‘The Wisley’, with a base of bricks and tall glazed sides, will house tomatoes grown in pots and trained as cordons.
This season I’ve selected some of my favorite cherry tomato varieties and one orange slicing tomato that I really like because of its sweetness and the consistency of the flesh that reminds me of mangoes. Its name is ‘Orange Queen’ and I’m usually able to collect my own seeds since it is an open pollinated variety.
The other glasshouse, which I believe is called ‘Classic Eight’, has been used already to successfully grow cucumbers and some unusual squashes last summer.
This year it will only be cucumbers as they are very popular during our summer tastings of soft fruits and vegetables. To extend the cropping season while at the same time have healthy and productive plants, I usually do two planting of cucumbers. For the first one I sow the seeds on the third week in April and plant the young plants in the glasshouse at the end of May.
Within four/five weeks, harvesting begins and by mid-August they’ll have reached the top of the training wire. In mid-July I’ll sow a second batch of seeds and, four weeks later, new plants will be ready to replace the fully grown ones, extending the harvesting period sometimes until October. This season I’ll be growing ‘Socrates’ and ‘La Diva’, two varieties classed as mini cucumbers, although they usually reach about 30 cm, and ‘Carmen’, a standard type that usually grows up to 60 cm. These three varieties have, over the years, proved to be very productive and healthy, reliably producing only female flowers.
The replacement of the two glasshouses is just one of the changes taking place in the Vegetable Garden in 2017, redesigning some of the beds and a new extension of the patio area are also projects that the Edibles Team are working on. We hope that they’ll be completed before the main planting season.
Mario De Pace