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While the cycle of what seems like constant watering can get a bit wearing, it’s encouraging to see the flowers and vegetables really coming to life. Yes the fruit trees and bushes are producing, and it wont be long before we dig up our first potatoes. But the humble pea has produces some stunning cream flowers, and is now awash with small sleeping bag like pods containing small sugary round peas. It’s like having a little sweet shop in your garden, although obviously there are no sherbert fountains or cola cubes to be had. You can pick the pods early before the peas have formed and toss them into stir frys, but we like to sprinkle a few of the peas over the salads we’re having for a little sweet surprise.

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We didn’t for one minute suspect that we’d have so many tomato plants. We had sown a whole cell tray thinking if conditions were right, if we crossed our fingers, said the odd prayer and touched wood then we’d maybe have 10 plants. Well it looks like the ‘moneymaker’ variety combined with keeping a close eye on the weather did the trick. Of course in many respects that’s the easy bit, from now on we have to make sure we tie in, pinch out, feed, water enough but not too much….and as for weekends away, well who’s gonna look after our toms? That’s before we even get on to the blight problem! Many people start their veg growing relationship with the tomato, but the truth is the tomato is a demanding partner, and things can go off the rails remarkably easily. But stick with it, be attentive, and learn to live with it’s unique characteristics and it’ll reward your care and patience.

Our crispy butterhead lettuces will be ready in a month or so but we’re not the only ones who can’t wait to get their gnashers into them. We’ve got competition from the Witney slug population, because for them the butterhead lettuce is party food, and if left to their own devices would return to the buffet for all you can eat. Over the course of the next month we’ll employ a number of cunning strategies in an attempt to outwit them. First up are the circles of bran that we’ll scatter around the lettuces to form a protective barrier, secondly if we’re feeling generous we might drop in the odd beer trap or two, if I can bear to part with even the smallest amount of homebrew. And Finally we’ll resort to the good old search by torchlight at sundown, with the added pleasure of catching them in the act. Here’s hoping one or two of the lettuces remain in tact for the salad plate.

You can tell when Spring is in full swing when you start to put your peas in. We’ve grown ours in pots first, and now that they’ve got some growth it’s time for them to reach their final resting place. Of course you can sow them direct, but according to John the Chippy our neighbour (and what Chippy John don’t know about gardening ‘aint worth knowing) you could lose ’em to the Burford Rd mice! He also says to ignore the spacings that you read in books and to pack ’em in…….so that’s what we’ve done…..until just before the rains came…..we ran out of pea plants.

When someone says the word nursery then chances are they’ll be talking about one of two things, plants or children. For us this past couple of months it has meant both, because that’s how it’s felt, sowing, creating the right conditions and taking care of our young seedlings. Ok, so they don’t need a nappy change, and dont require milk on a regular basis, but they do need food and water, and tucking up warm at night at this time of year. To be honest we’ve done pretty well so far. We know there’s a long season of pests and weeds to come (including an illusive slimey intruder in the greenhouse), but it’s ok to give yourself a pat on the back sometimes, so that’s what we’re doing. Join us if you like, remember what you’ve done well this past month………and give yourself a pat on the back!

Potatoes apart, this weekend has seen us start our first outdoor sowings. Some ‘cut and come again’ salad leaves have gone in, as have some rows of spinach and chard, and an early season star………..beetroot. Once we got our heads around the fact that beetroot isn’t just for pickling and boiling the life out of, it has been one of the vegetables we’ve looked forward to growing the most. Versatile enough to cook in many different ways, we love making a big pot of Borsht, but the leaves shouldn’t be ignored, and are a welcome addition to the salad plate. The bonus of getting beetroot in early, is that you should be able to harvest, and follow it up with some different crops in the same space. We should be meeting our beet sometime in July.

On Easter Sunday we finally said goodbye to Charlotte and Edward. We were quite glad to say goodbye. To be honest they were outstaying their welcome, even if they were only staying in the colder than cool utility room near the back door. Well, they had been with us for over a month.  For Charlotte and King Edward are our early and maincrop potatoes, and if we were to leave it much later, we might have the dreaded blight running a mock over our crops come August/September. Traditionally it’s Good Friday that the veg grower puts in their early spuds, but one look at the weather was enough to convince us to hold off for a couple of days. A nice trench about 5 in deep and a sprinkling of chicken manure and that was about that. Sit back and wait for the growth to appear, then earth up around the plant as you go. It seems watering isn’t an exact science, but we’ll go for the once a week dousing and times that by two in hot weather and when the flowers appear. We’ll meet up again in September when the flowers have gone over. So it’s not so much ‘goodbye’ to Charlotte and Edward, more ‘Au Revoir’.