All Systems Go Go Grow....

The weather has been much warmer in the last two weeks and suddenly it’s all systems go in my vegetable garden.

I'm happy to report that several very early peas made it through the recent mini ice-age and their green heads are poking above the soil this week. Having survived the weather their next task is to survive the wood pigeons. Our allotment is surrounded on all sides by arable farmland and the fields are usually completely covered in wood pigeons. They stay on the fields when they can eat the wheat and barley, but like to supplement their diet with allotment peas and brassicas.

I usually make a complicated contraption out of netting and sticks to protect my peas. This year I'm trying some advice from an old hand. Black cotton is apparently like kryptonite to pigeons. So I've wound it in & around the pea sticks. We'll see how effective it is on this early variety. If the worst happens I'll go back to my netting for the main crop.

I planted a row of first early potatoes last week (Pentland Javelin). We are plagued by terrible blight at the allotment and so I've given up growing main crop potatoes (and tomatoes) because of it. I don’t think it helps that on some of the allotment plots the blight affected potatoes and tomatoes are left to rot and spread spores. All I can do is adapt what I grow and early potatoes sneak in just before blight is a problem. I’ve managed to get some decent crops harvested just before the blight has arrived in the last two years.

I cleaned my cold frame yesterday so it's all set to take my seedlings. It's a tricky balancing act. The allotment landowner won't allow sheds or greenhouses so timing is vital. If I start sowing on the windowsills at home too early the plants become too tall for the cold frame while it's still too early to plant them out. I'll risk sowing some squash and pumpkin seeds today as they take a while to germinate and so the chance of frost ought to have passed by the time they’re ready. I usually pop a bell cloche over them when first planted out, just in case.

Most of my time in the vegetable garden recently has been spent getting the beds ready for sowing and planting. Lots of weeding was needed, even though it was weed free in the autumn. The weeds here don't take a winter break! The trickiest bed to weed at this time of year is the asparagus bed. It's hard to see where the crowns are but it's obviously important to avoid damaging them. For this reason I use an old knife on my hands and knees and lots of patience! The asparagus season is almost upon us and even if you don't have the space to grow your own the new season spears are plentiful in the shops at the moment.

Leek and Asparagus Soup

75g butter
1 onion, finely chopped
2 leeks, white parts only, finely sliced
1 large potato, peeled and cubed
850ml vegetable stock
500 g asparagus, cut into 4cm lengths
150ml double cream

  • Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the onion and leeks and cook very gently with the lid on. They need to sweat down and soften, but definitely not to colour so make sure the heat is gentle and the lid is on.
  • Add the stock and potatoes after about 10 minutes and turn up the heat. Bring to the boil, then simmer until the potato is soft (about 10 to 15 minutes depending how big your potato cubes are).
  • Add the asparagus and cook for 5 minutes.  
  • Blend with a hand held blender until smooth, season with salt and black pepper and stir in the cream.


Varieties mentioned in this blog post: Pentland Javelin

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