Posted by: Linda Proud | February 4, 2011

Winter Gardens

Looking across to the allotments at Christmas

It was mild and sunny yesterday so the route of the day’s walk was drawn inexorably to the allotment. I really like winter gardening. In the summer it’s all so overwhelming with masses of plants producing a great abundance of crops all at once and so great that it’s impossible to eat them all. In the winter it’s more measured. We usually get through with beetroot, leeks, winter radish, mustard greens, brussel sprouts, kale and, the queen of the winter crops, purple sprouting broccoli. Most allotmenteers actually look forward to February, just for those tender spears.

So I went across yesterday to pick the brussel sprouts we never had for Christmas lunch. They were fine and still tight in the bud but they stood alone in a scene of mushy devestation. No brassica has survived this harsh winter other than the sprouts. The purple sprouting is so dead it deserves a funeral.

None of the other winter specials survived either, apart from some midget beetroots and some leeks. But the ground will clear easily and must be relatively bug free, so it looks well for the coming year. The only success was the big cloche someone gave us last year. When I lifted it up, a great wave of warmth came out, and there was a line of very happy lettuces, one of which became our first salad of the year at lunchtime.

We had our belated hoe-down of the allotment association last night, and everyone has suffered the same, which gives me a modicum of relief. It seems it must be the cold and not some dreaded disease that’s done for them all.

With storms predicted for the next few days, I brought my boxes of seeds indoors to make a sowing list. Yikes! I was on one box – Roots and Leaves – for two hours without making any headway. The amount of seeds we have is deranged. What was I think of when going so carefully through the seed catalogues last autumn? All this is just more glut for August! So each time I find a packet with a suggested sowing in August or beyond (one was even in November) I am thrilled. Perhaps that’s what I was thinking of when going through the catalogues: next winter.

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