Wednesday 9 January 2008

Forward planning

The future is veiled.

Outside the window there are small but perceptible signs of the planet's turn. Snowdrops planted up from bought bulbs last summer in pots so that they can be planted out 'in the green' this spring are showing their shy white flowers, there is a lesser celandine shining on the lawn, teasel seeds gathered at Welney are germinating in their modules.

It's time to plan the planting for the season.

All planning needs to be based on experience and even then there is no guarantee of success. This year I'm hoping to keep a grip on my aspirations and actually produce better quality crops albeit in a more limited range. I'm going to stop myself buying many more seeds, keep a planting diary so that things are sown on time, be realistic about what can be grown in the open in the average Normandy summer, so no okra, chillies or aubergines this year. No melons either, but I've never been able to grow those, indoors or out.

The broad sweep, then, looks something like this:

Potatoes, definitely Ambo and Stroma for their high yields, early maturity and fair blight resistance with maybe a small handful of other varieties if we make it to the Garden Organic Potato day in February (there is a day open to the general public on 3rd Feb).

Cabbages, red for pickling, white for coleslaw and sauerkraut, winter for greens. It'll be interesting to see how these do because I'm not great with brassicas. Also Kale and Sprouting for winter cropping into 2009. These will all have to be netted against butterflies.

Alliums, I've already put in a row of garlic and must plant up some more in pots for transplanting on the next visit to France. I will probably take the easy way out with onions and buy sets. We'll need a few shallots and leeks for the deer, obviously. There is a patch of Babington leek already there which I hope to bulk up.

Salad vegetables are not always easy. Cut and come again lettuce, purslane, coriander leaf and rocket are all essentials. Sorrel might be missed this year as it can be gathered from the wild, chinese vegetables like red mustard are excellent but I don't want to be too ambitious this year. Some chicory or endive for the winter would be a great addition.

Grass and seed crops, this will be the first attempt at sweetcorn at the farm. I've also got some rainbow quinoa as a trial. I've grown amaranth in the UK with success so hope the quinoa will give a good account of itself in Normandy. As usual there will be sunflowers and I'm wondering about a few poppy seed poppies - that wouldn't be too much would it?

Tomatoes; these have been a disaster area two years running. I'll have to try again but I'm not hopeful. Along with the toms, I'm going to grow some tomatilloes this year. They are hardier than you might expect, seem to be blight resistant and carefully harvested will store into November or even December for making fresh salsa.

Beans. For some reason runner beans just haven't done in France. I might try again but think it's time I tried to grow out some of my saved seed varieties of purple climbing french beans and other heritage varieties so the runners might be overlooked. Oddly, not many French people seem to grow runner beans either, perhaps there is a reason for this over and above national pride.

Pumpkins will do well as usual if the weather is kind. My favourite varieties for cooking are still the Moschata types but I've succumbed to another variety of Butternut squash. The butternuts have never performed well for me so this may be another disaster waiting to happen.

Root crops of carrots, beetroots, radishes, mooli perhaps with some parsnips and Hamburg parsley. Celeriac is too much of a faff.

And finally, my pet projects. As well as the usual two types of oca (which I nearly lost through mismanagement last year) I've bought some of the creamy white variety sold by Realseeds. Must try harder with these. I've also taken some ulluco tubers which will be a real wait and see.

And even with all that, I still think I've forgotten something...


Rebsie Fairholm said...

I just bought some of the ulluco tubers too ... I'll be interested to know how you get on with them! I can't find much information about them but they certainly look pretty.

Thanks for giving my blog a plug!

Catofstripes said...

Hi Rebsie,

You're welcome about the blog - I admire it because you seem to have both more vigour and rigour doing things that I also love to do but rarely complete successfully.

There will certainly be more to come about the Ulluco which have caught my imagination although I hope I do better with them than I did with Mashua. (you have seen The lost crops of the Incas haven't you?