Monday 29 March 2010

Last Call for Oca

It's been really quiet on the seed and tuber swaps this season. I'm just about to shut up shop for the summer but there are still quantities of ugly but ready to shoot oca in pink, red and white available for anyone who'd like some. All I ask in return is that you cover the postage.

Any takers? They'll be in the compost come next weekend.

A Rush and a Push and the land is Ours

It's not that the dawn of spring was a false one but I've really done very little gardening since the last post here.

Did get the onion sets in, plant out the Martock beans and do a small amount of preparation for the next season but now, I'm all behind. Although the peppers and aubergines have been started for six weeks or so now, I've been holding off and holding off on the tomatoes because transporting huge lanky plants across the channel is highly inconvenient and yet I can't start the seeds in France unless I'm there to provide heat and management, which means they'll be far to late to be useful. Finally I've decided that something must be done, and I've done it. The tomato seeds went in today.

Normally I agonise over the selection, trying to balance quality of fruit against weather and blight tolerance, thinking ahead to what I plan to do with the harvest and so on but this year the choice is nearly a lucky dip.

First up, the Gezahnte B├╝hrer-Keel which I first saw on Flickr in a friend's stream here. After I begged shamelessly, Herbi very kindly obtained and sent me two packets of seed for this variety. It's a very old Swiss-Italian variety, with deeply ribbed pinky green skin and dense dry flesh. Needs warmth and to be protected from rain which might be a challenge in Normandy but I'm feeling excited about this one.

Then, another one with a difficult name. The Tondino di Manduria isn't even consistent on the Kokopelli website. It was a freebie sent with the rest of my Kokopelli order and I think it will be a small plum tomato. Worth a try I think, good summer permitting.

The Yellow Oxheart came from the Heritage Seed library. I'm hoping it will have some useful character, since yellow tomatoes I've grown recently have all been a bit disappointing. Trouble is, the big Oxheart type toms all require excellent conditions to produce well. Maybe this is the year I need to get that greenhouse built. And soon.

Finally, the Salt Spring Sunrise. My own seed saved from last year, this variety, which I just don't seem to be able to get rid of, has made itself a place in my heart. It's tough, reliable and if it's not fully gourmet it's certainly good enough to eat.

Onwards and upwards.

Tuesday 2 March 2010

At last there seems to be some spring in the air


Out went February and in came March, like a lion. The enormous storm that blew in across Portugal, Spain, Central France and onto Belgium and Germany has cleared the air, given us blue skies at last and a hint of the new season to come. It's such a relief.

Of course, that's not to say there isn't still a frost every night, and the weather forecast for the UK isn't particularly optimistic suggesting that it will remain wintery for most of the month but at least in France it looks like the weather is setting fair for a few days and that makes me think it's time I got going and sorted out a load of stuff, like the (inevitably) late planting of the garlic, preparing the beds and repairing the damages of the winter before full on gardening resumes in April.

In the greenhouse I have the Martock bean seedlings, the tuberous rooted peas are showing their heads, I might still have a couple of yacon tubers and my fingers are crossed for the Hopniss. I need to get the ulluco into pots, they were so damaged that I've lost still more of the meagre crop in storage and their only hope is to wake up and smell the coffee before all vigour is lost. A tray of asparagus seedling has just started to germinate and the chilli peppers and aubergines are coming along slowly as is their way.

I do have plenty of rather manky oca in red, pink and white varieties if anyone needs a start on those. You get what you pay for, which is next to nothing for these, but they are firm and healthy enough to make plants even if they're not looking good to eat. Drop me a mail if you're interested.