A mild spell of weather last month and into January gave the broad beans sown in November a push to germinate, just one or two beans missing by the looks of it but I always sow generously to allow for failures and thin out later. Just one double row because I’m the only broad bean fan in my family, sometimes I sow in spring too for a slightly later cropping. I’m growing a dwarf variety called The Sutton and I’m having to remind myself of that, usually I sow Aquadulce Claudia in autumn which is a more robust variety so the seedlings appear bigger and stronger in growth by this stage. These seedlings are much smaller in comparison but are doing ok under a tunnel cloche.
The cold weather is back with hard frosts and freezing temperatures, winter isn’t done yet. But there are signs of good things to come such as the rhubarb bursting into life again after a brief moment of dormancy. If you want a super early rhubarb that tastes great and makes beautiful jams then Timperley Early is a great addition to your allotment or vegetable garden. It reappears soon after being dormant in autumn, pushing egg-like buds through the soil as early as December. Superb for forcing, it crops so early naturally you can pull it unforced as early as March. Well worth growing for early cropping.
Garlic is popping up now, a variety called Red Duke that I’ve grown and replanted for many years. The harvest of summer 2021 was the best to date, hopefully more of the same this year.
I’m still pulling some lovely roots from the carrot and parsnip beds, they over winter fairly well on the plot as long as the slugs don’t find them, and of course parsnips taste even sweeter after a good frosting.
Celeriac can be left in the ground during winter and lifted as required although some of mine have started to succumb to frosts. The remaining ones look a little scruffy but still taste wonderful. I managed to convince the fussy eaters in my family to give them a try and they were a hit, I’ll try pretty much anything but I’m not a fan of celery at all (it’s a texture thing), I really like celeriac which has a mild taste of celery without the stringy yuk.
The last of my winter cabbages, January King. They look too beautiful to be so tolerant of winter.
I have become quite fond of growing cabbages. Years ago I would shy away from them after failing numerous times to grow a decent one, but now I have more experience and a few tools in my armoury (fine mesh netting is a must!). I feel quite triumphant harvesting a cabbage for dinner knowing I won the slug, pigeon and butterfly battles. Well, maybe not so much the slug battle, they win everything.
A few Brussels sprout stalks still remain on the plot, these will be harvested by the weekend. You’d think I’d be bored of them by now but I love sprout season, I made such a fuss as a child whenever they were presented to me on a plate – who knew I’d grow to love them enough to grow my own.
The countdown for early purple sprouting broccoli has begun, around now I eagerly search through the jungle of leaves hoping to glimpse the first shoot or spear which normally appears in the centre. It’s a tad early at the moment, the key thing with growing early purple sprouting broccoli is patience – they’re a long term project! Raised from seed last April and planted out in June/July, all being well I will be picking tender broccoli spears any time from February onwards, usually March. That’s almost a whole year. Well worth it for the long harvest of tender side shoots (as long as you keep up with picking) during the hungry gap when all the winter brassica have been used up or given up. I took the net off for this photograph, it went straight back on afterwards to prevent pigeons eating all my hard work.
At home on the windowsill I have a small number of second early seed potatoes chitting away happily, gifted to me by Suttons. The variety is Charlotte which is a salad type, I grow them every year so they’re a firm favourite. The bag of 8 healthy and firm tubers arrived just before Christmas which is a few weeks earlier than I usually set potatoes out to chit, they’re doing fine in the cool and bright conservatory window. I plan to plant these out some time in March. I’m still deciding on a main crop variety to grow this year, I usually get my seed potatoes from a local garden centre and I’ll probably take a look soon.
I’m currently planning the growing year and excitedly waiting for seed packets to arrive, I always try to grow either a new variety to me or something completely new each growing year. This year I plan to grow a carrot variety called Purple Sun which are purple all the way to the core. They look fun.
Do you plan to grow something new this year?