Early season queries

Cavalo nero seedlingsThough today was cold and rainy, and our gardening session had to be changed into tea-and-talk in the conservatory, things are finally growing. Gardening is starting to feel like gardening again. As we watch the plants bursting into leaf after the winter, it’s time for questions:

Are our leeks ready?

Image2656We seem to have leeks at two ends of the growing spectrum: lots of seedlings on the one hand and overwintered plants which look like they may be going to seed on the other. What do we do?

Our large leeks have been in the ground since the seedlings were planted in August last year after our onion crop had been harvested. My books say: ‘leeks can remain in the ground until they are required for use’ and ‘most leeks are harvested mid-winter to spring’. Our leeks were spindly until fairly recently when they have started to thicken. They certainly weren’t ready to harvest mid-winter.

I think the only thing to do is to harvest them and try them: leek and potato soup (the weather is still cold) or leek omelette are recipes that spring to mind.

Our small leeks have been grown from seed sown on April 14th. We need to pot them on ready for planting out when we find some space. The books say: ‘transplant to final positions in late May and June’ so we’re more or less in synch with the normal cycle. Our seedlings need to be ‘pencil-thick’ and ‘6-8 inches high’, so they have a bit of growing to do.

  • Lift some of the leeks and try out in recipes. If OK, lift the rest.
  • Work in good amount of mulch into the old ‘leek’ bed, soon to be the bean bed.
  • Thin out and pot up leek seedlings in 12cm pots of compost, to wait for final planting
  • Harden off seedlings outside for at least 2 weeks before planting

What about our strawberries?

We’ve only just got flowers on our strawberry plants so it looks like we’re well behind the normal schedule; surely, strawberries should be fruiting by now? One thing we have learned is to cut off the leaves immediately after plants have fruited. This last summer, we didn’t really do this, and were uncertain whether to do it in September/October when we were clearing the plot. It should be done around August.

Ripening black currants, red currants

‘Heavy manuring and high summer moisture’: our black currant and red currant bushes in pots are looking very lush with lots of berries. I’m wondering whether we should be thinning the leaves to reveal the currants to the sun, or whether this will just have the effect of encouraging the birds to take them.

  • We do need to mulch, ideally with manure.
  • We should probably try to protect from our increasingly friendly blackbird couple
  • A feed of sulphate of ammonia is also advised, if we are going to use inorganic fertilisers.
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