Oh my goodness, what a month! It’s been the coldest March in the UK since 1962, and the average temperature has been 2.5 degrees C. So, it hasn’t been gardening weather (understatement of the year). It’s been below freezing pretty much every night for a few weeks, and it looks like it’s set to continue.
I’ve done everything I can to beat the freeze: moving things into the mini greenhouse, grouping pots together in more sheltered areas, tying fleece and bubble wrap around plants, even putting newspaper on top of pots and modules. Something tells me it hasn’t been enough.
It’s been too cold for too long, and that means most of what’s already been sown is likely to rot in the ground or bolt as soon as the weather finally warms up. In short, March has been a bit of a disaster for the kitchen garden here, and probably for most other kitchen gardens around the country.
There’s going to be more of a ‘hungry gap’ than usual for 2013, but I’ve started a disaster recovery plan of sorts. There’s very little growing space indoors, but we do have very small, bright windowsill upstairs that can be pressed into service and it looks like that’s the only safe spot to get seedlings going for the time being. I’ve sown 30 tiny modules with different seeds – mostly tough ones – into an unheated propagator, and hopefully we’ll get a heavily edited collection of nine different types of outdoor plant up and running in time to replace at least some of the first set.
At least the microgreens are working…
Due to the cold and the relative lack of sunlight, things like the indoor cut-and-come-again lettuces are failing to thrive, and there’s a similar problem with the winter lettuces and just about everything else in the mini greenhouse. Meanwhile, I’m dying for a little spring salad. Fortunately the pea shoots sowed a few days ago are nearly ready to eat, and the ful medames (mini broad bean) shoots will be ready shortly after that.
In desperation, I’ve also made a sprouter out of some anti-insect mesh, a rubber band and a jam jar, and have started off some alfalfa sprouts from seeds I got free in a swap. Heck, I’ve even started off some curled cress on cotton wool in a ramekin.
… and they said I shouldn’t sow in February
The more established seedlings on the windowsill seem to be doing okay, surprisingly. Perhaps that’s because they were started off well before the Siberian winds blew in so hard that they turned March inside out, back to front and freeze dried it. I’ve potted on all the peppers, chillies and tomatoes now, and they seem to have survived so far. That might be due in part to some of the varieties, including a cold-tolerant tomato (Glacier, romping away in the pic above), a fast-growing chilli (Early Jalapeno), and a pepper that can cope with patches of poor weather (Hungarian Hot Wax).
That’s grow-your-own gardening for you, there are setbacks and there are unexpected successes. Over time, I’m learning to make the most of the successes, to recognise and let go of the epic fails, and to improvise as best I can around the grey area in the middle. Until I properly get the hang of that, I’m eating alfalfa sprouts. Err, yummy.