The Veg Garden - May Week 3

Whose seeds do you plant?


Are you one of those gardeners who orders all their seeds through a catalogue in the first week of January?  Do you have a great loyalty to one seed merchant?  I've moved away from the 'one big order' idea.  Seeds can be very expensive and I look for bargains at my local garden centre..

At one point I used to buy mostly from Tucker's as a gesture towards a local supplier.  I also like their range of salad veg and squashes and I still like to have a look at what they have in the shop in Crediton.  Tucker's also sell seeds in bulk for the commercial growers' market and maybe there are some opportunities there for a money-saving co-operative bulk purchase?

Following a year in which my parsnips didn't germinate I buy some seeds from Thompson and Morgan.  I think I'm hoping that a higher price will buy quality.  At the other end of the market Lidl sells some seed packets for 29p and they become an impulse buy.  Their mixed variety aubergines were stars of 2014.

I also really like Franchi's seeds.  They are retailed at RHS Rosemoor and St Johns garden centre in Barnstaple.  They include specialist versions of things like spinach and borlotti beans that are Italian favourites.  I think next year I might download their catalogue or order online.

Eating the dock family.


Last year my brother from London looked at one of the plants in my veg garden and said smugly "I've got that growing as a weed in my lawn."   I don't think that he was right.  He was looking at a patch of lemon sorrel, which is a Rumex or member of the dock family.  My lemon sorrel (left image) is flowering now and the similarity to common dock is clear.  It has a very tangy, zesty taste and recipes abound on the net for its use with fish.  A small patch of lemon sorrel is perennial and virtually maintenance free, just requiring some weeding twice a year.  I also pick some of the older leaves for the hens in winter and this encourages new younger leaves to come through.  Sorrel's roots dig deep - no surprise as member of the dock family - and bring up an embarrassing quantity of vitamins.

Also in the garden is red-veined sorrel (right image), which you might find called French Sorrel.  This is an attractive ingredient of 'baby-leaf' salads.  Technically it might be a perennial but I tend to treat it like an annual and it also self-seeds so you can 'forage' for it in your garden for ever afterwards.  An autumn planting goes very well in the polytunnel where it will yield tender leaves very early in the year.

End of the 'hungry gap'


Potatoes, peas and mint from the polytunnel signal the end of the spring hungry gap.

I don't grow maincrop potatoes because such a late crop inevitably attracts blight here.  I did try the new 'blight resistant' variety Sarpo Mira but it didn't resemble any spud I'd want to eat.  I grow first-earlies ( Rocket) and second-earlies ( Charlotte).  I think this is my second year with Rocket and it seems to do very well.  I keep half a dozen tubers to sow in the polytunnel as the very earliest crop and these might be sown as soon as I have bought them and sprouted them.

I try to get some peas going as early as possible in the tunnel.  They are really a cool weather crop and I have them growing up netting in the middle of the tunnel where they really take up no room.  The peas are sown in modules and planted out as soon as they are big enough.  I'm probably using Meteor.  I find that the big danger with these early peas is mice and make sure that they are kept covered with netting until they have germinated properly.