We have had spectacular weather over the last week here in Dorset. It has provided plenty of opportunities to get out in the fresh air and get growing.
This week I’ve done an early sowing of radishes. I’m planting three varieties this year (as a bit of an experiment), a row of each, to see which does best. I’ve opted for varieties ‘Flamboyant’, ‘White Icicle’, which is a white radish, and ‘Round Violet ‘Cherry” a heritage seed from Pennard Plants in East Pennard, Somerset. Radish seeds need to be planted in a sunny spot about half an inch deep, one inch apart and in rows that are twelve inches apart. When your radishes have sprouted you should thin the seedlings to two inches apart so that they can grow properly. You should plant them consecutively every two weeks to ensure a continuous supply.
We’ve been filling the polytunnel with Tomatoes and Habanero Chilli plants. My partner is a huge fan of chillies and I’d love to make some chilli sauces, pickles and jams this year. I’ve also sown some Beetroot ‘Boldor’ seeds into trays. I will transfer these into the raised beds once the seedlings are big enough . ‘Boldor’ is a brilliant, orange coloured root and keeps its colour even after cooking, meaning it looks fantastic on the plate. It also makes vibrantly coloured (and tasty) beetroot hummus. To ensure that I have a regular supply some seeds are in the polytunnel and others have been sown directly into the ground outside so that I can stagger my crop.
I’m very excited that my Sweet Pea ‘Emilia Fox’ (love the name!) has sprouted in my windowsill propagator. When the seedlings have their first pair of ‘true’ leaves (not the pair that appear as the seed germinates) I will move them to larger, compostable pots and continue to bring them on in those until they are big enough to plant out. Unfortunately, for some reason, my first sowing of sweet peas didn’t take (I felt like a bit of a bad plant mumma). I was slightly disappointed about this because they were a gorgeous Old English variety which were meant to be long-stemmed and perfect for cutting.
Although my first set of Sweet Peas felt like a bit of a gardening fail the garden is full of Spring flowers at home. I’ve planted up pots with Ranunculus and Sweet Williams. My pots of bulbs are also looking fabulous and I’ve had colour in the garden since my Snowdrops bloomed in February. As with my vegetables I like to plant my garden with plants that bloom consecutively so I can enjoy a long-stretching floral display. So far this year I’ve enjoyed Snowdrops, Crocuses, Narcissus, Primula and Ranunculus to name but a few. My Tulips are almost out and the Peony that we were gifted by our neighbours is beginning to poke up out of the soil (Yay!). I love this time of year; it is like everything in the garden is waking up after Winter. It’s not just my garden at home that is looking beautiful, the rest of Shaftesbury is looking amazing too!
Elsewhere…the chickens are getting really bored of ‘flockdown’. We are trying to keep them happy and entertained with yummy food, fresh woodchip and toys but they desperately want to be free-ranging outside, enjoying the lovely sunny weather. Last year ‘flockdown’ finished at the beginning of April, but this year I am still getting text messages from the APHA saying that highly pathogenic avian influenza has been found in different places across the country. Our feather-babies will just have to wait in their chicken houses a little longer. We are hoping that the warmer weather sees an end to the current virus outbreak and the chucks will be able to enjoy scratching around in the grass again soon.