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Her Outdoors: Bed-blockers

Jane Merrick

It is the time of year when I wish I had more space: space on my front steps (which are now crowded with all 28 tomato plants, much to the joy/annoyance of the milkman/postman/Him Indoors), space in the mini-greenhouse and space at Plot 35a. Every week I transplant more seedlings to the allotment, only to find I’ve sown plenty more seeds and they’ve turned into little plants crammed into the greenhouse or cold frame.

On the plot, purple sprouting broccoli, cauliflowers and cabbages that have gone through the winter and provided an early spring harvest have had their day. The PSB is still producing a few shoots, and I can’t bear to dig out healthy plants, but the bed that these over-wintering brassicas are in is needed to sow beetroot, parsnips and carrots.

This is what it looked like last week – a few straggly, caterpillar-munched cabbages, gnarled bed-blockers that needed to be uprooted:

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These cabbages have had their day

I found a delicate, perfectly-formed yet quite small cauliflower hiding in a nest of leaves. Should I let it grow a bit bigger, I thought – risking it bolting in the mild mid-spring? I decided not to, and picked it, along with a few other cabbage leaves. The PSB is still there, but the rest of the bed I did some urgent sowing of root veg:

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Freshly raked earth, root veg sown

and the netting kept over the bed to stop the birds and foxes spoiling it.

Elsewhere, the chard is still going strong. I am running out of recipes to cook with this rainbow chard (last night I made lentil, bacon and chard soup, a recipe by Nigel Slater) yet I will carry on sowing and growing this because it looks so stunning – especially behind these flowers of Allium neapolitanum (Naples Onion):

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Allium neapolitanum and rainbow chard

The King Edward potatoes are growing really fast – I cannot earth these up quick enough!

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Shoots of King Edward potatoes earthed up

I transplanted yet more seedlings of cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts – so far the (organic) slug pellets are keeping the pests at bay:

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Newly-transplanted brassicas - slug-pelleted and netted

The herb bed needed a bit of an overhaul. I planted some mint last year and its roots have taken over, starting to push everything else out. The other herbs look ok but they might not have lasted the summer:

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Sage, flat-leaf parsley, oregano, rosemary and chamomile rescued from mint in the herb bed

But because I hate to waste plants, I kept some mint roots that were starting to grow shoots…

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Mint roots removed from the herb bed

… and replanted them in this pot, which has plenty of room but will restrict the roots:

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A container to restrain the mint

Finally, I picked some radishes – here are ‘French Breakfast’ and ‘Escala’. The leaves have been nibbled a bit by what looks like flea beetle, but the radishes themselves were delicious, thinly sliced, with a pork pie and quince jelly!

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Radish 'French Breakfast' and 'Escala' ready for eating

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