Monday, 7 April 2008

Pass the Parsnips

I'm sure you're all sick to death by now hearing about either i) how cold it is every Friday, or ii) how ill I am, so this week you'll be pleased to know Friday was warmish, and that, apart from having not slept due to over-excitement, I was fit and well. Why the insomnia? Well, I was planning to plant parsnip seeds, and this is always a big occasion. Parsnips are very difficult to grow because they do not germinate easily, so it is necessary to get the planting ceremony absolutely right. It was therefore important that I arrived at the allotment not only with the tea things but also with parsnip, turnip, and radish seeds, a ruler, a magic formula called Spray-and-Grow available only from QVC, and a set of Mayan ritual planting sticks, a Christmas present from H (well, he does try poor thing). And I was wearing a new dark blue Waxed Jacket brought from the Daily Telegraph no less! I was soon flat out on the ground marking out my half inch planting rows on my perfectly prepared plot containing no weeds and not a single stone, whilst my seeds soaked for exactly half an hour in the S-and-G. I then attempted to plant exactly three parsnip seeds every six inches apart. I put a mixture of radish and turnip seeds between the parsnips. (You do this because it takes so long for parsnips to come up that you can plant something else while you're's called catch cropping, I think). It was very delicate work I can tell you, not helped by the fact that parsnip seeds are like teensy flying saucers that seem to stick to anything other than soil, and the little black blips that are turnip seeds fly and drop everywhere whence they immediately become invisible. Paying absolutely no attention whatsoever to the gales (gails?) of laughter coming from behind me (although there was one very nasty moment, I have to admit, when I wondered whether I was suffering from an unidentified Wardrobe Malfunction), I covered the whole thing over and performed a brief dance to the Mayan Frog God of Rain and Fertility before placing my sticks at either end of the rows. The next day it snowed, and we've had sharp frosts every night, so I doubt very much if anything has survived. This, in the UK, is what we call Spring. At least I got the second and the third in the Grand National which has mollified my broken a heart a little...On reflection, I beginning to feel even more strongly that a betting blog may be more up my street that an organic gardening one...Back at home things are even more busy than usual as last week I received 54 tiny marigold 'plugs' from QVC that were in urgent need of potting on. This operation required a complete make-over for the entire house as I only have one suitable worktop of potting on (the top of the washing machine) and one window sill which was already covered with the red carnations I'm growing for one of the clients. You may be interested to know that there is absolutely no reason at all to grow carnations on an allotment, but that marigolds make a fantastic natural pest barrier. I can guarantee you will not be attacked by a single carrot fly if you are surrounded by marigolds! Anyway, the carnations have stayed put, and the marigolds are in three inch pots inside a smart zip-up plastic covering, commonly used to pack bedding. I think this should make a really effective, temporary 'cold frame' which is what the seedlings need. Oh, yeah and I've also made two hanging plastic planters into which I've put a hardy variety of strongly scented pansy, and the first known downward pointing (but still fragrant!) sweet pea. These are now dangling somewhat precariously from a curtain rail in the spare room. You can get all this stuff from Thompson and Morgan, by the way.

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