Winter update: preparing for spring

Mid-February always marks a turning point for my life as a gardener. After Valentine’s Day the light seems to be increasing fast and I start planting the first seeds indoors. Here onions Cepa Jaune, shallots Tosca and leeks Jaune de Pitout as well as coriander, parsley and dill in the windowsill of the laundry. I was happy to get the polystyrene seed trays from a friend – used to be used for tobacco seedlings, but local farmers now encouraged to plant walnuts instead of tobacco!
It is also time to start chitting potaotes.  The same varieties as previous years – Celtiane, Victoria and Sarpo Axona.  In Lady Hamilton bedroom where they get light but not direct sun exposure.I’m digging trenches for the potatoes now too. It’s the only digging I do in the garden, primarily to get rid of stones. The rest of the Pumpkin Patch has had a dressing of manure  and is covered with plastic sheeting to stop weed growth and to warm up the soil.I’m more and more convinced of the merits of no-dig method of gardening espoused by Charles Dowding  so in autumn and early winter all I do is spread a layer of compost and/or manure on the top of the beds and plant directly into it in spring.We’re still eating from the garden. This is the real challenge – to be able to provide vegetables for the kitchen throughout the long winter months.  I’ve still got potatoes, garlic, onions and butternut which store very well and in the garden chard, coriander, leeks as well as kale and butternut cope with the freezing weather.  We’ve just harvested the last of the cabbage and celeriac. Bottled tomatoes and other fruit and veg stored in the cellar are now very useful too. 
There’s lots to do now. After heavy frosts and a cold wet week, we’ve a forecast of glorious sunny days for the next week – and unusually warm too, so I need to make the most of it and get the grape and fruit tree pruning done. It’s great for working outside, but not so good for the plants – conned into thinking spring has arrived fruit trees and others with start sprouting and producing blossom, only to be burnt off by late frost that is bound to arrive 😦

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