Friday, 22 February 2008


Now the cool change has come I thought I had better get on and start The Growing Challenge, in earnest. Problem 1 : I couldn't find the seeds! I took that photo of the 3 packets of chicory and I haven't a clue what happened to the packets then. OK plan B - find some other seeds from my drawer-of-a-million-seeds. Easy - a packet of mixed chicories and other Italian salad greens called 'Misticanza'. Problem 2 : I couldn't read the use by date. Oh well, lets hope for the best. The rest, as they say, is history and just about as well thought out as any war! (Not that this is war - that is just an example; of what I am not too sure...)

1. The site is prepared - grass removed, lightly forked over to break up lumps, then raked clean of any debris.It is a nice sandy loam here, perfect for the crops I have in mind.

2.This will be a short-lived, leaf crop so only blood and bone is forked in.

3. After broadcasting the seeds quite densely over the area, compost is sifted evenly and thinly over the surface.This sieve belonged to my father and grandfather and is made to be endlessly able to be repaired.
4.The whole area is then watered thoroughly using a misting nozzle so as not to disturb the seeds.

5. Lengths of bamboo are placed across the seed-bed so that it can be covered to keep off any chooks and other birds and to keep up the humidity.The bamboo keeps the cover from squashing the seedlings as they germinate.

6. Hessian is laid over the bamboo lengths - but I didn't quite have enough so I had to finish the job with a bit of white cloth that I also find suitable.

Every 2 weeks or so I will sow another patch of different seeds in an adjoining space (I must fine those packets!). As the weather cools and this area becomes shady I will start sowing seeds of Asian vegetables as they cope wonderfully in the shade in winter. The idea is to cut the crops when they pass the true leaf stage and eat what I cut off. Then they should regrow another couple of times if I am lucky before bolting to seed. At this stage I could leave them to grow on and maybe get some mature plants from them or dig them out and resow. Evidently it is possible to keep a constant supply of greens, cut at this exceptionally nutritious stage of their growth, by sowing regularly. A little bit wasteful, I feel, but since I have the drawer-of-a-million-seeds it is better than not sowing them at all. Lots of things can be eaten at this stage for their leaves, instead of waiting for them to produce roots or other plants parts. eg radish, broccoli etc.
This is all curtesy of Joy Larkcom's books 'Oriental vegetables' and 'The Organic Salad Garden'.
Stay tuned for more exciting posts about this "Cut and come again" style of growing. Hopefully it will be much more interesting than watching grass grow but it will, to the untrained eye, look very, very similar!

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