In these dark days of the coronavirus, never has it been more important to grow as much of our food as we can. Many of my followers over on my Facebook page, Sue Reed Writes, have said they are filling pots and buckets, digging up flower beds, and starting their own veggie patches, many for the first time. Whilst I appreciate not all have access to a garden or yard, and garden centres are out of bounds, there is still plenty we can do, even if it is only sprouting seeds on a window-sill in a jam jar. (I’ll write more about that in a few days).
This may inspire you to get an allotment when all this is over, we loved our allotment when we lived on industrial Teeside. It was a community with dozens of surrogate grandads, where advice and plant swops were bountiful. My sister-in-law had an allotment, and rather than grow veggies on it, used it as a place to meet with friends and have barbecues. We can only dream of those times at the moment, but they will come again, take heart.
I’m an old timer and have been growing my own food since I was knee high to a grasshopper, learning from my Nana and Grandad, and parents, who, as wartime children, grew up with the habit of growing food in the garden. They were told to Dig for Victory, and I see that hashtag is now trending on Twitter.
My grandad was famed for his green fingers, and I remember the story of him putting in a stick to support one of his prize fuchsias only to have it turn into a peach tree. My fingers may not be that green, but I do have lots of experience, and am more than happy to impart that knowledge to you.
I wrote a blog for seven years, The Bridge Cottage Way, named after the house, we live in, and wrote about living as sustainably as we can, using what we have, and reducing the drain on the planet’s resources. There is a wealth of information there. Do give it a visit – the blog that is, not the house! I would like to revive this writing, and will write regular gardening posts here, as well as give tips about foraging and eating seasonally. I’ll also add recipes that I love. I do think that in these Covid19 days, we need to return to traditional ways of providing our own food wherever we can. I am certainly thinking twice before heading to the supermarket.
This week has been mainly about sowing seeds. Traditionally, peas should be planted on St Patricks Day, but it was far too cold to put them in the ground here in Northumberland, but I’ve put some in seeds trays in the greenhouse. I’m growing two varieties of peas, and two types of mangetout this year. I’ve just finished pruning last year’s summer fruiting raspberry canes, so will use the pruned sticks for pea supports. I’ve tyed the new season’s canes to the chicken wire for support. these are summer fruiting, with the fruit coming on the new growth. Autumn fruiting shold be chopped down as soon as they have fruited.
If you’re thinking that you left it too late to but plant pots or seed trays, try making your own using cartons and pots from the kitchen. I wrote about this on the Bridge Cottage Way blog, in Reducing Plastic Consumption by Making Your Own Plant Pots. There are also plenty of places selling seeds online, so don’t let Covid19 be the excuse for not growing! I went to ebay and found plenty of places sending out seeds.
I’ve put broad beans in the ground this week and have covered them in some black weed suppressant I had lurking in the shed. A black bin liner will do the job too. It’s not really to suppress the weeds, but to keep the frost off and warm up the ground. It’s still cold at night, so beware of setting off anything too delicate. Leave all those tender plant seeds for a bit, like courgettes, runner beans, cucumbers etc, especially if you live in colder climes like me.
Tomato, leek, and chilli seeds can be set away now, along with lettuce, beetroot, chard rocket and spinach. I love beetroot, and so does my mother. My husband says it is the food of the devil, so maybe it is a woman thing? Do you like beetroot?
What’s available right now? You may have seen some wild garlic on your permitted one walk a day, without even realising what it was, and what you can do with it. I wrote about Wild Garlic – Food for Free, the other week. Hugh Fearnley-Whittonstall has given us some recipes for using nettles, and I like to mix wild garlic with nettle tops. We have our own chickens here at Bridge Cottage, and a wild garlic and nettle tortilla or a quiche will be on the table at the weekend.
Rhubarb is ready in the garden too, and I wrote about that a while back in Wrestling Rhubarb. The rhubarb gin recipe is wonderful, although I’m now tee total, so none of that for me! There was a post about rhubarb too on the Bridge Cottage Way blog – It was called, ‘Seasonal Eating – April’ It’s worth a look for some great rhubarb recipes or just to see a fresh young face!!
Many are saying compost in in short supply, and I’ve just had a flashback to me collecting the tops of mole hills from the field where we lived in Upper Weardale many moons ago! This is a time to make the best of what we have, so be inventive, swop seeds where you can, and give any spare rhubarb you have to your neighbours. Keeping your two-metre distance of course and washing any donations thoroughly.
These are difficult days for us all, but I hope my posts will bring a bit of distraction, and inspiration as we navigate our way through the coronavirus.
Sending love to all from isolation in Northumberland.
Stay safe my friends.