God how long is winter going to last? Hobbling out of my sick cavebed (chest infection) I’ve finally summoned the strength to get up and out, pretending that a few brief rays of sun amongst sheets of rain counts as a beginning to the season. But things are picking up, just look at the lengthening of daylight and thus the increase in light. Of course, in the UK winter really starts about now with inch thick frost on the car windscreen and the odd day of snow to look forward to in late Feb and March. So I am guilty again of optimism.
But the weather is mild, apart from the huge amount of rain, and things that I have optimistically sown – such as peas – are germinating and, with judicious use of cloches, they are going to survive into spring. I know this because southern england is not sweden. It’s not all good news, though, because we optimistically call March spring which it isn’t really. You’d guess from the back of seed packets that this was so. The beginning of April is the beginning of spring for veg gardeners, for all intents and purposes, and that means they need to hold on another month and a half.
Other things that need to hold on til spring include my blue basil (see previous post) and chilli plants. There’s no doubt the mild winter has helped these quite tender plants survive in pots indoors. Previous attempts to keep the African Blue Basil have failed and – I hope I’m not cursing this – it seems to be doing OK. Once we have reached April I will breath easy, but of course it still can’t go out until June, being the sort of summer plant you would associate with beans, courgettes and tomatoes. The Blue Basil is a perennial as opposed to an annual like the ordinary “pesto” basil, which means it gets quite bushy, woody but nonetheless quite productive and very ornamental. If I can get the technique of overwintering it right it will make a really good arrow in the sustainable vegetable gardening quiver.
It’s too early to say whether or not I am succeeding with this – I need a bad winter too to test this – but something that occurs to me is that you could overwinter one plant in a pot indoors and take cuttings as spring approaches making lots of basil plants ready for going out late spring, early summer.
My scorzonera plant that I dug up to eat, and that I also divided to replant, are now putting on growth. I took the parts and replanted in small pots (six of them) and kept them in a sheltered position outdoors. This is also good news and I am chuffed.
I am going to do this with beets which, unlike scorzonera which are perennial, are biennial so I don’t know whether it will work. Only one way to find out.
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