A Time for Planning ~ Ray Lovegrove

At this time of year, with the garden under heavy frost, working outside can do more harm than good. The soil can be compressed, plants damaged and any soil that is turned is going to bury the frost and keep your soil colder for longer. I have two ways to cope with the weather.

Planning for the Spring

A cold and sunny day is the perfect time to sit down with a cup of tea and start to plan for the better weather, this not only gets a useful job done, but also lifts the spirits and carries my thoughts away from the short days and coldness. I have a very pictorial mind so plan my planting with the aid of pictures cut from old seed catalogues. Start with the perennial crops; rhubarb, soft fruit, etc. and then plan where your annual crops are going to go. You need to think about where things have been planted in the last three years and try to use some method of crop rotation. Brassicas (cabbage family) in particular need to grow where the soil has not had other related plants growing for two years. Also, some crops like fresh manure being dug in while others prefer soil that was manured a year, or even two years ago. You will need to think about sun and shade, many vegetable crops like full hot sunshine while others prefer life in the shade. If you do use cut out pictures move them around before making your final decision and pasting them on your plan.

When your plan is complete, all you need to do is decide on varieties of seed to sow. I like to save my own seed as far as possible, but still need to buy some supplies. If you are using seeds purchased last year be warned that carrot and parsnip seeds do not keep well and germination is poor with old supplies, best to buy fresh. I live in a cold spot due more to height above sea level than anything else, so much of my sowing has to be done undercover for planting out when the danger of late frost has passed.

Working the Land

If you do want to work on the garden despite the cold, why not cover areas of your plot with tarpaulin or heavy duty polythene? On a cold day, when the sun is shining you can pull back the covering and work on the soil. Make sure that the covering goes on when the soil is not frozen otherwise you will just be keeping the ground cold. Another job for midwinter, is that once you have decided where your brassica are to be planted you can ‘lime’ the soil. That means adding a calcium compound, usually powdered chalk to the soil to reduce acidity and prevent fungal disease. Liming also helps break down heavy clay soils, but be warned, test your soil to find the pH level before you lime; if you have alkaline soil you may not need it.

To find out more about simple growing click here.
If you have no land to grow crops, but still want to produce your own food click here.
For some ideas on cooking what you grow click here.
And to provide some ideas for simple eating click here.

Springing Life - Isaac Penington

"There is a pure seed of life which God hath sown in thee … Oh, wait daily to feel it. Oh, wait to feel the Seed, and the cry of thy soul in the breathing life of the Seed, to its Father … and wait for the risings of the power in thy heart … Be still and quiet, and silent before the Lord, not putting up any request to the Father, nor cherishing any desire in thee, but in the Seed’s lowly nature and purely springing life."

(C) Ray Lovegrove (aka 'Hay Quaker') 2015

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