food, growing things

Germination and experimentation

I’ve had better success with carrot germination this year than in previous years, on both allotment and balcony. This might be due to very thick sowing; the rate is still poor, but the actual number is higher. Carrot seed doesn’t last from year to year, so you may as well sow the lot and thin if necessary, especially given the tendency to poor germination. Turnips and parsnips, on the other hand, have been worse than previously. According to the packet, turnips shouldn’t be planted in May (presumably due to pest problems?), but as we’re now into June, I planted another couple of rows this weekend, along with some more carrots and beets.

Another interesting suggestion in the book I mentioned in my last post is to reconsider advised planting times. The author mentions sowing French beans as a late summer catch-crop, sowing brassicas in June or July to avoid pest problems, and sowing carrots in June (advice which I’ve seen before elsewhere). What I’ve mostly taken from this is to experiment. Once the squash have gone out into the space reserved for them, I’m going to start planting other seeds into any spaces I have left, and see how they do. After all, the worst that happens is nothing, right? I should, though, probably keep slightly better records than I have tended to in the past.

Experiments started so far:

  • Late May carrots and beets.
  • Early June turnips, Brussels sprouts, and kale (some under protective hats, some not, mostly because I ran out of protective hats).

Experiments yet to be carried out:

  • June leeks.
  • June mange tout. (I have already planted some on the balcony.)

Last year I conducted some accidental experiments with tomatoes, as my tomato seedlings didn’t get out into their final pots until July. The result: fewer tomatoes, and most of them still green by October when I finally had to take them in. (I did get some very nice green tomato chutney, though). This year, the first seedlings were planted out in early May, and they’re already starting to flower. I’ve also found in the past through experimentation that tomatoes do much better in pots on my south-facing balcony than on the allotment, so the balcony is crammed with them and I’m looking forward to the first eating.

Experimental gardening does invariably involve a few failures, but at the least you wind up better informed about why the usual rules are what they are; and you may get surprisingly positive results. The usual rules are really just guidelines; it’s only practice (and experiment) that gives you information about your space.

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