In the polytunnel, and some chitting (557)

by Max Akroyd

The weather looked like it was set in for the forecast two days of rain. (In fact, by lunchtime it was bright enough to let the hens out without fear of hypothermia). I decided to reunite my efforts with the polytunnel.

My pride and joy, sort of...

This thing of beauty (to my eyes) arrived relatively late last season. Too late, it turned out, for the hastily transplanted tomatoes which managed to form some fruit but succumbed to the dreaded blight before we could salvage any for ourselves. This disappointment led me to prioritise other things since then, a vague idea in my mind that getting the polytunnel in order was ideal rainy week, autumn fare… Except, the rain never came in a big way and here we are, less than fifty days from tomato sowing time and the polytunnel is nowhere near ready. Suitably concerned, I set about straightening and expanding the beds which I’d knocked together late last season. In contrast to the general squelchiness outside, in the polytunnel the soil was hard as iron.                                                                                                                                                                                                           

All the while, in the adjacent enclosure, the older of our two goats was standing outside in the rain baa-ing plaintively. She’s in season and calling for billy.


In gardening terms, autumn seems to exist to enable preparation for spring. I’ve been thinking a lot about the sowing regime to come and referencing Steve Solomon’s “Gardening in Hard Times”. Solomon is the closest I’ve found to a gardening guru (unlike – say – Monty Don who just looks like one). He’s worth quoting on sowing matters:

“If your food gardening is a little more than a backyard hobby, an amusement, an entertainment that leads to a random mix of positive outcomes and disappointments, then getting great seeds and seedlings is of little consequence. But for me gardening has never been a minor affair. It is life itself. It is independence. It is health for my family. And for people going through hard times, a thriving veggie garden can be the difference between painful poverty and a much more pleasant existence.”

I’ve landed myself in the latter category and sowing seeds has taken on a more serious aspect. So this afternoon I devised a system for chitting/germinating/checking the viability of my seeds.

Seeds set out for chitting.

It’s just a nifty sectional box I bought ages ago and never had a use for, with damp paper placed in the different sections. Once ‘sown’, the seeds under review will be left for a few days to sprout. If they don’t, they’ll get slung out and I’ll have saved myself the bother and expense of sowing them into seed compost. If the bigger seeds sprout I’ll pick them out with tweezers and replant them into pots, or wherever. The idea being to get from seed to food with minimum of cost in between.