Beetroot (440)

by Max Akroyd

The time distance between having an idea about in the garden, preparing the soil, and sowing or planting has diminished: from the three month span in winter to approximately three minutes now. Armed with a packet of seeds and an area of weed-free soil all that stands between you and germination is a bit of wintry dithering. It’s time – I tell myself – to just do it.

Suitably resolved, I’m going to work anti-clockwise around all the beds over the next four weeks and make sure they’re either planted, seeded or ready to receive the seedlings from the greenhouse. The first area under inspection is the Kitchen Garden and the morning’s task was to sow the beetroot bed:


Making way for beetroot


I had to clear out some docks I’d missed earlier in the year, but then it was ready for a raking out and the forming of drills with a draw hoe. Half a dozen varieties were then sown, making sure the corky seed didn’t fly away in the wind! As with many other crops, this sowing is a bit experimental: some authorities say that beetroot should only be sown at the end of April. I’ll certainly do a main crop sowing then, but I’m interested to see if the earliest possible sowing will prosper…

To continue the complete departure from my kitchen garden bed plan, the next bed is – I’ve decided on a whim – for parsnips. Traditionally, these are regarded with disdain by the French, but you see them more and more in the supermarkets and I had no problem getting some new seed at the garden centre. (Perhaps in a global economy all tastes will converge in time?) Anyway, I’m not inclined to sow parsnip direct. This year I’ve set them out for pre-germination on wet kitchen roll, for transplanting when they’ve sprouted.


Cauliflowers - ready for netting


With the boars oinking inquisitively at me from their enclosure next door, I set about planting out the October-sown cauliflowers. The varieties are ‘Avalanche’ and ‘All Year Round’. I cut an ‘+’ shape into the plastic mulch and dug a hole deep enough to plant each seedling up to the gunnels. This was the site of last year’s potato bed so I’m hoping the soil will be rich enough and, thanks to the plastic mulch, moist enough for these fussy brassicas. If the row gives us twenty decent cauliflowers the effort will have been worth it.


Time for a coffee


After rounding up an escapee piglet who, assisted by a mischievous goat, had broken into the hen’s enclosure, I set up camp in the greenhouse. There are lots of kales and sprouts that need potting on, a task that will have to resume this evening. My dreams will be cruciferous!