Pampered parsnips (431)

by Max Akroyd

The forecast may be wild but the weather hasn’t read it yet and is grey and docile. A perfect opportunity to get the parsnips planted. I say planted rather than sown because the seeds have already germinated on damp kitchen roll, each sending out a fragile white root.

Placing them carefully in the trench was a job for fingers a lot less clumsy than mine. After raking the soil out, forming the drills and making a spacing stick out of a hazel twig, I could stand back and watch our nine year old dexterously plant the chitted seeds…


First rule of gardening, son: get your rows straight!

I then followed him down the row and gently placed a small handful of seed compost on top of each seed. And thus about 80 parsnips are as good as in the bag – or should be if there’s any gardening justice (there isn’t). One day my soil will be in such good shape the seeds will sow themselves – but today is not that day!

After freeing son no. 1 from his ball and chain, my daughter appeared looking for gainful employment – at least that’s how I interpreted her relaxed Easter holiday demeanour. Fortunately she was just the right size and shape to put on top of each wheelbarrow full of straw, thus ensuring that none of the dozen loads or so fell off before they reached the hen house.


Mowing season proper has arrived. I mowed the paths around the Allotment area and – instead of the odourless, dry relics of last year – the mower box was full of thick, sweet-smelling new growth. This means about an hour per dry day on average devoted to this activity until November.

A bit daunting, but the product of grass cuttings is a welcome addition to the pigs’ diet, to the trenches into which a lot of my crops get planted and to the surface of the raised beds as a mulch between plants. Today’s quota got tipped over the lazy beds: potato planting is going to be a big feature of the next fortnight. Chitting the seed potatoes can substitute for progress in the ground until the end of March, but now they need soil.

Before the school run there was just time to pot on some collards and to sow some brussels sprouts. There can’t have been many parents at the school gate who could claim that this afternoon – or would want to!

A rather paltry list of March sowings has finally appeared here.