Direct sowing (38 weeks to go)

by Max Akroyd

Yesterday I sowed lots of spinach and even more cima di rapa seeds. Directly into the soil. When there’s a perfectly good bin in the corner of the kitchen it seems odd to surrender expensive seeds to the weeds, the slugs and the birds in the open field.

Having looked on in dismay as my mass chicory sowing partied with a host of uninvited guests, my latest organisational obsession concerns determining which vegetables really must go straight to soil and which can be started off inside before suffering the slings and arrows of the outrageous Breton environment.

I suppose with enough patience and money just about anything could be started indoors. I’m usually short of both so I keep trying the direct method, despite results a politician would describe as ‘mixed’. Beetroot direct? There goes a tenner. Carrots direct? They even survived the drought.

For those of us who have flouted the “one year’s weeds, seven years’ seeds” rule direct sowing represents horticultural Russian roulette. This time of year presents a particular temptation to take a shot at it – it certainly helps if you think the annual weeds are in abeyance – even if they aren’t. But will the seedling be distinctive enough? It’s easier to distinguish something beetroot red amidst the engulfing green tide…

Indoor sowings have their drawbacks too. The faff being a big one. The cost of the seed compost is another. And anyway, even if you could transplant a turnip, would you bother? But I conclude that transplanting generally ensures a meal. The stubborn exceptions lurking in the seed box being carrots, radishes, turnips and Witloof chicory.

I can live without turnips…