February sowing in the garden and cloches…

We’ve had some glorious weather here in the UK, sunny and warm and perfect for pottering in the garden and despite my sewing commitments I couldn’t resist some time outside preparing the raised beds for this year’s planting.  The beds are in pretty good shape, the boards, in places, are coming away from their posts (they are 5 years old now) although the wood itself is still sound.  In most cases all I had to do was remove some weeds and rake over the tops, we do still suffer quite badly from weeds in general in the garden but when you consider it’s 25 year neglect before it became ours and my sometimes erratic gardening time I think it’s to be expected. There are less each year and I am finally getting on top of the brambles and creeping buttercup that weave their way around the paths and appear in every nook and crevice.

Note the chocolate around the mouth, the PJ's and cat....love my boys 😉

I have mentioned before that I’ve given the boys a bed to share this year so we kicked off the planting outside here.  I might have liked to wait a few more weeks, this warm spell could well turn cold, but they can’t wait, apparently.

I’ve had plastic covering their bed, warming the soil and under a cloche we have planted some carrot seeds, a mix of:

Early Nantes

Atomic Red

Purple Haze

both the red and purple variety are new for us but the boys were very keen on the idea of red carrots.

They’ve also put a row of spring onions ‘North Holland Blood Red’ and radish (a mix of ‘Sparkler’,Cherry Bell’and ‘French Breakfast’) on either side of the carrots. I plan to remove the cloche and replace it with an old cloche frame covered in enviromesh when the weather warms up to keep the carrot root fly off, last year’s planting in large pots worked really well as apparently they can’t fly above about 60cm/2ft and the buckets are much higher than that, but I think I’ll be keeping these for growing squash crops this year.

Whilst on the subject of cloches I bought another 2 of the Haxnicks versions (available in many on-line shops), as above (the photo is from a few years ago), once made up they have proved to be the best in the garden……the problem is making them up.  I imagine if there are two of you it’s fine but if it’s just me and two little boys (M is away working at the mo) it’s the kind of job that can make a grown women cry.  I very nearly did.

They arrive in ‘flat pack’ form and need to be assembled, the plastic arrives rolled, in fact it has such a tight roll that prising it open to get it into the narrow groove of the metal on the sides (where you have to screw firmly into place) is incredibly difficult, the slightest movement and it springs out and curls back up, attempting to remove your arm in the process.  It didn’t help that the boys abandoned me two minutes in when I shouted rather urgently – can you pass me the screwdriver please boys….the screwdriver….yes, the thing with the black handle….JUST PASS IT PLEASE…PUT THE PLAYMOBIL DOWN AND QUICKLY PASS THE SCREWDRIVER!!!  – at which point they ignored me and went to watch cbeebies, wise move, and my hand was nearly ripped off by curling plastic.  My only other criticism is they don’t stack which makes storing them over winter quite difficult.

The other long cloche that I use are the ones above with corrugated plastic which are also widely available (sorry, I’m not sure who makes them).  The problems here are that once the side pieces fall out (which happens to me all the time) it’s almost impossible to get them back in.  These pieces have to go under the edges of the ridged plastic, which is a very tight fit (in order to stay in place I assume) but it means mostly removing the whole lot and putting it all back in again, hence all of mine in the garden now being open at the sides.  It’s also fractionally harder to clean because of the ridges than the Haxnicks version and they don’t have a middle handle so I find them difficult to lift by myself without stepping on my raised bed.

In addition to the long cloches I have quite a few of the plastic bell cloches also shown above, also from Haxnicks.  The largest size have been a great investment, still in really good condition many years on and nicely heavy so you don’t have to pin them down in windy weather, sadly the slightly smaller lighter plastic ones are often used by the boys as space helmets and many have cracked.  I’ve ordered a couple of metal ‘tent’ frames with both plastic and mesh covers so it will be interesting to see how good they are, more in that when they arrive.

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