As the spring gap looms, it makes sense to use as much of last year’s labours as you can. Even though the veg garden is now looking a little empty, it often holds more than you think.
Parsnips are heroic the way they sit in the ground unblemished. They start to shoot now, but there’s no loss of flavour. Louise’ flower borders have some growing perennially as the flower heads are so pretty—perfect for taking seed. When thinning them, the taste of these perennial roots is still good, albeit slightly less tender.
Carrots sown in June and dug mid-February taste much sweeter than ones stored in sacks. After all the holes and nibbles are cut away, that is, the advantage of growing large carrots from an April sowing. This year we are going to grow them under unsightly Veggiemesh to reduce root fly after two years of heavy attack, perhaps because they were growing in a central bed where I kept treading on the foliage.
Chard and spinach beet are productive in the spring gap. As they rise to flower, the smaller leaves are equally good, and you can either leave the crop in place until you have other crops for the space, or try keeping them as perennials. This last method is messy and less productive, as they keep trying to flower and bits of stalk often rot away.
The cabbage family are good friends as many of them sprout. Purple sprouting obviously, but also Brussels and curly kale. After the first pick, more and smaller sprouts appear—pick these while still small until May, even though less bulk, still delicious. Any new leaves on these plants can be cooked too.
Late varieties of leek feed you into May, mainly those with bluish leaves such as Bandit. If its dry, keep them well watered to reduce their urge to flower. Boltingh leek are still edible, although eventually, they get woody, even if you cut the rising flower stem. As with many vegetables, there are permaculturists out there who champion leaving many vegetables as perennial plants and cutting the tender but rather small growth each spring. This can be done with the leek but is less productive.
Spring cauliflowers are looking promising, even though most of ours flowered last autumn, so this year I’ll try sowing in July instead of June. Like most cabbage, they need lots of space. More compact brassicas, rocket and turnip, are picking well at the moment but will look to flower by April, by which time we’ll all be picking asparagus. And why was Cinderella thrown off the football team? Because she kept missing the Ball.
What to sow this month
Broad beans, early and 2nd early potatoes, radish and peas. Our peas will be sown indoors to get round our mouse problem. True spinach, lettuce, summer cabbage and beetroot germinate well under fleece or in a greenhouse but are easier to establish in April. If you feel lucky, you can try sowing carrots this month, too.