Urban gardener: Ready, steady, sow

A couple of weeks ago, some friends who have taken on an allotment in nearby Tolworth in Surrey, proudly showed me their French beans that had germinated on the windowsill.

"A bit early for that isn't it?" I said thoughtlessly deflating the overwhelming sense of pride as the lank seedlings, looking like a group of bleary-eyed, anorexic models on an early morning shoot, were fanfared into the room. Mercilessly, I twisted the knife, "You're at least two months early. In fact, we probably won't plant ours until June."

I remember those virgin steps well. Taking on our plot for the first time we planted everything we could get hold of and filled every available surface at home with trays of seedlings destined for nothing more than a protracted death at the hands of inclement weather or waking slugs. It was a complete disaster and we very nearly gave up. Eight seasons later and, while we are still very much beginners in the eyes of seasoned allotment stalwarts, experience has helped us quell the rising panic that there isn't the time to keep on top of all the tasks associated with the vegetable garden at this time of year while holding down a day job.

Climate change has done much to fuel the alarming pace at which things happen from now on, so you have to keep your nerve, accept your time restraints and do things when convenient rather than when the books tell you. We generally sow our seeds a bit later than usual when the soil is warmer, germination quicker and the initial feeding frenzy from slugs has abated or at least divided among plenty of other emerging plants. But with Chelsea nipping our heels and effectively wiping the month of May from our calendar some organisation will be necessary if we're going to get any produce from our plot this season.

Last year we gardened using the lunar calendar which, whether you believe in it or not, can help maintain a semblance of order. The theory of gravitational forces affecting growth seems plausible enough, the waxing moon drawing up moisture and benefiting leaf growth, the waning moon concentrating forces below ground and boosting root growth. I can't say if there was any improvement in the quality of produce but the practice of dividing vegetables into separate categories (leaf, flower, fruit, root) and dealing with just one category on any given day did help to plan sessions of seed sowing, pricking out and harvesting in a state of dignified calm.

I've only just ordered my new calendar ( www.lunarorganics.com) and did mean to wait until it arrived before planting anything but was unable to resist a period of settled weather at the beginning of this month in which to plant our first early potatoes ('Rocket'). I also sowed parsnip, carrot and onion seeds. The onions will be OK but there's more chance of Brentford FC getting automatic promotion this year than this first batch of parsnips and carrots surviving the initial wave of slug attack. The thing is, it was old seed, although not past its sell-by date, and the creased packet had a sort of ambivalence about it, shrugging its shoulders as if to say "Oh well, cheerio" before going over the top. Feeling good about planting seed knowing that you're potentially sending it to its doom is, I admit, slightly perverse. But sowing seed in open ground is a potent affirmation of the start of a new season. If they have to be sown again and again, so be it.

This weekend, weather permitting, will be busy. Lettuce that I'd sown late autumn and over-wintered in the greenhouse is already cropping so more will be sown along with other salads. Beetroot and leeks will be sown under cover (beetroot in plugs, leeks in a wide deep pot), and transplanted when they reach a decent size. Outside onion sets might go in and I may also follow a friend's lead and sow some carrots in large containers on shelving where not only slugs but carrot fly can't do any harm. It's not really the same. Pulling a carrot from the ground has a better feel to it than emptying it out of a pot but if the ones in open ground don't make it then second best is better than nothing.

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Suggested Topics
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Developer - HTML, CSS, Javascript

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Application Developer - ...

Ashdown Group: B2B Marketing Manager - Events, Digital, Offline

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: B2B Marketing Manager (Events, Digit...

Guru Careers: Senior Account Manager / SAM

£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: A Senior Account Manager / SAM is needed to join the ...

Day In a Page

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
Season's finale brings the end of an era for top coaches and players across the continent

The end of an era across the continent

It's time to say farewell to Klopp, Clement, Casillas and Xavi this weekend as they move on to pastures new, reports Pete Jenson
Bin Laden documents released: Papers reveal his obsession with attacking the US and how his failure to keep up with modern jihad led to Isis

'Focus on killing American people'

Released Bin Laden documents reveal obsession with attacking United States
Life hacks: The innovations of volunteers and medical workers are helping Medécins Sans Frontières save people around the world

Medécins Sans Frontières's life hacks

The innovations of volunteers and medical workers around the world are helping the charity save people
Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?

Same-sex marriage

As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?
The underworld is going freelance: Why The Godfather's Mafia model is no longer viable

The Mafia is going freelance

Why the underworld model depicted in The Godfather is no longer viable