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
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions