Parsnips, Poo, and Frost

January can be pretty brutal when it wants to be, while at the same time it can be really nice to you. It knows you are not thinking it is the best month as you have come off of all the build up of Christmas and all the things you have been saying “I’ll do that after Christmas” for the last three months no longer have that excuse. It’s dark and so far this year it has been wet and windy, no too cold but just mud and mud and more mud everywhere, drizzle, damp, nasty (and I’ll keep on about it until they do something about it, we are now 20 years overdue the arrival of robots and flying cars!).

Then, on the opposite side, January knows it can be nice if it wants to be and offers up crisp cold days, but days with bright sun and blue sky which makes the coldness inviting and encouraging…. I shall mark today as the first nice day of 2020, January weather-wise.

Nice, but a frost was there before the sun got high. Not a hard frost in any sense, but the first one for a very long time. It is so rare that I no longer equip the car with ‘de-icing equipment’ (an old credit card maybe) and so I had to improvise this morning before I could drive up to the plot. With the littlest of sun, when it arrived, the frost had gone, but at the plot there were still small pockets before the site was bathed in low winter sun.

The plan for the day was to dig up the remaining parsnips and take home a load of sprouts. I also had the bags of mushroom compost I had collected the other week to spread on top of empty beds too. I was soon reminded that on my last visit I had transplanted broad bean plants and covered them in bottles to keep the mice off. These replaced ones direct shown the other month that had not survived the mice. These new ones were all still there and out growing their small plastic bottle cloches. I uncovered them all and tied them up to sticks to stop them flopping about too much in the wind.

It was at this point I noticed the three garlic cloves from last year that I put in the ground the other week having found them sprouting in in the cupboard had all started to show. One of them was looking a bit deformed but I expect it will outgrow that and be ok. They all seemed quite a lot stronger looking than the others, probably because they started life in the cupboard, in the dark.

I was well aware that the remaining parsnips in the ground would probably cope better now if they were pulled up before they got too eaten and/or woody. It had been hard to find them previously, but since the foliage had died back before Christmas, it had started to grow back (another sign they needed digging up maybe). A reasonable mix, all showing possible signs of when I transplanted them as small seedlings, next year I’ll do a bit of direct sow and a bit of transplanting. Either way, our first go at parsnips and a success, I don’t know why I had been put of growing them for so long before.

Seeing the parsnips, I am aware that the sprouts would probably want to be all picked by the middle of next month. I worried I had not planted enough plants, but with only two of us liking sprouts they we have more than we can eat. I picked all off of one plant which leaves three plants left with good sprouts on. It allowed me to tidy up a bit, removing the netting and raking over the soil a bit to prep it ready for replanting later on in the year.

The last bit then was using the mushroom compost I picked up the other week to cover where the parsnips had been. Last year I had a lot of free manure but I felt it had too much wood shavings in it and so have not gone back there. However, with the mushroom compost supply potentially no longer there, I may be on a hunt for somewhere else (cheap). I might be ok for this year, but I do like the “no-dig” way of covering everything and planting into it. If I plan now, I have time to collect and leave it to rot down before I need it again in the year’s time.

It seemed quite a lot to bring home:

  • parsnips
  • leeks
  • sprouts
  • swede
  • kale
  • chard

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