Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Of shallots and snow

Plant shallots on the shortest day and harvest on the longest.

I say this often but one of the things I have to learn about gardening in this dramatically different climate is the timing of planting and sowing things, with the lower light levels than those I'm accustomed to. One of the ways I have done this is to listen to the old-timers, and read old gardening manuals to see what the old traditions are, all the while thinking about how my year-round gardening knowledge can stretch those boundaries (Ironically, I'm also thinking about Australian gardening as I advise my English partner's daughter on her first vegetable Australia). One of those old adages is that above, plant your shallot on the shortest day and harvest on the longest.

I'd saved shallots from last year's garden to replant but when I went to get them I noticed that the aphids had given them a good going-over in the mild autumn. So I'd ordered back-ups and they arrived on the solstice. Perfect. Except...

Although we didn't get our first proper frost until the 16th of December that was followed by a blizzard and we've had snow on the ground ever since. The allotment is currently under 4 inches of snow, which makes me pleased I fleeced the pak choi before it came down.

There's another old adage about planting your onion seeds and shallot bulbs on Christmas day, which always comes with a rider that it never happens because there's too much going on. I've evaded several invitations to enjoy a quiet Christmas at home on my own, so if this snow melts by then I may give that a go.

While down at the allotment I spotted these:

I thought they may be deer as that fence sits between my allotment and a horse paddock, and the horse fence didn't appear to stop the tracks at all. But deer don't have tri-lobed tracks, and these are huge:

Admittedly I have very small hands, but that's almost as large as my glove. I can see a book on identifying mammal track in the UK in my near future. I'd like to know what's visiting the allotment.

It's definitely vegetarian, whatever it is. This is a broccoli plant which has been happily nibbled.