February Newsletter 2010

I can’t believe it is February already - only seven weeks until our first shows of the season.

As everyone knows this winter has been particularly cold. We have been sowing seeds since December and germinating them on heat benches. Some have been potted and kept in the warm for February sales but now the others are going out into the unheated tunnels. These are things like thyme, oregano, parsley, salad leaves – all plants that are frost hardy. They won’t put on much growth until the weather improves and the daylight hours get a bit longer. Herbs that we don’t grow from seed are taken as cuttings - mint, tarragon, savory and curry plant being among them. These are cut back and brought in to the heat over the winter so they put on a fresh flush of new growth, ideal for taking cuttings from.
 

Seedlings

The snow sitting on the top of the polytunnels can be a bit of a problem when it sits there for a long period of time. It drastically reduces the amount of light reaching the plants inside. When it starts to melt, great swathes slide off making snow drifts along the sides for a while. The plants outside don’t seem to mind, in fact the garlic could be seen poking their leaf tips out above the snow however deep it seemed to get.


Herbs in Polytunnel

The seeds that were sown outside in the autumn are beginning to germinate. These are herbs like sweet cicely that require a period of vernalisation (cold temperatures). A lot of the wild plants we grow benefit from this method too. They all need to be sown in something fairly substantial, initially to stop them being blown away by the strong winds and also to keep them fairly dog proof. We have had instances of excited canines (mine, unfortunately) having a great time digging in containers filled with compost.


Garlic, Rosemary, Thyme & Bay

Working outside at this time of year means I enjoy proper winter warming dinners. This is when some of those hardy outdoor evergreen herbs come in useful; plants such as sage, thyme, rosemary and bay. One of my favourite recipes is pork chops cooked in cider. This can be left in the oven to cook all day at a low temperature. Add chopped onions, a large sliced cooking apple, garlic, rosemary, thyme and bay. A dry cider is best. Make sure you completely cover the pork and season with salt and pepper. Just before serving, add a tablespoon of cream or crème fraiche.

Have a great February,

Lorraine.