We're in early August and it's natural to think the show is over. Come on! We've all seen summer this year and it has been week after week of cool, damp and brief moments of sun. Yes, those bloody, lousy weather people kept luring us in with promises of heat from Spain but warm winds we have not had. We have had wind and the feeling that our legs are bowing due to lack of vitamin D. Now as teenagers we may have hated the sun, Andrew was a Goth (well, a whimsical Goth who kind of didn't really like much of the music beyond The Cure and a smattering of Bauhaus) so most of these years were handed over to wearing black (he still wears black but cites Johnny Cash as more of an influence nowadays) and that's just too hot to be in the sun in. Carol likewise gave herself over to the counter culture movement of the nineties, which involved long skirts, more black, some beads and silly, silly floppy hats. That means we lost seven years of great Vitamin D and now we're in our forties we want sun! However, terrible fashions and weather later, we are stood on a recent bed we have cleared below the glasshouse with a tray of lettuce grown for us by Carol's Dad, and some seed for sowing, we have some chard (it may be a little late but we're optimistic the weather broadcasters may have got it right and we will have an Indian summer), some turnips (see the audio below on that) and some spring cabbage for greens over winter and cabbage come next spring.
Sowing seed direct is easier than dancing to Goth music, try it without looking like your lost on the moor with Kate Bush. We use a long board that is around 4-5 feet (1.5 meters) long and that makes the length of our rows. The board is approximately 6 inches wide (15 centimeters). You need to know this as it will help with correct spacing between rows. For example, lettuce can be place around 6 inches (15 centimeters) apart but cabbage needs a full foot (30 centimeters - by the way these are all approximate when we go into metric, we're imperial kinds of kids and when someone tells us what we weigh in kilograms it seems devoid of any romance or the ability to lie to yourself that your clothes must weigh a few pounds).
We've gone over this soil before planting with a rake and hoe (to catch any weeds germinated). We place the board down on the soil and with our fingers draw out a drill (a tiny ditch for faeries) along the length of the board. In the images we have chard ready for sowing, and chard is one of those seeds that is incredibly easy to sow and pointless to save from season to season, it doesn't store well. Also, you can tell your child that the chard is dried fairy snot, hours of laughter from the plot. We realise that this post may be somewhat biased towards faeries, we'd like to point out that we have nothing against these mythical creatures, they're just little thieving carrot bastards. Or, that is what Little D has lead us to believe about our missing carrots (we'd like to point out here that Little D will regularly eat boiled carrots on a sandwich; we know, it makes us gag too). Anyway, back to dried fairy snot...chard! Chard, is a great seed to sow direct because, (1) you can see it, and; (2) you can see it. Trust us, try sowing celery direct, puff and the whole lot has vanished. Trolls are to blame for that one.
Anyway, in your drill (no we have not set up a small sign saying 'faeries working' by it) thinly sow the seed. You can see what 'thinly' means in the image below.
It simply means take a pinch and gently scatter along the drill. This means you have to keep your hand moving or else if you don't you will be seed dumping, and that is a whole different way of sowing. Then if you are sowing chard or lettuce, pinch the sides of the drill together, you may want to sing about faeries then or maybe you want to whistle Bela Lugosi's Dead, Andrew has been caught singing that but also some rather dubious lyrics from Carter USM. If you don't know what USM is, well we can't say here because frankly you'd get the wrong idea. So, hello, good evening and welcome, to nothing much but the sowing of seed, talk of faeries and a lapsed Robert Smith wannabe. This is what a lack of vitamin D does to you. Anyway, after pinching the drill together, flip the board over and you will have a nice 6 inch (15 centimeter) gap between rows. Don't forget to label the row you have just done.
Keep going down the bed, always work backwards towards a path because if you don't the bears will get you. No! That's not true, it's orcs, possibly trolls or an annoyed neighbour who can't stand your singing. We can't vouch on any of these but it is good working practice because it's the same principal as varnishing a floor, you move towards an exit and don't box yourself into a corner to be found six hours later sobbing into your brush.
By the time you have reached the path you will have several rows sowed, be safe from the grips of randy trolls and would have done a good job. So below we have a row of lettuce already at plug plant stage, another row sown to succeed them and then two rows of chard, three of turnips and three of cabbage. It didn't take long and these crops will give us some late summer goodies in the shape of the lettuce. The chard will grow hopefully through to autumn, and the turnips will carry us through winter and the greens will fill our plates on Christmas Day (sorry, it's all that fairy talk) and provide us with cabbages in spring.
The great thing about sowing now is that you will miss the worst of the bugs flapping around trying to find something to lay its eggs on. Know your enemy and you can sow without the fear of finding all your seedlings munched by slugs or orcs or the occasional irate troll being tied down by violent faeries. We're off to lie down in a dark room, you can do this too and listen to the dulcet tones of Andrew in this podcast, taking you through the sowing of turnips. For those of you who have eaten shop bought turnips, they don't compare as the homegrown stuff is full of fairy dust.*
* Life on Pig Row would like to point out that their turnips are not full of fairy dust, or any other type of dust. Any dust found on your own crops are the result of a flour factory exploding due to relentless attacks by orcs from Middle Earth. Life on Pig Row is not responsible for the distribution of magic dust or faeries. Any mention of magical creatures is done so under duress due to a lack of summer!