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February and wanting to grow

I wonder if anyone else is getting that urge? That urge to sow seeds? Some of us who love pottering and growing fruit and vegetables are just about to see the pay off of scanning seed catalogues and poking soil.

Does anyone else go round in circles with an inner dialogue, at this time of the year? I know I have to sow seeds. I know I have plenty of small plants. I know I have land and improved soil. I know some seeds and plants should be in the ground. But where would be best? Is it too soon to put out fledgling courgettes? Will they be too cold at night? Shall I take cuttings from some of the herbs that are shooting up?
Oh no, should I weed the onions first? No, focus, I should be sowing seeds.

I did accomplish something yesterday. I now have a tray of rosemary cuttings, taken from a large rosemary bush that received a fairly heavy hair cut. Some may live. Next to them are cuttings from a variegated vine. I hope they will sprout. Either way, I will keep planting and sowing.

Rosemary and Vine cutting
Rosemary and Vine cutting

The tomatoes are thriving in the greenhouse.

The leeks and onion beds have been weeded.

We have planted more cabbages, and we took a risk with planting out some courgettes.

But it is the seeds that fascinate me. Not being able to get a vast range of seeds and vegetable varieties in Portugal, I usually come back from the UK with a few packets purchased. Most attempts at sowing are fabulously successful. In 2014, we grew round lemon cucumbers and very small green melon cucumbers. We grew about eight varieties of tomatoes. We grew pumpkins and parsley. In fact, anything that looked like we might want to eat it, we have tried to grow.


We are now coming to the end of the rich, juicy, multi-coloured tomato sauces that pack our freezer. The pumpkin soup and the spinach soup is now at an end. Four types of spinach were sown yesterday and in a few weeks, rich green, aromatic, creamy spinach soup, possibly helped along by some carrots, will pack one part of the freezer.
We grow numerous varieties of lettuce or alface as it is called in Portuguese. We have a covered tunnel so can keep some varieties going all year round. Of course, when the days are so hot, watering can feel too much of a trial. In August, they may be sleepily forgotten, as wandering down to water gagging lettuce, becomes unimportant.

Right now, we have a tree heavy with kumquats and a box of oranges just outside the back door. I have already made 15 jars of satsuma marmalade, which I do not eat. They do get passed on to an assortment of people who call in. No complaints yet.

I have discovered that the seeds I sowed directly into the ground in January are now surfacing. Unfortunately, the labels identifying the rows of seeds have blown away, or the words have washed away. I seem to have a problem with labelling. It is a resistance. Do I have to, resistance. The important thing at the time seems to be sowing. It is something to be overcome or perhaps just accepted. It is not the first year this has happened.

Turnips and Cabbage
Turnips and Cabbage

I now try to think of it as part of the joy of growing vegetables as you age. I cannot remember what I planted and therefore with no labels, every day is a surprise.

I sit here today in late February with an exercise book. I start one each year, proudly dated. This year 2015, I will begin again to note down what I have sown in which tray and I even manage little drawings so I know exactly where they sit on my potting counter. I know that come the end of March, the book will be abandoned or lost, and I will again have no clue as to what I have potted on.

More surprises, but at least as they grow the identification becomes easier.

Soon I will no doubt start worrying about what will happen to the plants during our trip to the Hay Festival in May. But that will solve itself with extra help being called in to look after the trees and vegetables. Is it worth it? Yes! Knowing  that growers have tried with this land for centuries is a comfort. It also creates a desire for continuity.

These are both the joys and traumas of a grower on a windy hill in Portugal.

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