Sifting the Soil – September 18th

I really must stress at this point that I am no authority on this matter and there is an acknowledged case of trial and error being proudly laid on the table. I’ve grown up to believe that you learn by giving it a go. So, here goes.
With a little research I discovered what can be planted in September. Not a huge amount, but what can be done seems exciting. I’ve hung my hopes on lettuce of all sorts of weird and wonderful varieties. 
An inquisitive Saturday morning, I went to the garden centre and found some good looking bags of mixed seeds, all double-checked to be sowable at this time of year. The first promising to “add oriental flavour to salads”. Sounds good to me. The leaves include Mustard Red Giant, Pak Choi Canton White and Komatsuna Torasan. Komatsuna? Something I should probably be familiar with, but I’m not – in itself a good reason to sow it. I’ve been reliably informed that it’s a mustard spinach that tastes somewhere between spinach, mustard and cabbage. Well, I look forward to tasting it in 25 days time, fingers crossed it gets there.

I also went for a ‘niche mix’. This too has lots of delicious and exciting varieties in it, to name a few leaf radish, leaf carrot and amaranth. It states that it’ll ‘impress dinner guests’ – I’ve seen amaranth strut its stuff atop some very fine haute cuisine, so here’s hoping that my ‘dinner guests’ will be suitably in awe. In another bag and at the other end of the scale I found the good, staple, hardy Arctic King – he definitely gives the impression that he’ll embrace the colder weather. Also in my clutches were spring onion, rocket and a herby leaf seeds.

I eagerly returned home for a bit of nature time, seeds in handbag and compost underarm. Here come the logistics… My garden growing space is small and quite shady, so I’ve narrowed down the prime parts for ultimate growth – bearing in mind some of these creatures need more sunlight than others. First you have to prepare the soil, give it a bit of a mix around, adding the compost . You need to thin the soil out a bit, so it’s nice and fine, advisably using a rake, but lack of rake and small space permitting, bare hands and due attention to detail seem to suffice. I then marked out the correct distance between rows (metrics helpfully supplied on the back of the packet) using wooden skewers and a trusty tape measure.

It then says to sow in a ‘drill’. A drill? A piece of builders’ equipment? Any online dictionary was not helpful with this term. I thought I’d been stumped. Muddling this over in my head, I logged on to a gardening website and it appears that this drill word is simply a pseudonym for your average trench, but really it’s no trench in this case, just a shallow v-shape made in the earth to the required depth in a straight line. Tick. Now to sow the seeds ‘thinly’, just scatter them, imagining how you hope they’ll grow. I added a few extra, most probably for good luck. Cover over lightly with the earth you’ve unturfed and the rest is a waiting game.

At this point I wasn’t quite sated. I’d read that the prime time for garlic planting was in October, but you can have some success planting in September. I had a good healthy looking bulb of garlic in the kitchen and couldn’t resist but try to make it multiply. I worry that the more haste less speed approach would’ve done me good, but I’ll quantify that in six months time. You simply prepare the soil in the same way, dig a ‘drill’ (my new favorite elusive word) about 5cm deep and plant each clove (skin on and the plumper, higher quality the better) pointy end up and about 5cm apart from each other, cover with soil and leave it to do its magic. Now is the time to be patient.

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