Sunflowers!

Sunflowers!

28-03-2021Sebastião Moreira - EFE - EFE

Well, did you put your clock forward last night or have you yet to be reminded? Now we have to readjust our days to the new daylight hours but nobody tells the garden to think differently, it just follows the sun as it has always done.

This is where gardening in Mallorca differs from that of more northern gardens. When we have warm sunny days, they are almost as warm as a full summer’s day in other climates.

I can boast of already having dug a good crop of new potatoes and of picking my first broad beans with masses more flower on each stem already maturing into healthy beans.

This is one seasonal vegetable I have learnt to harvest and cook differently since I started gardening here.

Before, I had always removed the beans from the pod but early, very tender broad beans are eaten pod and all as we eat a runner bean, there is always something new to learn no matter what age we are.

Potatoes in Majorca

Seeds that I have encouraged you to plant over the past weeks are already showing healthy seedlings, some may even be ready to transplant.

I admit that I get on better with seeds that are a littler larger and can be handled one by one; those seeds that are as small as a grain of sand certainly take careful handling.

The bright green bed of tiny new seedlings need to each have at least a couple of double pairs of leaves before even trying to transplant them.

At this stage they will need potting up in individual pots and still kept under cover for several weeks until the spring weather is really settled.

Although I have just mentioned warm sunny days, believe it or not we may well have heavy rain, hailstorms and I have even seen snow during this coming month; yes, the weather can be full of surprises.

One of my daughters was born in April and many of her early birthday parties were to be a treasure hunt or some such around the garden.

One never forgets a houseful of little girls all prepared for this garden treasure hunt that had to be held indoors instead of outside because of snow.

Back to gardening!

A gain referring to seeds: this time the larger seeds such as sunflower seeds. Here I do some recycling as well. We save the inner cardboard tubes of toilet rolls.

These filled with good potting soil or compost and stood in a shallow tray to keep them upright are perfect little individual plant pots for one or two seeds.

These sunflower seeds germinate in a matter of days and there they can stand until we feel we want to plant them out into the garden.

Now here is the best part, leave each little sunflower plant in its carton sheath and plant it just as it is.

The cardboard will just rot away in the ground, the roots will grow downwards or some of them will even force their way through the wet and rotting cardboard and never suffer the trauma of having been transplanted. Tomatoes can be planted this way as well.

I have a row of plant pots in the sunny south-facing dining-room window that are already waist high, full of flower and even a few little tomatoes forming. Again, I repeat, don’t be in too much of a hurry until the weather is settled before moving any pots out into the garden.

Like many of us, I am seriously into recycling or not using plastic if it can be avoided; unfortunately there are many items that always come served in plastic trays.

The little punnet of strawberries is one such, but this is just right for packing the toilet rolls in to keep them upright with sunflower seeds.

Some flat meat trays do well as seed trays or even just as drip trays under plant pots. We still can’t get completely away from plastic no matter how we try.

Now to answer a further note from our correspondent Jill Carter. She has kindly sent a photo of her string of plant pots and it really looks as if it works to keep them tidy; thank you Jill for that tip.

String of plant pots

Next she questions the keeping of daffodil bulbs mentioned last week, or any other bulbs for that matter. How and where does one keep them?

I am a great believer in the open mesh bags that potatoes and onions or the like are bought in. After drying the bulb and rubbing off the soil they can be put into this open weave bag which will allow the air to circulate; even better if it can be hung up.

I use this same type of little open weave sack to dry the sage in when I want dry sage to make sage and onion stuffing or that little taste of sage in sausage meat to make sausage rolls. Pick off as much sage as you want, pop it into the sack and hang up in the fresh air.

The leaves will turn very dark, almost black when they are really dry. Rub the dried leaves off their thick woody stems and pop them into a coffee grinder or such until they are just a fine powder looking almost like pepper.

Store in a screw-topped jar and there you will always have sage on hand in the kitchen. It lasts for ages prepared this way and has the more traditional sage flavour than the fresh leaves.

Here again I am wandering into Andrew Valente’s kitchen department, but I suppose the two do go together.

Top tips

Seeds that I have encouraged you to plant over the past weeks are already showing healthy seedlings, some may even be ready to transplant.

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