Year of Grace, Day 83. It’s not too early to think of sowing seeds

Overnight we’ve had a bit of snow and the bare branches look rather festive in their white overgarments. It even looks as though some are in full blossom. But that’s just wishful thinking on my part, as it’s only midwinter, with greater cold still to come in February. And in previous years, Bonn has seen snow as late as mid-May.

Still… I’m already thinking of what veggies I may be able to sow indoors. There’s no point in me growing ordinary vegs that are available in the shops. With limited time, I plan on growing those I cannot buy or that are overpriced and more often of dubious quality.

I’ve just had a look at organic vegetable grower Charles Dowding’s sowing timetable for Somerset, UK, which has its last frost in mid-May and first frost in mid-October. Quite similar to Bonn, in terms of frost dates. However, he puts Somerset at hardiness zone 9 (minimum -1 to -7°C, 20 to 30° F). Bonn is hardiness zone 7, similar to the coldest area noted for the UK — in the middle of Scotland, the Cairngorms — with minimums of  -12 to -18°C or 0 – 10°F. We had a cold snap here in Bonn down to -30°C for a week some years ago but that was unusual.

For the past two years I’ve been sowing outdoors around mid-May, and this year, I’m attempting to begin much earlier indoors to have more established plants to set out once frosts are over.  On my list are peas for shoots; wild Turkish rocket, which has broader leaves than the usual rucola and which are not sold here; and rainbow chard with their brilliant orange, pink, and red stems, which are prohibitively priced in the organic shops. I hope to sow green shiso and mitsuba as well – these two are not commercially available at all. Once I saw green shiso at the Korean food shop on Bonner Talweg, but they never had it again.

Time to check out what seeds I’ve stored in the fridge and what else needs to be bought. I found some green mitsuba seeds and there are purple mitsuba plants overwintering outside (hopefully they and the myoga will survive the winter). So I just need to track down some shiso – both green and purple – seeds.

I haven’t grown peas for shoots ever, and I’m looking forward to adding them to stirfries. How about you? What  unusual crops are you considering this year?

I’m grateful that eventually the sun came out in the afternoon. This morning was too dreary for the birds — they were nowhere to be seen.

Forsythia in snow

Forsythia in snow