The last few weeks have been silent due to unexpectedly long, and quite literal, Christmas break. Unfortunately, whilst away on holiday I slipped on an icy path and broke my arm. So gardening clubs were temporarily suspended and there hasn’t been too much to say. Luckily, it has been a quiet time on the plot and it has at least given me some time to look into seeds to grow that were also grown in the First World War.

A small patch of opened up ground ready for rhubarb to be planted

A new rhubarb patch opened up by Gordon

Gordon, who also volunteers for Digging In, kindly took a break from trench maintenance on Wednesday to open up a new bed for the rhubarb which we are expecting to arrive soon in the post. He’s also taken a look around the plot and reported that the garlic is doing quite well, the onions are doing not quite so well and the strawberries are ‘looking a bit weather beaten but…a few days of dry weather and sunshine should fix them’. A few of the onions could be missing because of the fox who’s been enjoying digging them up!

I have now ordered the seeds but unfortunately was not able to find First World War varieties for Brussel sprouts, broccoli, endives, kale or red cabbages. It may be that some varieties fell out of use or that they have changed name (for example, the Flower of Spring cabbage is now known as Offenham 2) but the name change is not easy to track. Other varieties are not available in the UK but are available in America, however, in small amounts that seemed quite pricey and not in keeping for wartime thriftiness! For other vegetables I managed to find varieties that are mentioned in Walter Brett’s ‘Wartime Gardening’, which was published in 1915.  These are the following:

Cabbage – Flower of Spring (Offenham 2)

Carrots – James Intermediate and Parisian Forcing (now known as Paris Market)

Cauliflower – Snownball

Celeriac – Giant Prague

French beans – Canadian Wonder

Leeks – Lyon

Lettuce – Balloon

Parsnip – Student

Peas – Little Marvel

Radish – French Breakfast

Runner beans – Prizewinner

Turnip – Purple Top Milan

We also have cardoons and Jerusalem artichokes. A potato update will appear in next week’s diary entry!