Problemo. My lettuces aren’t doing at all well. They got off to a cracking start in the seed tray. I enthusiastically put 30 out into a section of the raised beds, but all except 1 shrivelled up. I put some more out but am down to just 4. They seem to be holding their own for the time being.

Worried that our homemade compost in the raised beds, a potent mixture of llama, alpaca, chicken and guinea pig poop together with straw and the contents of the wormery, was too strong for immature root systems, I transplanted the next batch of seedlings into small pots of sterilised shop compost. But the minute I turned my back, they fell on their swords. I removed the first sad set of little corpses and tried again, but clearly these guys have a suicide pact going. They can’t wait to die.

I have a few seedlings left which I’ll leave where they are for now in the hope that I can solve this languishing lettuce problem.

As for the miserable mâche, those seeds have only just begun to germinate. They went in at the same time as the lettuces and generally mâche can’t wait to get going. The odd thing is that I know the seeds I began back in mild January got off their marks rapidly and were doing well before minus 20 hit and froze them all solid.

However, the radishes, cosmos, cucumbers and cornichons are thriving, the tomatoes have condescended to show a few shoots, and two pumpkins have burst into life. The potatoes are sprouting leaves so generally all is well in the polytunnel. We were puzzled by half a dozen mystery plants, all the same species, that appeared in the raised bed. Rors investigted and has discovered that they are baby honey (or possibly black) locusts trees, whose seeds I collected from nearby Benj’s hall of residence in Limoges.

I’ve planted a row of Manon potatoes (great for chips) this afternoon out in the potager, and also sown a square metre of flax. Why? Well, you can get a free packet of flax seeds from this site here in return for two stamps.  Mine duly arrived in the post, last year or possibly the year before, and at last I’ve got round to planting them, just to see what happens really. However, since 1 hectare of lin can produce 800 shirts, 1500  blouses, 500 skirts, 100 sheets, 100 table cloths or 100 curtains, then with one ten-thousandth of that (1 hectare = 10,000 square metres) I could conceivably make a handkerchief. (One hectare of flax can also be used to make 1000 car door panels, using the short fibres of the plant, and it would also produce 300 square metres of straw for animals. I’ll be getting a  few handfuls for the guinea pigs out of my little patch.)

Flax, which has been cultivated for 12,000 years, is grown in many countries, but 80% of the European total comes from France, predominantly the north. The regions of Picardie, Nord-Pas de Calais, Haute et Basse Normandie and the Ile de France provide the perfect growing conditions.

If only the same were true for lettuces in my polytunnel …