The lettuce planted in the greenhouse have done really well over winter and keep us supplied with plenty of leaves for sandwiches. There’s a couple of land cress plants also which are easy to grow and give a bit of variety at this time of year.
With the warmer weather I decided to sow some parsnips (Gladiator), carrots (Sweet Candle, Match, Flyaway, Purple Haze) and some broad beans (Longfellow) direct in the beds. And I also finally got round to planting out a few spring cabbages I had in pots.
The shallots are coming on well – now thinking of keeping them in pots to save space in the beds.
On various windowsills indoors there’s chillies, peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower and potatoes chitting. I’ve just sown another batch of tomatoes and some cabbages.
All in all quite a productive day and long may this warmer weather continue!!
In the previous post I mentioned I’d soaked the carrot box a few times to try and ensure the sand was as compact as possible. At the weekend I had time to core out and fill the holes. This was the first time I’d used this method and fortunately had Darren on hand to give me some pointers and he also did a fair amount of the work as well which meant I was just about finished in time at 6 p.m. on Sunday when darkness fell. Without his help I would have needed another weekend to get the job done! For anyone who has not done this before there’s definitely a knack to it and quite a bit of hard work involved!
I had marked out a grid to get 25 holes in but on reflection this was too many to fit in so I ended up with 20 holes leaving a reasonable amount of space in the centre. Hopefully this will allow enough air circulation around the carrots and allow each one to grow successfully to full size.
Each hole is 3 inches in diameter and 4 foot deep. Gradually the sand is removed using 3 different pipe diameters with the final one being the 3 inch pipe. Then each hole is filled with a mix of Levington’s F2S and calcified seaweed. The filling takes the longest to complete – using a funnel the mix is slowly added ensuring that no sand is knocked into the hole. The mix is “tamped down” after every funnel full using a broom handle that is carefully lowered down the centre, again making sure no sand is knocked down the hole. Finally the mix reaches the top and is tamped down again until it is slightly raised above the level of sand. Once all the holes are filled 4 carrots seeds are sown into each one and then a layer of fleece on top and polythene to keep the rain off. Then it’s over to nature to take its’ course over the next couple of weeks.
There’s a lot of work that goes into this when you consider the F2S is shredded and bagged up initially then mixed with the calcified seaweed added. Then it’s a days work to core out and fill the holes – I just hope it works after all that!!
February is a busy time of year if you’re planning to show root veg in one of the summer/autumn shows as long parsnips and carrots have a long growing season and there’s lots of preparation needed before you sow. Parsnips are the earliest sowings I do outside and I grow a few long parsnips in 6″ pipes. The mix is part peat, soil, silver sand with added bonemeal, dolomite lime, superphosphate, sulphate of potash and calcified seaweed. I then filled 10 pipes and sowed six seeds of Gladiator in each one.
I like to sow the seeds in a star shape around the centre of the pipe with the seeds side on to prevent rotting in the damp compost. I’m hoping to enter a set of 3 in the NVS South West DA show that I entered at the end of August last year.
I then covered them with fleece and polythene. Parsnips take quite a while to germinate so these’ll be all tucked up until, hopefully, I see plenty of healthy seedlings coming through.
The next job was to soak the box I made for the long carrots. It’s important to make sure the sand is well compacted so it can be cored out cleanly and the level of the sand does not sink after you’ve sowed the carrots. I’ll soak the box three or four times before the weekend when I’m hoping to core out and fill each hole with a mix of Levington’s F2S and calcified seaweed. Hopefully I will fit 25 carrots in; that’s the plan anyway!
So another busy weekend to come following which I’ll be preparing a small box for the stump carrots to go in by which time it’ll be mid-March and the general sowing gets going with a vengeance. Then it won’t be long until the potatoes go in and the season really takes off!!
Today was the 16th Hampshire Potato Day as I mentioned in a previous post. Darren and I were up bright and early with his Landrover loaded and off to Whitchurch which is about 40 minutes from us.
The large school hall was packed – about half was taken by the potatoes, around 300 different varieties to choose from in either packs or individual tubers. The standard well known varities but also plenty of unusual ones to try out with expert advice on hand to guide you through the bewildering number of them!
The rest of the hall was individual stalls like ours – the NVS Hamsphire DA stand – which we use to spread the word about the NVS, “a growing society” and to fund raise by selling various plants, seeds and sundry items. We were also promoting our veg growing Seminar in March – more of that in the next post. It was an extremely busy day, the first hour after the doors opened at 10am was very busy and then it thinned out to a good crowd who could actually move around freely at that point!
We did well with lots of interest in our stand and what we had to say which was great to see. We were joined by our Chairman Ted Perren a well known grower in the Hants/Wilts area and we managed to keep up with the flow of enquiries. Many familiar faces stopped by and we were visited by fellow blogger Mark and his wife.
If you’re thinking of going there’s still a chance tomorrow between 10am and 3pm.
I bought a few varieties – Pentland Javelin, Winston, Kestrel, Bonnie, Charlotte and a new variety recommended by the owner called Carolus (supposedly fully blight resistant) which I took 5 tubers of to try out.
A very good day and it was great to see so many people there!
A welcome change this morning with a crisp, sunny start and a lovely walk with the dog in Bentley Wood. Saw some deer and plenty of birds, the walk really blew away the cobwebs and I wanted to spend some time when I got home getting organised on the veg plot.
You may remember from an earlier post that my father built this handy potting shed for me whilst we were away in France last summer. There’s plenty of space to store compost and hang tools with a sturdy bench to work from.
My main job was to get the shallots started. I grow Hative de Niort and want to enter both the pickling and exhibition classes in various shows this year – these are mainly my own saved shallots from last season with a few I won in the Hampshire DA raffle. The exhibition shallots were planted out in 3″ pots of Levington’s M2 compost with the picklling shallots in the standard multi-purpose. I had 32 exhbition and 16 pickling. I’ve heard people say that pickling shallots are Hative grown badly – I guess there’s an element of truth in this as whilst you are looking for good shape and uniformity you need to restrict the growth to keep the size fairly small. Hopefully they will put on some strong root growth in the cold greenhouse before I transfer them to their final postions in March.
Also in the greenhouse are some spring cabbage (Pixie), spring bulbs starting to come through and winter lettuce and land cress in the bed.
January tends to be a month when everyone organises themselves after the holiday and I’m back on the diet to shed the Christmas excess. Last year I lost 3 1/2 stone cooking recipes from the Hairy Dieters cook books and sticking to roughly 1200 calories a day whilst on the diet. This worked really well and, whilst I was only eating half of the recommended daily calorie intake, I was having tasty meals which got me through the lean times.
This is one of their recipes – Mince & Vegetable Pie with Tumbled Spuds – which was only 292 calories per portion. I’d recommend the books to anyone who wants to cook great recipes with less calories.
The next job on the veg plot is to get the chillies started. Have a good weekend everyone!
Next Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th January is the 16th Hampshire Potato Day, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at Testbourne Community Centre, Whitchurch (just off the A34), RG28 7JF.
For more information visit their website.
There’s loads of stalls and just under 400 varieties to choose from – tubers can be bought individually so it’s a great place to buy new varieties to try. There’ll be plenty of expertise on hand from local experts and potato merchants.
The NVS Hampshire DA will have their own stand as usual on both days and I will be helping out on Saturday. We’ll be selling some fantastic plants and seeds so why not pop on down!
Awards time again
Plenty of decent veg this year, broad beans – Longfellow, runner beans – stenner, french beans – cobra, cabbage – ramco, carrots – sweet candle, parsnips – picador, brussels – wellington, courgettes – venus, shallots – hative de niort etc but the award goes to TOMATOES SUNGOLD - I had 12 plants (8 in the greenhouse and 4 outside) which fruited their socks off from the end of June right through until early November. We picked about two kitchen cullander fulls of the orange cherries every week and the family loved them! So sweet it beats the supermarket hands down.
Thankfully not much in this category but the CUCUMBERS CARMEN were awful for me this year (again) so I need to rethink. After a promising start with half a dozen huge cukes they failed around the end of July turned yellow and only produced again briefly in September. I know this variety can be amazing and have had 30+ cucumbers per plant off it before so it’s all my fault. Back to the drawing board.
Has to be POTATOES. Scab, scab and more scab. With the dry end of June/July I obviously didn’t keep up with the watering. Thankfully this doesn’t affect the eating but they do look seriously ugly!!