Plot update – Halfway point

With the dry weather we’ve had over the last few weeks I’ve been very busy on the plot keeping everything watered, hence the lack of blog posts, and with the warmer conditions the veg has really come on and I’m harvesting everyday now.

Firstly you’ll remember I put three new beds in the front garden, two of which have been filled up with soil and crops were planted a few weeks ago.

Beans

The runner beans and french beans (both climbing and dwarf) are doing well with lots of flowers on them. I keep the runner beans well watered and support the dwarf french beans so when the beans develop they are off the soil.

Brussels

In the adjacent bed the brussel sprouts are looking strong – I’ve earthed them up for stability – and there’s a couple of rows of swede squeezed in before the broad beans with a few squash dotted around that will start to scramble over the paths. Everything is looking great, dark green and lush which bodes well for harvest time.

Cauliflower

I’m particularly pleased with this cauliflower (Cornell) as I’ve found them hard to get right in the past. This is one of Darren’s spares and has turned out really well.

Brocolli

Alongside the cauliflowers the broccoli just keeps on coming. For productivity in such a small space over a relatively short growing season it’s one of the best veg in my opinion. The whole family love it and eaten fresh from the plot is incomparable to the stale supermarket version.

Cukes

I constructed a makeshift greenhouse for my cucumbers and they love the hothouse conditions all sealed up with a good daily watering and weekly feed. They’re over 6 foot high now and we should have the first cucumbers in 10 days which will see us through to the end of October.

fruit

The fruit has been the star of the show so far this year with the raspberries providing a phenomenal harvest, we can’t keep up with them! There’s also strawberries, blackcurrants and gooseberries as well.

Raspberry muffins

We all have produce gluts from time to time and rather than eating the fruit and veg straight off the plot it can be made into something gorgeous like these raspberry and white chocolate muffins that Rachel made. And if, like us, you have a 10 year old bottle of Limoncello lurking at the back of the cupboard from that long forgotten Italian holiday why not try raspberry and limoncello semifredo which is in the freezer at the moment, can’t wait to try that!

Peppers

The chillies and peppers look great as well and have lots of flowers coming into fruit. I have high hopes for these and it’s certainly the most plants I’ve grown in one season so fingers crossed we will have a good harvest come September/October.

Toms

And last one of my favourites the tomatoes – Sungold – are around 6 foot high now and we’re starting to pick the first of those wonderful golden cherry fruits which will come thick and fast now over the next few months.

I’m sure you’re all harvesting loads of great produce at the moment. The Two Chances harvest list at the end of June is lettuce, rocket, radish, shallots, broccoli, cauliflower, courgette, tomatoes, raspberries, strawberries, gooseberries and blackcurrants. Next I need to dig up some potatoes to see how they have got on. It’s a great time of year to see everything growing so fast and so much lovely fresh food to eat!

First broccoli of the season

Calabrese (Broccoli) is one of my favourite veg to grow as it’s relatively fast to mature and the whole family loves eating it.

I cut the first heads at the weekend which is around 11 weeks after sowing. The seeds (variety Aquiles F1) were raised in the cold greenhouse, pricked out into small pots and then planted in the final positions 9″ apart. I’ve found that this spacing gives me the size of head I prefer whilst allowing me to get as many plants as possible into a small space. I’m growing 8 plants in all which will keep us supplied with plenty of broccoli for the next 6 weeks. You can see here what they looked like a month ago.

At this time of year I find the plants aren’t affected by pests and there’s enough rain usually to mean additional watering isn’t necessary.

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Once the central stem is cut this will encourage side shoots to develop and you can keep on cutting from the same plant a number of times. There’s still spring cabbages being harvested and once these have finished the cauliflowers will be ready – I’m growing a Romenesco type and also a standard white-headed variety (Cornell).

Finally we have a number of different birds in the garden attracted to the feeders that I put out and our favourite is this Great Spotted Woodpecker which has become a regular visitor. A lovely sight in the garden.

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Pest Control

There are a couple of main methods I deploy to keep pests at bay on the plot.

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The first is Environmesh which I use to cover brassicas such as cabbage, cauliflowers and brussel sprouts. It can be made into tunnels as I have done here or can just be draped over canes and weighted down at the sides. Whilst it’s not that much of a necessity at this time of year it is essential from July to September to ward off cabbage white butterflies from laying there eggs unless you are picking them off by hand daily or spraying with insecticide which I don’t like to do. I’m still vigilant in case one has got in somehow and will pick off any caterpillars as soon as they emerge and deposit them on the bird table.

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I’m using a couple of sprays this year which are organic / biodegradable. The first is Garlic Wonder, an organic garlic concentrate marketed as the natural solution for healthy vigorous plants. The other is SB Plant Invigorator, marketed as an environmentally friendly growth stimulant and pesticide. I use Garlic Wonder every 2 weeks as a foliar spray on my carrots to ward off carrot fly as they are not covered. Time will tell if this has been effective. SB Invigorator is used in the greenhouse, again as a foliar spray every couple of weeks, particularly if I see any aphids or whitefly in there. It will also control spider mite and mealybug according to the label.

What forms of pest control do you use?

But the main pest I can’t seem to control is a neighbourhood cat which must visit early in the morning and attempt to dig up one of the beds – at the moment it’s the leek bed that I’ve just planted out. I’ve sprayed a cat repellent around but this hasn’t worked. Any ideas?

Don’t forget Open Farm Sunday tomorrow. You’ll find local farms are opening their doors and there’ll be plenty of events on up and down the country. I’ll be at our local community farm – River Bourne Community Farm – in Salisbury between 10am and 4pm. Looks like the weather is set fair for the day so why not pay a visit?

And finally a few photos of flowers in bloom in the garden at the moment. Have a good weekend everyone!

Old Fashioned Veg

In recent years traditional British veg has fallen out of favour with many growers and been replaced by the likes of courgettes and squashes. Whilst I grow a wide range of veg on the plot I’m an advocate of traditional allotment fare such as cabbage, cauliflowers, leeks and brussel sprouts for a number of reasons. Firstly they suit our variable climate – when summers can be relatively cold and wet they will thrive where veg needing warmer conditions suffer and fail to produce a decent harvest. They’re normally very cheap to buy as seed, with our local Horticultural Society discount I can buy a packet of leek seeds for 50p for example. And with modern cooking methods (i.e. not boiling them to a pulp) they taste fantastic!

Spring Cabbage

The Spring Cabbages have been eaten for a month now and still going strong. They’ve covered the gap until the brocolli and cauliflowers are ready.

Cabbage cut

Once the cabbage is cut I cut a criss-cross in the stalk from which new leaves will sprout giving spring greens which are lovely steamed with a light coating of butter and seasoning.

Leeks

The shallots have been lifted now and replaced by leeks (Toledo). I make a hole 8″ deep and pop the leek seedling in. This is then gently watered until the water reaches the top of the hole and then left alone. Over time the soil will loosely fill in the hole and allow the stem of the leek to swell until ready for lifting in the Autumn. The holes are 6″ apart and I’ve fitted 66 leeks into a 6′ by 4′ space. I usually follow shallots with leeks as they are out of the ground by end of May/early June. The shallots were put into pots mid-January and a couple of months later planted out so they have only taken up the ground for just over 2 months, perfect when space is limited.

Cucmber House

I also needed to find a home for a couple of cucumbers (Carmen). The greenhouse was taken up with tomatoes and all my chillies and peppers so I decided to put together this greenhouse extension. It’s basically two of the cheap mini-greenhouses put together with one cover put on upside down. It’s 8′ high which should give plenty of room for the cukes and secured with steel rods pinning the frame to the ground and twine around the top of the greenhouse to stop it blowing over.

Cukes

They will enjoy the hot, humid conditions of the sealed greenhouse. I keep them well watered – but watering away from the plants themselves – by watering into the grow rings that are normally used for tomatoes. Our family eats a lot of cucumbers so I’m hoping for a good long harvest from early July through to the end of October.

Other traditional veg I’m growing this year are potatoes, carrots, swede, parsnips, beetroot, broad beans and runner beans. I’m looking forward to a bumper harvest fingers crossed!!

Growing Fast!

With the wet and relatively mild weather we’ve had recently everything is growing fast and the plot is looking lush and green.

Cabbage

The cabbages (Dutch White) are starting to grow now they’re established and well rooted. I’m hoping these will be good sized cabbages and possibly a pair for my end of August show.

Brocolli

One of our favourite family veg is brocolli (calabrese). These are planted 9″ apart and the central heads are just starting to form. When they’re slightly bigger than fist size I’ll cut them to encourage the side shoots. They should be ready in a couple of weeks and then we’ll have a continual supply for 6 weeks until it gets too warm towards the end of July.

Shallots

The shallots (Hative de Niort) are starting to fill out. These will the biggest I’ve ever grown and the trick now is judging when to lift them to try and achieve a matching set. This is not as easy as it sounds as the bulbs continue to grow slightly after lifting and can become “pregnant” which spoils the perfect rounded appearance. They taste great as we have had thinnings over the last few weeks.

Parsnips, Carrots

I need to thin the parnips and carrots that I sowed directly into one of the beds. I’ll be spraying with Garlic Wonder to ward off the carrot fly as these don’t have any mesh protection. Hopefully that will work. The Spring Cabbages behind them are ready now and have provided a tasty, nutritious veg whilst we wait for the broccoli to come through.

Long Carrots

The long carrots are looking good, a cane and some clips for support.

Long parsnips

And the long parnsips in pipes are also doing well. They’re getting plenty of water so I’m hoping for a good set in a few months.

Tomatoes

The Sungold tomatoes have been planted out in the greenhouse on a bed of manure and compost using bottomless pots. I also plant French Marigolds as I find the smell means I don’t have any whitefly and there are a few comfrey leaves rotting down to give them a boost.

Salad

We have a few herbs (chive & parsley) along with lettuces growing in a three tiered stand. It’s great having this by the kitchen door and using “cut and come varieties” such as Salad Bowl means there’s always leaves when we need them for sandwiches or salads.

new project

Sorry for my lack of posts recently I’ve been busy with my new project. I’m converting a section of the front garden next to the road in a vegetable area (possibly a fruit cage eventually). You may remember I had one bed here before (where the broad beans are). As this is in the part of the garden we use the most (as it’s south facing) I’ve gone for better quality timber rather than using the cheaper gravel boards. There’s a 12 ft by 4 ft and a 12ft by 6 ft bed at the moment with a 10ft by 6ft bed to go in behind. More on this later but you can hopefully get an idea from the photo. Have a great Bank Holiday weekend everyone!

Plot update

It’s been a while since my last post as I’ve been very busy in the garden. Things are moving on quickly now as the weather is warming up.

Brassicas

The brassicas are coming along well. There’s 4 cabbages – Dutch White, a few broccoli – Aquiles, and Cauliflower – a Romenesco variety, the purple Graffiti and the standard white variety Cornell.

Cabbages

And the spring cabbages are almost ready to start cutting. I usually cut a cross in the stem from which more spring greens will sprout. Very nice with a Sunday roast and also great shredded as an alternative to rice if you’re watching the calories.

Long carrots

The long carrots are starting to take off now, still fairly small but they will put on loads of growth in the next few weeks.

Shallot thinnings

And finally I thinned my exhibition shallots down to 3 shallots per plant and these have been very tasty in our lunchtime wraps over the last couple of weeks.

After recent renovations of the front garden I’m planning some new raised beds – more of this in the next post – needless to say the extra work is keeping me very busy!!

Potatoes in

The recent warmer, dry weather has come at just the right time and has made the annual potato planting a very pleasant task.

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I grow all of my potatoes in bags or containers now for a number of reasons. Mainly as it’s cleaner for showing certain varieties, doesn’t take any room up in the beds and I can fill in with the bags wherever I can, and lastly it saves my back when it comes to harvesting! The bags are 17 litre polypots from LBS garden warehouse with a couple of extra holes cut into the bottom of each one. This will allow the roots to grow out of the bag into the soil.

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The bags are then filled with the compost mix and potato fertiliser and watered so the whole bag is damp but not wet through. The chitted seed potato is then plunged to almost the bottom of the bag and covered over. I’ll top up to completely fill the bags once they’ve come through.

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The bags are then placed with a couple of inches between them on top of the soil – I usually scrape a shallow trench for them to sit in with a sprinkling of organic slug pellets and blood, fish and bone underneath each bag.

The varieties I’m growing this year are Winston & Sherine for the white potato classes, Kestrel, Amour & Bonnie for the coloured potato classes. I also have Pentland Javelin and Charlotte to go in – I’ll use potato planters and various old compost bags for these. There’ll be around 50 bags by the time I’m finished.

Once the haulms are up I’ll support them and then it’s just about the watering and feeding until the tubers mature. Once they’re ready I’ll cut off the haulms and move the bags under cover and leave for a couple of weeks to let the skins harden. Then they can be removed and checked over for showing keeping them in moist compost until the Show comes round. We eat all the potatoes even Winston which I quite like but many people say is not a great eating spud although it tends to win everytime in the white potato class.