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At last some sun and a few days of dry weather after the deluge of the last five weeks or so. With lots of jobs to do I’ve concentrated on the home front this weekend and thought I’d give you a virtual tour as I haven’t focused on this for a while.
I started with the onion bed finding a few spaces for the last of the vento onion plants I’ve been growing on from Darren. There’s also shallots, Hative de Niort, and garlic, purple wight, in this bed.
Next were the peas, show perfection on the canes, and oregon sugar snap up the netting.
The cabbages, green ramco, have been out for a couple of weeks now and should reach a good size by the end of July. There’s seven in all aiming for an entry at the New Forest Show.
The stump carrots in two dustbins of sand are coming along nicely.
And after a slow start the long carrots in pipes are starting to take off.
The greenhouse is starting to clear slowly. There’s lettuce, radish and rocket in the bed on the right hand side. And celery, calabrese, cauliflower, brokali, purple sprouting, sweetcorn, runner & french beans, celeriac and leeks on the staging. These all need to planted out over the next three weeks.
And the hardening off area is pretty full. The tomatoes are about two foot tall and ready for planting out as soon as the weather warms up. There’s also marrows, beans, brussels, beetroot, cucumbers, squash and pumpkins waiting to go out. It’s all a bit of a jam waiting for the end of May when I’ll be confident the threat of a late frost has passed. Then it will be a frenzy of activity to get this lot all out into their final positions before we go on holiday!
Hope you’re all enjoying the sunny weather!
With March and April being the busiest sowing months you’d expect there to be loads of seedlings growing on at the Two Chances Plot. And you wouldn’t be wrong. Here’s a few progress photos from the three growing areas; the greenhouse, cold frames and good old windowsill.
The sweetcorn is growing on well in the greenhouse. Two varieties, Earlibird and Lark, around 40 plants destined for the allotment towards the end of May, possibly earlier with bottle cloches if I need the space in the greenhouse.
Brussel Sprouts (Bedford) hardening off in the cold frame. Around 150 plants for the shared plot, possibly a few for the Hort Soc plant sale. Even though they are one of my favourite veg I think 150 may be overdoing it a bit!
Continuing the brassica theme there’s cabbage (green ramco), calabrese (aquiles F1), brokali (apollo) and cauliflower (cornell).
I grow beetroot in modules ready to plant out. This is Boltardy and I will be sowing Pablo later.
Moving indoors, the tomatoes are going well. Goldstar, Marmande and Gardener’s Delight around 8-10 inches high.
The cucumbers (Carmen) are just starting. I’ll be devouting the greenhouse to them this year with the tomatoes outside in the mini-greenhouses for cover with the rest at the shared plot greenhouse.
Last, and defintely least, aubergines (bonica F1). After a disastrous performance last year I’ve been suckered into trying them again. No doubt only bitter disappointment will follow but that’s gardening, without failure you can’t fully appreciate your successes.
In various states of germination are french and runner beans, leeks, parsnips, courgettes, pumpkins and squash. There’s also celery, pea and onion plants in the greenhouse with lettuce growing on and more lettuce, rocket, radish and spring onions sowed. In the garden there’s potatoes, carrots, parnsips, peas, cabbage, shallots, onions and garlic growing away with PSB coming to an end. On the shared plot there’s potatoes, broad beans and onions with a few of last season’s cabbages and cauliflowers left. And the half allotment has so far been planted with more potatoes, broad beans and asparagus.
I think it’s going to be a busy year!!
Where do I start? There’s been lots going on at the Two Chances Plot this year as there was in 2010. First of all a recap of the veg growing successes and failures:
Top of the Class
My best ever carrots and parsnips this year.
And it was a cracking year for beetroot, we had barrowfuls of them.
Strawberries and raspberries – not that I saw many of them as the girls picked and ate them as soon as they were ready!
Could do Better
Sweetcorn, cucumber, aubergines, squash and pumpkins.
Weatherwise it was a strange year again. A really hot, dry spring but with cold nights running through into July. When we left for our annual holiday to France in mid-June it was with some trepidation as the weather had been fantastic – why were we going abroad? Thankfully we did as it chucked it down in Salisbury for 2 weeks and continued to be damp and miserable for the main part of summer only drying up in September and October. No wonder all the veg that need a hot, dry summer did badly. Oh well there’s always next year.
…….was celeriac…..only grew a few but they were great and I’ll definitely be growing more next year. Closely followed by mangetout, not many made the steamer as they were great eaten raw.
Aubergines…..what’s the point? Maybe in 20 years once global warming really makes an impact on the South of England! That said I expect I’ll try again next year.
This year was the first for my shared plot in the next village and it was filled with onions, brassicas, beans, carrots, parsnips, beetroot, spuds, sweetcorn, squash and pumpkins. Next year the Empire expands further to half an allotment in the same village as my shared plot. Can’t wait to get stuck in! And I finally got round to building a much needed proper compost bin which will bear fruit next year.
On the show front it was the last year of entering all the vegetable classes in my local Horticultural Society village Summer Show were I won cups for most points overall veg, root veg and Top Tray. I’ll just stick to the Master Gardener and Top Tray next year with my sights firmly set on the NVS competition at the New Forest and Hampshire Show after seeing Darren pick up his first red card for long carrots. I have 30 pipes to use for my carrots and parsnips and the mix is already shredded and ready for the mixer. Bring on 2012!
So what will I be doing next year? Well more of the same really. Loads of good quality family time, cooking and eating great homegrown food. Producing loads of veg and enjoying the fresh air as much as possible. Raising the bar on my show entries and expanding to the allotment so we can have more veg on the table. The annual trip to France – same place as last year as we loved it so much – and the next leg of the Pennine Way hopefully. As always lots to do!! I hope you’ve all had a good Christmas and are looking forward to a great 2012!!!
Thanks to everyone who reads and hopefully enjoys this blog. I haven’t been online much in the last couple of months due to working longer hours – the last thing I needed was more time in front of a computer screen! But I have the whole winter to catch up with what you’ve been doing so I’ll see you soon!!
Approaching high summer and the garden and plot are reaching their respective heights of floral beauty and productive potential. My favourite flower, the Dahlia, is now coming into full bloom and, in my opnion, you’d be hard pressed to beat this particular bloom for summer colour. The variety is ‘Shooting Star’, a lovely cream coloured semi cactus variety.
By stopping the plants a month ago I’ve had to wait longer for the first blooms but I’ve got much bushier and stronger plants which means more energy going into producing more buds and flowers. Dahlias are relatively easy to grow if you follow a few basic principles – they are hungry and thirsty plants – so a good feeding and watering regime is essential. My Dahlia bed sits on the remains of my winter chicken manure delivery, once the plants are established I mulch with whatever compost I have left over and lawn clippings to help moisture retention. Another essential task is staking; Dahlia’s can grow to large plants around 4-6 feet high with heavy blooms so early staking is a must – it can look a bit unsightly with canes and string everywhere but the plants will soon fill out and hide this. If you want larger blooms, perhaps for your local flower show, then you’ll need to disbud, a topic I covered in one of last year’s posts.
‘My Love’ is a smaller white flowered semi-catcus variety.
‘Kennemerland’ is the largest Dahlia I have, growing to 6 feet, with large yellow flowers.
On the plot there’s lots of jobs to do. The strawberries have finished now so the foliage has been cut back and any runners pegged in the soil to help the new plants establish. At last the leeks are in, pretty tiny plants at this stage but there’s plenty of time for them to bulk up before winter. More beetroot, rocket, lettuce, radish and spring onions have been sown. Along with some winter veg, kale, brussel sprouts, cabbages and cauliflowers. There’s always something to do on the veg plot!
And the veg is coming thick and fast now. I mentioned in an earlier post that I’m growing a golden variety of beetroot this year, Burpee’s Golden. And I forgot that I’m still growing the standard red variety up at my shared plot in the next village – they’re pretty good as well.
Back home there’s loads of broad beans and mangetout, it’s my first year growing mangetout and they’ll be a firm favourite on the plot from now on.
Hope you’re all having a good weekend!
Harvesting – Lettuce, Rocket, Radish, Spring Onions, Tomatoes, Courgettes, Onions, Shallots, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Calabrese, Potatoes, Broad Beans, Mangetout, Beetroot.
The first beetroot harvest – these Burpee’s Golden had reached tennis ball size and tasted lovely.
Also picked from the plot this weekend was broad beans, potatoes, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, mangetout, strawberries and raspberries. I’m lifting the shallots to ripen off now too, with onions to follow in the next day or two.
Hope you’ve all had a great weekend!
The Two Chances Veg Plot is getting full to bursting at the moment. All the first and second earlies are now out along with the brassicas planted this morning.
The large bed (18ft x 6ft) has overwintered onions, shallots, calabrese, cauliflower, cabbage, celeriac and a couple of rows of Charlotte potatoes.
The medium bed (12ft by 6ft) has parsnips and long carrots in pipes, stump carrots and parsnips sowed direct along with spring onions, spinach, beetroot and mangetout. The small bed (6ft x 6ft) has garlic, broad beans and a trench for runner beans. The beds are surrounded by 20 polypot bags of spuds and a couple of old dustbins with stump carrots. The girls really enjoyed helping me fill up the spud bags!
That’s it really there’s a few spaces for some lettuce and radish but it’s pretty much full up. There is a strip along the back garden fence that will take the dwarf beans and the rest of the brassicas (brussels, swede, sprouting broccoli) will go into the front bed (12ft x 6ft) where there is already a few Autumn fruiting raspberry canes. In the other front garden bed there’s already summer fruiting raspberries, strawberries and a gooseberry and blackcurrant bush but I should be able to squeeze in some courgettes. The tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, chillies and aubergines will go in the greenhouse.
So anything else will be going up to the shared plot in the next village. At the moment that’s maincrop potatoes, sweetcorn, summer and butternut squash. These will join onions, shallots, broad beans, parsnips, carrots, beetroot and cabbage that are already in. Not sure when we’re going to eat all this veg!!
As you can see crop rotation and advanced planning are not my strong points. The crops rotate every year but I don’t follow a strict crop rotation plan I just try and ensure that nothing is grown in the same place for consecutive years.
And we had a bumble bee visitor today.
On Tuesday I went to a talk on bees given by a local bee farmer at our Hampshire NVS DA meeting. It was fascinating stuff, I didn’t realise bees were such a complex subject. Bee pollination supports every third mouthful of food we eat so they are vital to the environment and us. There’s a number of challenges ahead for bee communities under threat but it was good to hear there’s a lot of money going into research at the moment and progress is being made. Fingers crossed they can come up with a solution to the problems.
Anyway time to get back out in the garden. Hope you are all having a good weekend!
Spring had definitely arrived today with some glorious afternoon sunshine which made it a pleasure to be out in the garden. And I had two little helpers with me to make sure I was doing all the jobs properly!
The daffodils are out in full bloom and the tulips are coming through nicely both in the flower bed and in the pots. Around the garden there’s forsythia, primroses, hellebores, pansies, lungwort and heather all flowering. In the veg plot there is no sign of the parnsips germinating yet. I’ve also sown long carrots in pipes and stump carrots in a couple of old dustbins. Fingers crossed I’ll get some decent specimens in the summer.
The broad beans are doing well, as are the onions that were overwintered. I’m still digging up parsnips from last year but there’s no sign of the PSB yet, hopefully it will start to sprout in the next couple of weeks, it’s one of the great treats at this time of year.
Under cover all the brassicas are at pricking out stage – cauliflowers, cabbage, brussel sprouts, PSB, and calabrese. There’s a tray of Red Orache, mangetout and sunflowers germinated and I’ve just sown some Burpee’s Golden Beetroot in modules this afternoon. So much to do now for the next few weeks to keep up with everything.
And I’ll be even busier this year after meeting a chap in the next village who is happy to share his garden veg patch with me. I’ll be able to do the heavy digging work and we’ll share the crops so I should be self-sufficient in veg through the summer and autumn months this year.
It’s the Winterslow & District Horticultural Society’s Spring Show on Saturda 26th March. If you’re in the area pop into the Village Hall from 2pm to take a look at the exhibits. I may even enter a few myself this time!
The garden has been a bit neglected recently with my trip away so this morning I had a good clear up. There’s not much left now just the Autumn and Winter veg. I took down the runner and french beans and have about a 100 pods to take beans from for stews and soups over winter. The kale and chard looked a bit miserable so I stripped the worst of the damage and they’ll survive for a while to give some welcome winter greens. There’s around 70 parsnips which I’m looking forward to harvesting to go with the roast dinner tomorrow. I always wonder about parsnips as they take up space for pretty much the whole year but the doubt is disspelled when they come out of the roasting tray!
In the front bed I harvested the last of the beetroot.
They won’t win any prizes but will provide some welcome colour and sweetness on the plate at this time of year.
I tidied up the brussels which had fallen over.
There’s some good sized sprouts already.
And the sprouting broccoli has survived the cabbage white attack.
The Onion sets I planted a few weeks ago have sprouted nicely, I am hoping they survive the winter.
The Jerusalem Artichokes are looking good, still in flower, and will provide another different vegetable over the long winter months. Well worth growing as they are very easy, I gave them no attention at all, and provide a useful screen about 6-8 feet tall.
If you would like some seeds to try next year just send me an email with your address and I’ll post some to you. I have loads to go around and they are a great variety for anyone trying pumpkins for the first time or looking to expand their number of varieties.
Have a great weekend!
We’re having some work done at the side of the house and the scaffolding afforded me the opportunity to get a different perspective on the garden from just above the roofline.
There are a couple of veg beds in the front garden. The one by the front door you can’t see in this picture and it’s where the courgettes, squash, strawberries and raspberries live. At the far end by the road you can just see the newest bed behind the trees. In there are beetroot, brussels, sweetcorn, squash, pumpkins, celery, sprouting brocolli and cabbage. By the drive is the main flower bed and the rest is the girls domain with toys everywhere!
Most of the veg growing is in the smaller back garden where I have 3 beds and a greenhouse. Having just dug the onions and potatoes there’s quite a bit of space now, a month ago it was packed solid.
The aubergines are going mad in the greenhouse. I bought these two as tiny plants at our spring show so have no idea what the varieties are. One is producing a few standard looking egg-shaped fruits and the other is throwing out loads of long thin paler ones. Any ideas?
And so are the cucumbers, now we have more than we know what to do with.
I’m really pleased with the progress on the pumpkin front. These are Rouge Vif d’Etamps from seed Maureen kindly sent to me.
And the squash have been great this year.
There’s also plenty of colour in the garden, these are Asters, Appleblossom.
And the glads and the sweet peas are still going strong.
Lastly I’m really pleased with my first attempt at Dahlias, definitely going to grow more next year, I don’t think you can beat them for colour.
This time next week we’ll be in France so today is all about getting the jobs done so when we get back in early July the garden won’t have run away with itself too much!
The Sweet Peas are going mad after the rain we’ve had and I’m cutting most of them to induce more flowers. They look pretty on the windowsill and give off a lovely scent.
First job was weeding the new bed that I built earlier in the year. From front to back there are cabbages, early white and late purple sprouting broccoli, celery, sweetcorn, squash, beetroot, brussel sprouts and pumpkins. It’s all looking pretty good so fingers crossed we’ll have a bumper harvest from this bed. It’s the first time I’ve grown corn, celery or pumpkins.
I’m really pleased with the corn.
The other tender veg are coming on as well. Here’s the first courgette. This one’s from 3-year old seed and appears to be a bombproof variety – the packet just says Zucchini – and it’s been a reliable cropper.
I’ve also got some yellow courgettes showing, these are F1 Orelia, again pretty reliable although I had more trouble germinating these. The other variety I’m growing is Black Beauty from the BBC DigIn free seeds.
And the first squash has appeared, this is old seed again, it just says mixed scalloped squash on the packet. But it hasn’t failed me in 3 years. I normally pick them quite small and roast them in the oven with courgettes etc but I leave the odd one to grow on, one of which won 1st prize in the Any Other Veg category in our summer show so you can see how big they get!
We have two mature cherry trees in the garden and I noticed some fruit, I think this is the first time in the 3 years we’ve been here that they’ve survived the woodpigeon onslaught. So we may be picking cherries in a few weeks.
And we’ve been picking strawberries for a week or so now, not that I can get anywhere near them, the girls are wolfing them down. It’s great to see them loving the home grown fruit and veg as it’s the main reason I started the plot just before Chloe was born.
We’re having a barby later so I picked a selection of salad. There’s lettuce (Winter Density, Salad Bowl and Red Deer’s Tongue), Wild Rocket and Radish. This afternoon I’ll mow the lawn, then it’s a couple of bottles of Black Sheep and Come on England!!
Tomorrow we’re off to the River Bourne Community Farm Open Day in Laverstock, Salisbury. Should be a fun day with loads to do for the girls, and nice for me to have a day off from the jobs too!