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Well my last post “Warming Up Nicely” was the kiss of death for the warm weather so I’m hoping this post isn’t similarly doomed! The majority of May has been cold in between two glorious Bank Holiday weekends, the like of which I don’t remember experiencing for a long time and then back to cold and wet this week. But over the next few days the forecast promises warmer weather and a look round the plot this evening and I think everything is ready for take off!!
So let’s start the tour………you may remember I put my potatoes into polypots just over a month ago and now they are through and will romp away over the next few weeks. They are Winston, Kestrel and Amour which I intend to show at the end of August. Behind are some Brussel Sprouts – Wellington – Brussels are one of our favourite family vegetables! I’ve earthed them up a bit and I’ll stake them as they get bigger to ensure they don’t ‘rock’ in the wind. I’ll also put some heavy duty canes and string around the potatoes to keep the haulms up off the ground.
Next up are the beans that have just gone out last weekend – a double row of Runner Beans – Stenner – and a double row of French Beans – Cobra. I’ve tied them in at the bottom to get them going, about a foot apart up 8 foot canes.
The small 6′ by 6′ bed has garlic (Solent Wight), a few shallots (Hative de Niort), onions (Stuttgarter Giant) and Broad Beans (Longfellow). I’ve supported the broad beans and also the onions to keep their stems straight but other than that they’re left to their own devices.
The two green cabbages – Ramco – are coming on well, they’re next to a row of calabrese – Aquiles F1 – and protected by an environmesh tunnel. You can see how far they’ve come on in a month when you compare them to the first photo in my last post. Behind them are some Romanesco Cauliflowers again protected by environmesh. Lastly in that bed are the parsnips which are very slow to get going this year.
The long carrots and parnsips in the pipes are starting to grow noticably now.
And the Sweet Candle carrots in the dustbins seem OK.
And the girls have their own bed by the greenhouse in which they’ve planted some Little Gem lettuces, Land Cress and a couple of tomato plants.
The greenhouse is starting to fill up. The beds have Sungold tomotoes underplanted with basil and french marigolds which I’ve found to be the best companion plants to keep white fly away (just don’t deadhead them as that’s where the best smell comes from). The tomatoes are in bottomless pots of compost on top of a bed of manure and top soil and are tied into bamboo canes at regular intervals. Side shoots are pinched out and I’ll feed regularly once the first truss has set. On the floor are a few chillies and peppers in pots, some more tomotoes to go in containers – Tumbling Tom – and a cabbage – Duchess White – in a large pot waiting for a spot outside.
On the shelving are all sorts of veg growing on, some a little tender for the cold nights, and others being held back until space becomes available.
There’s a few leeks (Musselburgh), two varieties of squash (Butterbush F1 and Hunter F1), Pumpkin (Rouge Vif D’Etamps), Lettuce (Little Gem), Aubergine (Moneymaker), Cucumber (Carmen), Dwarf French Bean (Ferrari), Courgette yellow (Soleil F1) and green (Venus), Mangetout (Oregon Sugar Pod), Beetroot (Pablo), more brassicas – cabbage, romenesco cauliflowers and calabrese – celery (Morning Star) and Sweetcorn (Sweetie Pie). Not sure where this lot is going to go, only the sweetcorn is earmarked to join the potatoes, rhubarb and asparagus up at the allotment.
On the shelf below are more lettuces (Little Gem, Tom Thumb, Salad Bowl & Webb’s Wonderful), Peas (Show Perfection) and more sweetcorn and mangetout.
The soft fruit bed is full to bursting with strawberries, summer and autumn raspberries, a blackcurrant and gooseberry bush. I must make more room for soft fruit as it’s one of the things we enjoy most, picking ripe fruit right by our front door is a real treat – not that I see any of it!
Well that’s enough of the veg, what else is going on? Well 3 months or so ago I mentioned I started a diet - mid life crisis and all – well I’ve lost just over 3 stone so far and started cycling on a regular basis, doing 20 or 30 mile rides around the country lanes between home and Romsey. Also coming up in a couple of months is the final leg of the Pennine Way the last 3 days from Bellingham in Northumberland, through the Kielder forest and up over the Cheviots to Kirk Yetholm in Scotland. Can’t wait to get out on the hills, something to look forward to and hopefully summer will have arrived by then!
What a cracking Bank Holiday weekend, not often you hear those words together! The good weather’s meant that there’s been much activity at the plot, a huge amount of sowing and some urgent jobs that needed attending to. One of the main tasks was fixing the mesh frames which were getting a bit tired after 5 years of good service and had taken the worst of the snow last winter. With new timber frames I recycled as much of the old mesh as possible and the first new frame is now covering a couple of cabbages (Ramco) and a line of calabrese (Aquiles F1). Also in are some Romanesco cauliflower the first time I’ve grown them.
The smallest bed is now full, with broad beans (Longfellow) at the back, some Hative de Niort shallots, garlic and a few onion sets.
The greenhouse is starting to fill up and the lastest sowings of sweetcorn and french beans are now coming through. Hopefully the warm weather will continue!!
Lovely sunshine today and whilst bitterly cold it was dry, the first chance I’ve had to get a few jobs done around the garden. The raised beds needed a bit of attention. I built them quite cheaply six years ago using 6 foot gravel boards from Scats (£2 each) and a couple of them had rotted through. But at that price they’re easy to replace and it wasn’t long before they were all fixed up.
I have three raised beds in the back garden – the smallest is 6′ by 6′, then 12′ by 6′ and 18′ by 6′. There’s also a narrow strip at the side of the greenhouse. In the front is a bed for soft fruit and another 12′ by 6′ veg bed – this will be home for the winter brassicas and leeks this year.
With the beds repaired I gave Stanleys a call and within 30 minutes a delivery of manure arrived – they’re in Pitton just down the road and always have decent stuff available. Then it was just a case of transferring it to the beds leaving half a bed free from manure where the root crops will go.
Not much happening on the sowing front just some broad beans (Longfellow) and chillies (Joe’s Long) on the go. And the potatoes are all set out for chitting. The next priority is sorting out the mixes for the parsnips that will go in by mid-Feb followed by the long and stump carrots late Feb into March. The serious work has started!
I finally got up to the allotment this morning making the most of a gap between downpours. With our holiday in France it’s about a month since I’ve been and the weeds were well on their way to swamping parts of the plot. I had the girls with me so it was a quick visit just pulling up the larger weeds particularly around the broad beans which were ready for harvesting. I couldn’t believe the amount of slugs and snails, I suppose with all the rain we’ve been having and the overgrown state of the plot it’s inevitable but it still took me by surprise as I don’t really see many on the plot at home. I think a combination of good plot hygiene and the frogs from next door’s pond provides a relatively slug and snail free environment. And any that do make it onto the plot are shown no mercy! I haven’t used pellets on the allotment but I think I will next year.
We came back from the allotment with a bag full of broad beans and a few sticks of rhubarb. The sweetcorn was doing well, a bit short but there were quite a few cobs forming. Back at home there’s plenty of soft fruit, mangetout, calabrese and brokali to keep us going with everything else poised to be ready for the end of the month. All we need now is some decent sun to warm everything up a bit!
It’s slow progress at the moment up at the allotment, every time I have a spare hour to nip up there it’s been raining. So far I’ve planted a few rows of potatoes and a double row of broad bean plants. But with the asparagus crowns arriving this morning I had to get up there come rain or shine and thankfully dodged the showers this afternoon.
It’s looking a bit better since I first started. From bottom to top is rhubarb – one large clump I inherited and three small crowns I put in. Then there’s the ‘soon to be gone’ weed patch – I’m planning to put sweetcorn in there. Next is the new asparagus bed – two rows of 6 plants, varieties Backlim, Darlise and Gijnlim – in 3 years time I’ll be harvesting the first full crop! Then there’s the beans and potatoes.
And today is the first time I’ve harvested from all three of my sites. Some rhubarb from the allotment, cabbage, cauliflower and parsnip from the shared plot and purple sprouting broccoli from home. It’s great to have some fresh produce at a typically sparse time of year.
Tomorrow, with the girls off to a birthday party, it’s time to get some Ramco cabbage plants in at home and get the dreaded mower and strimmer out for a long overdue garden tidy up. Maybe it’ll rain so I’ve got an excuse to put that job off for another day!
I was up at the shared plot this morning getting the rest of my potatoes in, Casablanca, Kestrel and Bonnie. about 60 in 5 rows around 2ft apart so there’s plenty of room to earth up as they grow. Also planted a double row of broad beans to complement those I put in at the alloment last week.
Looking around the plot I noticed that the row of overwintered caulies were starting to heart up and I took one home for dinner. There’s about 20 which should all grow ready for harvesting in the next few weeks. It’s a great time to have caulies to eat in the typical ‘hungry gap’ at this time of year. The pigeons don’t seem to bother with the mature plants and we’re a few months away from the worst of the cabbage whites plus we’re not quite on the salad meals of high summer. So they are a very welcome crop indeed!
This afternoon I’ll be out in the garden with the children getting a few jobs done when I can making the most of a dry day. Hope you all have a great weekend!
A walk round the garden on this lovely, mild weekend has brought it home just how far Spring has progressed and I now have the feeling that I’m behind on all the jobs that I’m usually ahead of at this time of year – too far ahead of in some cases like sowing seeds for example.
In previous years the greenhouse would be filling up with various brassicas on the go whilst at the moment there’s just half a dozen trays of broad beans germinating and some shallots – I would have sown these direct in Autumn before. And usually I’d have trays of chillies, peppers, and tomatoes growing on but at the moment there’s just a handful of tomatoes germinated and I’m still waiting for the peppers to poke through.
Yesterday I sowed some more stump carrots (Sweet Candle) and four rows of parsnips (Gladiator & Picador). So I’m on track with the roots it’s just the rest of the veg I need to get a move on with. The only thing I’ve done at the shared plot is plant a couple of hundred onion sets and I haven’t touched my half allotment plot – although on visiting I realised it’s much smaller than a standard council plot (it’s run by a village charity) so I am less worried about catching up there, and it’s still got the previous tenants cabbages and sprouts on so I have an excuse for my tardiness. This is where the asparagus bed will go and the plants haven’t arrived yet; there you go another excuse!
It’s great to see so much colour in the garden already. This was a tiny hellebore plant I put in last year which is doing well. And the daffs are out, even an early tulip or two, but the most colourful thing is the blossom on the cherry plum tree. We often overlook just how beautiful trees can be, not just a green backdrop.
So I’ve got plenty of work to do, the next six weeks is the critical time for every veg grower, lots of sowing and planning for the season ahead!
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.
Just to prove how little value I add with my nurturing of the veg plot in my absence the plot decided to have the best two weeks of the season so far. Thankfully I arrived back just in time to harvest some of the benefits.
The plot was starting to look like a jungle by the time I got back.
It’s the first time I’ve grown Mangetout and they are doing really well.
And the harvest, a couple of large broccoli heads, 3 cauliflowers, a load of broad beans, mangetout, asparagus peas and some garlic. Not bad at all! We were very fortunate to have a friend and neighbour keeping an eye on things although not much watering was needed with the rain we’ve had. And the strawberries and raspberries just keep on coming, definitely the best year for them so far. I should go away more often!!
At last it’s been raining steadily for most of the day which is much needed for the veg plot. And I decided to harvest a few veg for Sunday dinner.
This is the first cabbage of the year and the best one I’ve ever grown.
And the first broccoli head – although it’s a bit smaller than I would normally harvest as we’re going away soon and there’s plenty more to cut – with a few more broad beans as well.
The cornflower patch is now in full bloom.
I stopped my first Dahlia, a month earlier than last year, as they are growing quite quickly now. There’s another that I’ll stop before we go away and the rest will have to wait until we get back.
Hope you’ve had some rain too – funny we wouldn’t be so grateful for it in any normal British summer!!