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We returned from a fantastic two weeks away about on hour south of La Rochelle (pictured), on the west coast of France, last weekend and there was lots of catching up to do on the plot.
The cucumbers (Carmen) in the greenhouse are coming on well. There’s six plants in two growbags on the staging which I’m training up and across the roof. The growbags are laid on large trays with a layer of gravel to act as a reservoir for water which is drawn up through the cuts in the bottom of the growbags – this has proved an effective method to make sure they are always well watered whilst I’m away. Picking off any sideshoots and tendrils as they develop so all the energy is concentrated into the fruits, plus removing the lower fruits that would not be able to fully develop without touching the staging. Hopefully I’ll have an unmarked pair for the New Forest Show which is three weeks on Tuesday. I won’t be giving them my full attention though with a three day stag do in Dublin and four days walking the Pennine Way between now and the show. Fingers crossed the hands off approach will pay dividends.
Alongside the greenhouse the Goldstar tomatoes are between five and six foot high with some of the fruit on the lower trusses forming nicely. As with the cucumbers I’m keeping them well watered and feeding regularly with a potash feed.
One of my main hopes for the show is a pair of cabbages (Ramco) – difficult to get a decent photo of them as I daren’t lift the net tunnels off them for fear of breaking some of the leaves. This won’t happen until the night before the show. Fingers crossed they’ll heart up by then and remain bug-free. A liberal sprinkling of pellets every so often has helped keep the slugs off them up to now.
I’m concerned the long carrots won’t be thick enough as they’re behind last year and I’m also hoping a set of stump carrots will be ready in time.
I’m not entering celery in the show as this is my first real attempt at growing this difficult veg, but I’m pleased with progress so far. I need to swap the collars for longer ones to draw the plants up further for a good blanch on the stems.
And the potatoes are looking good, with really healthy looking haulms which are in flower. These are in polypots filled with a potato mix from Medwyns so they are my best hope for the show. As with all the veg a question mark on whether or not they’ll be ready in time – never sure what’s underneath. They’re all coloured potatoes so I’m hoping for a decent matching set. Next weekend I’ll cut the haulms and move the bags under cover to dry out and let the skins harden. Hopefully I won’t be looking at a bag full of marble-sized spuds after that!
This is also the first time I’m growing peas and the pods are starting to fill out nicely.
On the harvest side we’ve had loads of soft fruit this week, the usual strawberries and raspberries and also these gooseberries for the first time which all the family loved!
Also some shallots, a mixture here of Hative de Niort and Jermor.
And finally some mangetout and calabrese as well. Not a bad harvest.
It’s not all be great news though, up at the shared plot I lost most of my squash and pumpkin plants to slugs but up at the allotment the sweetcorn are doing well and no sign of the dreaded deer so far. It’ll be a busy few weeks as everything comes to fruition and also getting in some late sowings to take us through Autumn. Have a great weekend everyone!
The Two Chances Veg Plot is now fully planted. Every square inch of available space in the garden has been used and the plot is flourishing.
In the large bed (front to back) are potatoes which are coming on nicely after a slow start. They’re followed by 7 Green Ramco cabbages which I’m really pleased with at the moment – they’re perfect and putting on top growth that you can see every day. I’m just hoping I can keep the pests off them until the end of July when I’ll hopefully have a pair good enough for the New Forest Show. Then there’s some calabrese, a double row of celery, a couple of kale and a couple of late purple sprouting broccoli plants and finally a row of french beans and a row of runner beans.
In the medium sized bed there’s the pipes with the carrots which are starting to take off along with shallots garlic and onions. And in the small bed there’s a few more onions, dwarf french beans, mangetout and peas. My main hope for the Show out of that lot is the carrots although they are behind where they were last year but I guess we’re all in the same boat.
In the greenhouse I’ve got the cucumbers set up on the staging to grow over the roof and tomotoes, salad crops and aubergines in the bed. The greenhouse is being optimised for cucumbers so it’s shut up 24/7 apart from a few minutes of watering each day or damping down so the tomotoes in the greenhouse will have to fend for themselves. In the 3 mini greenhouses alongside the main one are the Goldstar tomotoes which I’m hoping to get some decent fruit off.
In the front garden is a bed full of summer and autumn fruting raspberries and strawberries and another bed with marrows, cauliflower, courgettes, carrots and parnsips and that’s it there’s no more room. I have a couple of trays of celeriac seedlings with nowhere to put them – up at the shared plot or allotment I can’t water them as much as they’re going to need so they may not get planted at this rate. There’s some leeks which I’ve got room for at the shared plot alongside the 24 squash and pumpkin plants I’ve just planted out up there. The last of the runner beans will go in tomorrow along with sowings of carrots and beetroot and then that’s it, I can do no more, and to be honest I haven’t got the energy even if I wanted to!
With today being the best of the long weekend weatherwise it’s a BBQ and a few drinks with friends and 24 hours off the gardening – well apart from watering the greenhouse, tieing up the peas, supporting the potato haulms………………
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!!
It was time to harvest the greenhouse this morning:
There’s a cucumber (Carmen), tomatoes (Moneymaker, Gardener’s Delight, Golden Peardrop), Peppers (Denver, Annaheim) and Chillies (Cayenne, Patio Apache). Not a bad harvest, the peppers and chillies in particular have done really well this year. I’ll bag the chillies up and pop them in the freezer to use later in the year. And the tomatoes and peppers will go into some pasta creation later today.
Hope you’re all enjoying the weekend.
I spent the morning finally sorting out the greenhouse.
The tomatoes are moneymaker, gardener’s delight and golden peardrop in bottomless pots on a bed of gravel lined with plastic. The idea being that the gravel bed acts as a water retaining reservoir that the tomotoes longer roots can reach. And the pots themselves are watered with a liquid feed that’s taken up by the plants more fibrous roots. At the end of the greenhouse are two Carmen all-female cucumbers and around the edges of the beds are lettuce (lollo rosso, tom thumb and salad bowl), basil and french marigolds. The smell from the basil and marigolds should ward off the whitefly through the summer.
On the staging are the chillies (cayenne, cheyenne, scotch bonnet, apache), peppers (bell boy, redskin, leteus, denver, etiuda) and aubergines (bonica). I’ll take the shelves out of a couple of the mini-greenhouses and grow the spare tomatoes in end-on grow bags. I’m glad to get another job crossed off the list and everything looks a bit tidier now. Hope you’re having a good 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.
Well the countdown to the village show run by my local Horticultural Society has well and truly begun. It’s 6 days away so I’m going around the garden checking on progress and seeing what I think will be ready for the big day. For last years write-up click here.
The main classes are Master Gardener and Society Top Tray.
Master Gardener (display space 24″ x 24″) – One vase of flowers and 3 vegetables from the list. One from Sweet Peas – 9 of any variety, Gladioli – 2 of any variety, Dahlias – 3 of any variety, or Perrenials – 9 of any variety. And 3 from Runner Beans – 6, Cabbages – 2, Cauliflower – 1, Carrots – 3, Onions – 3, Peas – 6 (pods), Potatoes – 6 (one variety), Tomatoes – 6.
I didn’t enter this class last year as I wasn’t growing any flowers, it’s most likely going to be glads or dahlias with runners, carrots and potatoes I think. Or I don’t enter again this year and pool my best veg in the other classes. Decisions, decisions…..
Society Top Tray (display space 18″ x 24″) – 3 vegetables from the list:- Carrots – 3, Onions – 3, Parnsips – 3, Peas – 6 pods, Potatoes – 3 one variety, Runner Beans – 6, Tomatoes – 6. I’ll probably be relying on parsnips, runners and spuds for this one, possibly carrots if I have enough decent ones.
The Dahlia bed is looking good. I should be able to enter some of these into the show. The varieties I’m growing are Shooting Star, My Love, Firebird, Hayley Jane, Kennermaland, Vancouver, Black Cat, Le Baron and Pompon Flow Mix (various small ball types). In containers I have Bristol Stripe, Babylon Bronze, Atika, Kenora, Purple Gem and Kelvin Floodlight. For more Dahlia posts click here, here and here.
This is Shooting Star.
The Gladioli are looking good, should have some ready at the right time.
Courgettes are a tricky class as I need three around 6″ long with flowers.
I need two cucumbers, they have their own class and can go into the salad veg selection.
The squash will go into the any other veg and selection of veg from my garden categories.
Peppers will go into the selection of veg category. Possibly some of the aubergines and chillies too.
The pumpkins are doing well. I’ve grown a couple of plants from the seeds Maureen sent me, the variety is Rouge Vif d’etamps.
And Chloe and I were in the garden harvesting the plum tree which produces hundreds of these tiny plums. Chloe loves them!
Don’t forget my free Land’s End Gift Voucher and Seed giveaway that I launched earlier this month. All you have to do is leave a comment on the post, just click here. I’ll be drawing the gift voucher winners and despatching the seeds towards the end of the month.