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More like April torrential rain today! I feel like this year is already well behind with the cold winter and early spring. Hopefully we’ll get some decent weather and everything will catch up soon.
There’s three main areas of activity at the moment. Firstly the south-facing living room windowsill the best place for young seedlings. There’s a couple of pots of rocket – interesting in exactly the same conditions Runaway is far outstripping Va-Va Voom – Lettuce (Little Gem), Aubergines (Money Maker), Chillies (Joe’s Long), Celery (Morning Star) and Tomatoes (Sungold). All are making good progress and I’ll keep sowing rocket and lettuce every couple of weeks throughout the season. Later in the spring these will be sown direct into a three tier planter that I’m putting near the kitchen door for ease of picking when we need a few leaves.
Next is the cold greenhouse which is housing shallots and onion sets that haven’t gone out yet. Broad beans (Longfellow), and various brassicas – Cauliflower (Romanesque & Cornell), Brussel Sprouts (Wellington), Cabbage (Ramco), Calabrese (Aquiles), land cress and more lettuce.
And lastly there’s the pipes that I covered in the last post – and the carrots and parsnips have germinated so the cover is off and each one has the top portion of a plastic bottle protecting the seedlings which I’ll thin down to one in the next week or so. The stump carrots aren’t through yet but should be by next weekend. I’ve started three potato planters with Charlotte and the task of filling the polypots and getting the Kestrel, Winston and Amour out has begun and will be finished next weekend. On the showing front I’m aiming for the NVS SW show which is at the end of August so I have time yet.
I hope you’re all having a nice weekend and managing to get some jobs done despite the miserable weather. Here’s hoping we actually get a summer this year!!
There are a few things that mark the end of the season for me. The first ground frost about a week ago which took out my Dahlias, had to remove about 150 flowers and buds, such a shame as they had a good few weeks left in them and we haven’t had a frost since. The flowers on the Jerusalem Artichokes and the pumpkins turning a lovely orange colour mean it almost time to turn the clocks back. By then everything, bar a few brassicas, parsnips and leeks, is pretty much finished and the plot can be dug over and manured.
I had three small pumpkins off one plant this year as you can see next to the last of the Ramco cabbages. The veg for Sunday lunch was all from the garden – parsnips, potatoes, carrots and cabbage – and hedgerow blackberries and cooking apples from a friend up the road made the crumble. Not bad that, considering the weather we’ve had, you can still feed the family from your plot!
And the last of the carrots came out of the pipes as I was clearing the plot yesterday. This one was around 3 foot long and 6 inches round at the shoulder – not a bad specimen but I noticed a crack in it early on which meant it wasn’t any good for showing – tasted good though.
The plot (and blog) has been rather neglected recently due to a spate of DIY activity – normal service will resume very soon!!
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………………
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!
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!
Another job on the show veg front is almost complete. The pipes are in the raised bed and ready to be filled. Eventually I’ll construct an environmesh cover to keep the dreaded carrot fly out. There’s 12 6″ diameter pipes and 16 4″ diameter (the ones that I started with last year). The first job is to fill up half a dozen of the larger pipes ready for the parsnips. I’ll be sowing in a couple of weeks so will fill the pipes up next weekend and allow them to settle before sowing a few seeds in each one and covering with fleece until they germinate and can be thinned.
Looks like an alien installation at present!
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!!
You may remember my Pipes of Peace post from earlier in the year or whatever it was called. I had 8 drain pipes growing long parsnips and 6 with long carrots. I ‘harvested’ the parsnips last week for my local show and I managed to get the six best parsnips I’ve ever grown:
The variety was Gladiator and they were about 3′ 3″ long with a great skin condition. A very successful experiment.
We had them with a roast dinner the day after the show and they tasted lovely, all that nonsense about letting the frost get to them, just stick ‘em in the fridge for a couple of days to sweeten them up a bit. But whatever you do don’t get burnt!
This is my 200th post over the last 21 months. And I’ve enjoyed every one but most of all your comments and feedback. Thanks to you all!! Please scroll down to the bottom of the post page for the comments box.
Despite Darren’s wise advice I neglected to wear gloves and a long-sleeved shirt on Friday when pulling some parnsips for my village show.
A nasty rash appeared at the top of my forearm about 24 hours later and the following day it blistered. I also have quite a few smaller burns on my forearms and hands. So when you’re pulling parsnips this Autumn be warned. Despite growing them for 3 years this is the first time this has happened to me. For more info read this article.
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This morning I managed to get the front bed planted up and finished. There’s various trailing plants dotted around the edge – marrow, crown prince, jack ‘o’ lantern and a tromba courgette – I’ll train these up the fence so they don’t take up space in the bed. The rest of the plants are a cabbage walking stick plant (for our Hort Soc competition in the Autumn), early and late PSB, cauliflowers (snowball), brussel sprouts (Bedford – now earthed up and staked) and some autumn-fruiting raspberries. Two mesh tunnels will keep the pigeons and cabbage whites off the brassicas.
I’ve also filled the bed under the living room window. A few scraps of mesh have been joined together to keep the birds off the strawberries – we’ll be picking our first ones later today! There’s loads of fruit forming on the raspberries and in between is a blackcurrant, gooseberry and courgettes – black beauty and rubesa fruilana.
Out the back the beds are filling up.
From front to back are root crops, spring onions, spinach, rocket, radish, mangetout, garlic, broad beans, and runners/french beans on the canes right at the back. We’ve eaten spinach, rocket, radish and mangetout which was all very nice and the broad beans shouldn’t be too far behind.
Lastly the long roots in the pipes:
The parsnips and carrots are around 8″ high now, hoping they will be good enough for the show in mid-August. Hope you’re having a good weekend.