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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.
After reading Mark’s chilli update post I thought I’d better take a look at my plants as I’ve been neglecting them, other than a quick watering and feed, for the other, more needy, veg on the plot.
On the greenhouse staging are the chillies (cayenne, cheyenne, scotch bonnet, apache), and peppers (bell boy, redskin, leteus, denver, etiuda). I’ve managed to fit most of the plants on the staging with only a few on the floor.
The Cayenne chillies are doing really well with one or two turning red now. I’m starting to use some whenever I cook a curry.
And I’m also growing the long pointed variety Anaheim.
I haven’t settled on the best way of preserving them yet having tried drying, freezing and in oil. What’s the best way you use to preserve your chillies and peppers? Last year I used some of the peppers in this lovely recipe.
Have a great weekend!
Harvesting on the plot – lettuce, rocket, radish, tomatoes, chillies, broad beans, french beans, mangetout, beetroot, spring onions, onions, shallots, cabbage, calabrese, potatoes
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!
In a bid for early flowers I sowed my first sunflower seeds this morning. And it reminded me of a lyric in the late 80s Tears for Fears song ‘Sowing the Seeds of Love’ which seemed appropriate for this time of year as we enter March and a frenzy of sowing activity. That song also included a rant against Margaret Thatcher, ‘politician granny’;by that time the gloss had well and truly come off her leadership with the Poll Tax. We’ve come full circle politically again as we do in gardening every year.
So what’s happening on the Two Chances Veg Plot at the end of February? Well on the plot I’m still harvesting leeks and parsnips with PSB eagerly anticpated. Parsnips were sown in the pipes last week and the overwintered broad beans and onions are coming on well. Tulips are starting to come through in the tubs and in the flower beds there’s crocuses, daffs and more tulips doing their thing and taking advantage of the mild spell we’ve had recently. In the greenhouse the shallots are starting to sprout and I’ve got a loads of brussel sprout seedlings pricked out into small pots.
Indoors the spuds are chitting nicely and the second batch of broad beans is starting to germinate. On various windowsills a tray of lettuce (Webb’s Wonderful) needs pricking out, tomatoes are poking through and the first true leaves are showing the peppers and chillies. The onions look exactly the same as they did last week and I’ve just sown the first batch of sugar snap peas along with cabbage, early and late purple sprouting broccoli and some asparagus peas.
On the ‘to do’ list this weekend is the mix for the long carrots which I need to get into the pipes and sown. More brassicas to be sown – cauliflower and calabrese which can grow on in the greenhouse. So that’s it you’re up to speed on everything going on!!
Hope you all have a great weekend!
The circle of life was completed today on the Two Chances Veg Plot as far as my parnsips were concerned. A few are harvested every Sunday to go with the roast dinner and today was no exception. It was also sowing day for my first ever long parnsip attempt in the pipes now installed in one section of the raised bed.
The mix had been in for three days and had hopefully settled as much as it was going to. After a thorough soaking 5 Gladiator seeds were popped into the centre of each pipe, sideways on, then lightly covered, and the end of the pipe then covered with polythene to keep them a bit warmer and protected until germination. Now it’s just a waiting game as parsnip germination can be very slow. Hopefully all the seeds will come up and I’ll eventually thin down to the strongest one. Over the next few weeks I’ll sow more directly into the beds but using a station sowing method into cores of the same mix spaced every 6 inches or so. This should hopefully give me some nice, large parsnips come Autumn. Then I’ll be preparing my mix for the long and stump carrots that will go in over the next 2-3 weeks.
Elsewhere on the plot the digging is now finished. A top layer of well rotted chicken manure is hopefully drawing up the worms to work their magic and will be lightly forked in ahead of planting. The broad beans sowed in Autumn are about 4″ high and looking strong, as are the onion sets. Two PSB plants have survived, one of which is the largest I’ve ever grown, not in height as it’s only about 4′, but it’s a monster width-wise and I’m hoping it will crop heavily soon.
Inside I’ve pricked out the chilli, pepper and onion seedlings. There’s a tray of Brussel Sprouts (Bedford) germinated and tomatoes have been sown (Marmande, Gardener’s Delight, Moneymaker, Tumbling Tom Red, F1 Incas & Golden Peardrop). I’ll be sowing more brassicas this week, cauliflower, cabbage, calabrese and PSB.
So with March approaching the activity level is starting to warm up like the weather will be hopefully. There’ll be lots to do over the next few weeks with sowing reaching frenetic levels and seed trays on every available windowsill in the house. Hopefully there will be no late cold snap, March will be nice and mild, and we’ll all be off to a flyer!!
As mentioned on UKVG there’s a new on-line publication for children and schools called Grow Time which is packed full of information to get children into growing their own fruit and veg. Well worth checking out.
It’s our local Horticultural Society’s Jumble Sale on Saturday so if you’re in South Wilts why not come along and support us.
And finally there’s a Seedy Sunday event this Sunday in Downton, South Wilts. I’ll be there as I’ve got nowhere near enough seeds .
Regular readers will know I’m a laid back grower, but when it comes to sowing seeds I can be a little impatient. Despite sitting on my hands I can’t resist getting a few seeds on the go towards the end of January. Now it was time to prick out those seedlings and let them grow on all cosy in a south-facing windowsill.
There were half a dozen Tomato ‘Golden Peardrop’, 4 Aubergine ‘F1 Bonica’, 6 Pepper ‘Annaheim’, 4 chilli ‘Cayenne’ and some Onions ‘Globo’. They should be OK on the windowsill with the radiator below giving them some gentle heat. I resisted sowing more, just a few Lettuce ‘Webbs Wonderful’ for some early salad leaves.
One veg that I will be sowing soon are parsnips. But we haven’t finished eating last year’s crop yet. There’s about 20 left from sowings almost a year ago. They’re such a reliable veg standing in the ground all winter. I’ve not had any trouble with pests and the pigeons and caterpillars don’t like them. If it wasn’t for their long growing season they would be the perfect veg.
Best of luck if you’ve already sown some seeds. If you haven’t then you have the patience of a Saint. I’ve tried to wait and failed miserably!!
Despite my laid-back approach to growing my own veg I can be a bit impatient at this time of year and today saw the first seed sowing for the Two Chances Plot.
Into a couple of unheated propogators went Onion ‘Globo’, Peppers ‘Etiuda’, ‘F1 Denver’, ‘Anaheim’, Chilli ‘Cayenne’, Aubergine ‘F1 Bonica’ and Tomato ‘Golden Peardrop’. The propogators will sit on the south-facing bathroom windowsill over a radiator so the seeds have a reasonable amount of warmth to germinate……..fingers crossed!
I used my standard approach to seed sowing. Filling up the cells with moist multi-purpose to about 2/3rds full, then topping up with seed compost. Sow the seeds on top of the compost then cover with a vermiculite. Seeds need a nutrient poor start hence the seed compost but it’s expensive so I keep its use to a minimum and when the roots start to form there’s a layer of multi-purpose to keep the plants going until they’re ready to prick out. That’s the theory anyway, based on an excellent talk from Ray Broughton last year. Check out one of my earlier posts for more detailed info on seed sowing.
What’s that I hear you say? Yes, I know it’s too early but I’ve been itching to get something underway since the New Year and seeds are cheap and I have them in abundance so what’s the harm? I’ll sow another batch in a month’s time and what I have left over will go into the Horticultural Society Plant Sale in May. If my first batch fails there will be less for the Plant Sale I’m afraid. Come the end of March I’ll select the strongest plants to grow on through the summer.
After much heated debate on UKVG following the announcement of the peat ban due to come into force I’m trialing a new peat-free compost this year from New Horizon which was highly recommended in recent Which magazine trials. I picked up half a dozen bags at Wyevale.
Have you got any compost recommendations? And any seeds on the go yet??
I have a bit of a pepper glut going on at the moment as the greenhouse plants start to ripen. There’s Californian Wonder (Red), Etuida (Orange), and Yellow Bell Peppers so I have a great mix of colours. Some went into a spag bol for the girls but I wanted to enjoy them in more of an adult dish.
We’ve just had roasted peppers with chillies and tomatoes from Jamie Oliver’s “Jamie at Home” book and they were really good.
A great way to use up your peppers!!
It’s been a miserable start to Autumn, not much sun around, but the greenhouse keeps producing a bounty of wonderful colours.
The tomatoes are still ripening, there’s around 30 more left on the plants. The peppers are now coming good, these orange ones are Etiuda, along with Cayenne and Scotch Bonnet chillies.
The Californian Wonder are starting to turn red at last.
And my solitary Scotch Bonnet, bought as a tiny plant from B&Q for 21p in the spring, is still going strong. I’ve been learning about the heat of these chillies which is measured on the Scoville Scale. Up until now I’ve grown Cayenne which register between 30,000 and 50,000 on the scale whereas Scotch Bonnet are between 100,000 and 325,000, not ones to try raw then! Good for homemade curries though!
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