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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!
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!!
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!!
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.
the snow has gone……..and the garden looks a right state! Oh well lots to do as soon as this drizzle stops and the ground drys out a bit….hopefully.
The broad beans I sowed about 6 weeks ago are just starting to poke through the ground, probably in shock at the moment, but I’m hoping they’ll take advantage of the relatively milder weather over the next few days and put a growth spurt on. They’ll give me early beans next year and less blackfly trouble, that’s the plan anyway.
And the onion sets have survived. They look a bit pathetic at the moment but that should change come spring and as long as I get bigger onions than last year (shouldn’t be difficult, they’re not far off now) I won’t complain.
The bargain strawberries I bought in late summer are clinging on in the greenhouse. I’ve got just the spot for them between the beech hedge and driveway which should be enough room to squeeze one long row of plants in.
So what are the main projects for next year?
Firstly I need to get on and build some compost bins. It’s been almost a year since I decided on a composting method I’d like to do full time as buying the stuff in is expensive and I think using this quick-cook method I should be able to get decent compost in 4 months. At the moment I’m getting nothing as I haven’t built the bins yet!
I’ll also have a dabble at growing some prize winning parsnips and carrots hopefully, just need to get some bins organised and filled up with grit sand and off we go. Hopefully it will be more successful than last time.
I should have a veg plot share in the next village and with a bit of luck an allotment at some point so expansion is on the cards whilst trying to squeeze the most out of the beds and borders at home.
Off the plot there will be the big New Year diet, I need to get in shape for next summer, and I’ll be entering my 39th year so I need a mid-life crisis of sorts. Another leg of the Pennine Way will be completed and I’m sure there’ll be many other things of interest to write about in the coming months.
So it’s going to be another busy year and I’ll be using this blog to record my successes and failures. As our laptop decided to attempt to spontaneously combust last night I may be offline for a while as it goes in for repair. I hope you all had a good Christmas and have a fantastic New Year and a great 2011 in whatever you choose to do! I’ll leave you with this photo of the girls destroying a Christmas tree.
I came home from work today to find a delivery of live plants on my doorstep from Thompson & Morgan. Eagle-eyed bargain hunter Rach spotted the offer on Hot UK Deals. 12 Strawberry plants reduced from £7.99 to £1 with an extra 10% off so 90p for 12 plants and free delivery. 10 boxes were ordered and I’ve now got 120 Strawberry plants for £9!! Not bad.
My plan is to grow them on (fingers crossed) and plant down the side of the beech hedge. There’s about 18 inches between the driveway edge and the hedge, not ideal but it’s just wasted space that gets covered in weeds. With a bit of soil improvement I think they’ll do OK there and boost our strawberry production significantly. The variety is Sonata which is a mid-season variety, has anyone tried them?
Well not me obviously but Rach has been going mad in the kitchen ahead of the Summer Show next Saturday. So far I have sampled, and given verdict on, Carrot Cake (all gone), Malt Loaf, Lemon Curd, Plum and Strawberry jam. All very good and I can’t wait to try batch 2 of the cakes after the show. Still to come are sponge fruit flan, mince pies, cornish pasties and home made fudge. Oh and the pile of chutney we made last summer. This tasting job is hard work!
Naively I thought the garden would really struggle without my expert attention whilst we were on holiday for the last two weeks. How wrong I was, it quite happily looked after itself, everything has come on in leaps and bounds, basically a big two fingers up to the landlord – sod off we don’t need you!
Apart from friends watering and taking whatever fruit and veg was available nothing was done. But other than harvesting the last of the caulies and spring cabbage when we got back there wasn’t much to do. So here’s a quick catch up on progress so far.
The runners have come on well, at the top of their canes now.
The courgettes are well away, a bit of blackfly but nothing to worry about. This is F1 Orelia and the Black Beauty plants are also fruiting nicely.
The greenhouse is full. There’s a couple of cucumbers at the end, tomatoes down the side edged with salad bowl and french marigolds. On the staging are chillies, peppers and aubergines.
Harvested a few courgettes, broad beans and squash.
And the first tomatoes, these are Brasero.
The first raspberries were ready as well which were fantastic. The strawberries keep coming to, we only have a dozen plants and are into our fifth week of picking now, they have gone mad this year.
And the chillies are getting big. This one is Fresno Supreme, I also have Cayenne, Jalapeno, Californian Wonder and Scotch Bonnet growing.
The front garden flower bed is in full bloom. The Red Orach that I grew from the seeds Maureen sent me are now 7 feet tall, I love the coulour which is a great backdrop for the sweet peas.
I grew the carnations from seed last year from a Woolies flower selection pack that work colleagues gave me for my birthday. They didn’t do anything in their first year but are now making up for it. The Sweet Peas are over 4 feet high on the wigwams. Just after taking this photo I cut most of them to encourage more flowers.
Finally the Dahlias have started flowering. This one is my favourite so far, Atika. More on the Dahlia progress next time.
So everything has pretty much run to plan, I should go away more often!
Harvesting: Spring cabbage, Cauliflower, Calabrese, Lettuce, Rocket, Radish, Tomatoes, Courgette, Broad Beans, Squash, Strawberries, Raspberries.
We’re off to France very soon and are taking as much veg as possible with us in the cool box. I’ve cut the first cauliflower and broccoli today which I am really pleased with. Pretty much the same size as the supermarket but I bet they taste better!
There’s loads to follow so I’m hoping the rest will develop over the next two weeks and I’ve told our friends who are looking after the garden to take what is ready. There’s never a good time to go on holiday when you have a garden (although I say anytime is a good time for a holiday!). I’m sure there will be loads of veg coming to harvest just when we are away but it means I’ll be back to man the defenses against the cabbage white invasion later in the season. I’ve just cut the main head off the first broccoli so it should now sprout more heads to follow on. It’s the first time I’ve grown them so it’s all new but I am very happy with the results so far!
Elsewhere in the garden the rambling rose is in flower.
And the first cornflower.
The Red Orach are between 4-5 foot tall now but the Sweet Peas are catching up fast.
And the Dianthus dotted around the flower bed are in full bloom.
One thing I think I’ll miss in the next 2 weeks is my first Dahlia flower as there are quite a few buds on the ones I started in containers in the greenhouse back in March.
Fingers crossed we’ll all see some good weather over the next two weeks, it’ll be “cracking the flags” as I would say.
I’m also starting a footnote on posts to keep a record of what I’m harvesting.
Harvesting: Spring Cabbage, Lettuce, Rocket, Radish, Courgette, Squash, Calabrese, Cauliflower, Strawberries.
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!