Monthly Archives: November 2009

Rain, rain and more rain!

What a miserable week, downpour after downpour.  Not much that can be done on the plot in this weather but I’m still harvesting the winter veg, some brussels, cabbage, swede and kale.  Apart from booking next year’s holiday (Brittany) sanctuary can be sought in ordering seeds for next year.  You can get great discounts on seeds if you are a member of your local Horticultural Society or Allotment Association, last year my local society achieved a 50% discount on the catalogue price.  I have plenty of seeds in store and most should be good for next year, but I always need to replenish the stocks and it’s the time of year when you can start planning how the plot will look and reflect on what went well this year and what you will do differently next.  Our society uses Dobies who have a great selection of seeds and plug plants to choose from.  Other good options are Thompson & Morgan, Suttons and Mr Fothergills.  So get cracking and get your order in!

Surviving the Storm

Well last night was the first real storm we’ve had for a while and I’m glad to say the veg plot survived pretty much unscathed.  The purple sprouting took a bit of a battering and are now leaning slightly but as they were packed in pretty tight together they seem to have held each other up.  The fence panel by the small bed came down, luckily this is were the beans were this year and I had just cleared it a couple of weeks back so no damage done.  By 10am a new panel was in place (I have a few spares in the garage as our garden is fenced on three of the four sides).

Small bed 6' x 6'

You can just see the new panel behind the small bed.

Large bed 18'x 6'

The large bed was mainly brassica’s this year and is still pretty full.  From front to back there 3 rows of parsnips (tender & true), a couple of rows of brussel sprouts (think the variety is maximus hybrid?), 2 rows of swede (virtue), a row of chard (bright lights), a row of cabbage (golden acre), 2 rows of kale (dwarf green curled and scarlet) and then about 8 purple sprouting brocolli plants (mix of early & late).  It’s all packed in there but we’re now starting to harvest the winter veg as the nights are drawing in and turning colder.

Leeks

The leeks have been poor again this year.  I’m going to try a different variety next year.  These are Musselburgh and are not as big as I expected. 

Spring cabbage plants

I’ve planted out a few spring cabbages about a month ago that I’d sown in trays in the greenhouse and they’ve started to grow on.  The variety is Pixie and they are dotted about wherever there is space.

I’ve also put in a couple of varities of lettuce over-winter (artic king and winter density) both in the greenhouse and outside, first time I’ve tried this so I’ll see how it goes.

The next job is to clear the front bed of squash and courgette, the courgettes in particular have been amazing this year, I had 3 plants (2 yellow and 1 green) and estimate around 40 courgettes per plant from mid-May to end of October.  The strawberry plants have run amock and need sorting out and the last 2 or 3 butternut squash will soon succumb to the oven!

Front garden bed

Badger Beer – Blandford Fly

I tried a bottle of this real ale the other night.  I’d been looking for a beer to go with a curry for a while now and this one really hit the spot.  Brewed in Blandford Forum just down the road from here it has quite a spicy taste and stands up well to the curry.  Worth a try if you’re fed up with the usual lager!Badger Beer - Blandford Fly

Jerusalem Artichokes

Roasted Jerusalem ArtichokesJerusalem Artichokes are a new addition to the veg plot this year.  I went to a talk on veg growing at my local Horticultural Society back in November 08 and someone was kindly giving away bags of them for nothing.  That weekend I planted a dozen of the tubers along our back fence, 6 ” deep and roughly 2′ apart, and waited to see what would happen.  Sure enough in the spring they started to shoot and grew taller and taller.  By the end of the summer they were between 7′ and 10′ tall and provided a good screen against the fence.  In October small sunflower-like flowers appeared which were a welcome splash of colour at the end of the season.  Once the cold nights got to the foliage I cut them down to a foot high and dug up the first plant.  From just one plant I got a few pounds of tubers.  A quick wash and peel and they were ready for the roasting tray.

Being the first time I’ve ever grown (or eaten) artichokes I kept it simple to start with.  Just chopping them up about the same size as you would for sauteed potatoes I added some olive oil, thyme and salt & pepper to the baking tray and roasted for30 mins at 180 degrees (fan oven).  Once out of the oven a squeeze of lemon juice was added and straight on the plate.  Delicious and best of all free!!

Overwintering?

Well a lovely mild October has turned into a horrible wet November and my plans for getting in some veg to over-winter have been scuppered for now!  Last year I planted shallots (Grisselle) and onion (Radar) sets, garlic (purple Wight) and broad beans (Sutton) all in November.  All grew really well, within a few weeks the beans were a few inches high and the sets had lovely green shoots on them that saw them right through the winter including a pretty heavy snowfall in February (for Salisbury area that is – we don’t often see snow around here!).  We were eating broad beans in April and the onions, shallots and garlic were lifted at the end of June (some of the garlic and shallots are still in store).  This time round I’m tempted to leave it until March, if it dries out over the next 2 or 3 weeks I may have a go.  When I plant my sets I raise the soil up into a long mound and put the sets in about 4″ apart – the theory with the raised soil is more warmth and better drainage.  I then cover the area with low net to keep the birds off, removing when the shoots are a few inches high.  Well worth getting what you can in now as you reap the benefits next spring and have an additional area for sowing around July time when you lifted the onions.  I’ll post some photos if I manage to get them in in the next few weeks.

Veg currently in the ground on the plot are leeks, carrots, spring & savoy cabbage, purple sprouting broccoli, kale, chard, swede, brussel sprouts, parsnips and butternut squash.  All can be harvested now bar the purple sprouting which will be ready in late winter/spring (really looking forward to that as last year’s crop was devasted by caterpillars and pigeons – not this time round, the crop has been netted and plants range from 3-6′ high already.  We ate the first of the brussels the other day and they were superb, well worth the wait!

What’s this about?

Hi, being new to this I am building this blog over the coming weeks just about things I’m interested in.  My main hobby at the moment is growing my own veg and 2009 is my 2nd year (the 1st was a bit hit and miss!).  I have a few raised beds in the garden (sum total of 300 sq foot) and a greenhouse.  So it’s a pretty small area but I manage to pack in as much as possible to give my family a variety of fresh veg all year round.  This blog is for anyone who is just starting out and wants a few no-nonsense tips on what to do, anyone who has limited time, (I work full-time and have 2 kids), or has a relatively small area.  The blog title “Two chances” comes from my no fuss approach to growing, everything I plant has two chances – live or die – and I don’t get to bothered when things don’t work out as planned!  I’ve found from experience that most stuff will grow without going into all the detail you see in some of the books, everything you need to know is pretty much on the packet, just get out there and sow!!