Monthly Archives: January 2011

Spud U Like!

We went up to the Hampshire Potato Day at Whitchurch and I couldn’t believe how many people were there. The place was packed full of people buying seed potatoes by the sackful. Not sure how much Rach and the girls enjoyed it but I had a good hour wandering around looking at the different types of potatoes (made it up to them with a pub lunch afterwards). Had a chat with Darren who was helping out on the NVS stall and he signed me up for a years membership and I bought some Stenna Runner Bean seeds (more seeds!). Then it was down to the business of selecting some spuds (as if I haven’t got enough already!).

After a word with one of the chaps filling the baskets with more nets of seed potatoes I went for Rubesse, a lovely coloured skinned potato that apparently easily outcrops Desiree. And from the JBA rack a packet of NVS Amour which looked great in the photo.

Chloe and Emily were given a free potato each so they’ll have their own little bags to grow them in. Their faces lit up when they received their gift but I quickly took them when Emily was just about to take a bite out of hers!

I’ll start chitting my earlies in a week which will be 6 weeks before I plan to get them out on the plot in mid-March. Can’t wait, that’s when the season really gets underway!

For a list of February jobs check out the Horticultural Society Blog here and please add anything I’ve missed as a comment.

Hope you’re all having a productive weekend!!

And We’re Off!

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??

Chit On!

At last the new season’s seed potatoes have arrived and I can get on with chitting them. I’ve gone for the following varieties:

First Early – Lady Christl
Second Early – Kestrel
Salad – Charlotte
Maincrop – Desiree & Maris Piper

I grew Charlotte and Desiree last year and was very pleased with them and I’m hoping the others I’ve chosen this time will be as good. I’m planning on buying a ‘wild card’ at the Hampshire Potato Day on Saturday week – maybe a coloured variety if anyone has any recommendations?

What varieties are you growing this year?

Update: Mal has done a great post on coloured potato varieties to help me find a favourite. There’s also a discussion started on UK Veg Gardeners, so join in.

Lastly, thanks to Jo over at The Good Life for The Stylish Blogger award. This is the first time that I, or anything I’m associated with, has been called stylish so thank-you Jo, I am honoured. Jo has picked 15 blogs to pass this award onto. Now I can’t separate 15 out from all the blogs I read, you know who you are from the links from this site and my visits and comments.

We’re up in Derby this weekend so no work will be done on the plot. Hope you all have a great weekend!

The Pipes are Calling

I’ve finally started getting my pipes in. What’s this got to do with growing veg you ask? Well over the past few months I’ve been planning to have a go at growing some prize winning veg on a very small scale concentrating on a few carrots and parsnips (the long carrot experiment part II, some of you will remember my pathetic effort last year!).

I could only find 4″ black drainpipes in the local DIY store, in 7 foot lengths. 6″ diameter is ideal for parnsips but to be honest if I get a parsnip big enough to get stuck in a 4″ pipe I’ll be chuffed! Cut in half I buried them in a section of raised bed. The pipes will be filled with the growing medium and should I manage to grow something longer than 3 and a half foot the tap root can keep going into the soil below which I can carefully dig out at show time in August (haha who am I kidding!). By part burying them in the raised bed I hope to avoid the hassle and expense of constructing some sort of frame to support the pipes. And I avoid the need for drums and tonnes of sand – don’t know what I’m talking about? Check out Darren’s method. 8 pipes are now in and I’ll buy enough for another 8 towards the end of the month. I’ll sieve the topsoil in the rest of the bed and core out a number of stations to fill with mix and sow stump carrots directly. I’ll also grow some stump carrots in sand in half barrels – with a variety of methods I’m hoping to get a decent result from one of them!

The seeds, from Medwyns, have arrived. I’ve gone for Gladiator for the long parsnip and Sweet Candle for stump carrots. I have some long carrot seeds left over from last year. The remainder of the parsnip seeds will go direct in the bed as they don’t last more than one season.

I also got round to planting my shallots. Traditionally they go straight in the plot on the shortest day but with the weather we’ve had I’m starting them off in 3″ pots with compost and some Vitax Q4 to get them going. There’s 5 Hative de Niort and the rest are Golden Gourmet that I grew last year.

The rest of the morning I spent digging over the plot which has now all been dug apart from the patch of parsnips and PSB left. I’ll dig in some well rotted chicken manure and I should then be ready for the new season.

Tomorrow I’ll plant the raspberry canes I bought a few weeks ago and put these bulbs in containers – Rach picked them up for 50p each from B&Q. I’m hoping that I can get the Tulips to grow and flower in April and early May.

There’s been some good discussions recently on the UK Veg Gardener’s forum. If you’re not a member yet why not join and benefit from the expertise on the site?

Off the plot I’ve joined Hugh FW’s Fish Fight campaign – what a crazy policy we have were good fish get thrown back into the sea dead because the fishermen are not allowed to land them. Surely there’s a more common sense approach?

And don’t forget the Save Our Forest petition against the proposed goverment sell-off of some of our most precious woodlands. Over 135,000 of us have signed the petition so far, join us here. For more info click here.

Hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend.

So much to do!

Well with a new season looming and the last few weeks of preparation wiped out by the weather there’s so much to do on the plot.

I’m glad to say that the PSB has bounced back, it was looking pretty forlorn in the cold weather, but I’m hoping to get a decent crop off a couple of the larger plants. It’s the only resident left in the front bed as I harvested the last of the Brussel Sprouts.

In the back garden I cleared the remainder of the kale and harvested a few more parsnips. So just the snips and PSB left from last year and overwintering onion sets and broad beans, with a few garlic coming through that I planted in March only never to appear in the summer. I’ve cleared the rest of the beds and will add some more well rotted chicken manure around the plot. I tested the soil in January last year and it had a pH of 7.7 so I’m happy to keep adding manure to bring the alkalinity down but I’d like to have another go at testing to see if it’s making any difference. Adding manure is a job I’d normally have done in November but with the rock solid ground it was impossible. It’s almost like soil it’s so rotted down so I will get away with it.

I’m also making plans for some prize winning veg growing. I’ve ordered some stump carrot (Sweet Candle) and parsnip (Gladiator) seed from Medwyns. I’m planning on growing the carrots in a couple of old dustbins I have and the parsnips in drainage pipes sunk into sand in a raised bed. More on that later.

I’ve taken inspiration from reading blogs written by people who show veg as a serious pastime and have been impressed by the dedication and hours they put in and their openess to share all the top secrets. I am only planning a very small effort by comparison and entering a local show or two. I met fellow Salisbury blogger Darren for the first time this morning, had a brew on his allotment and then saw his parsnip/carrot set up back at home. Having grown on an allotment for 5 years he’s decided to branch out into showing veg and is well ahead with his plans for this year. Take a read of his blog for an insight into what it takes to get started, mainly a lot of hard work and tonnes of sand at the moment!

Off the plot Rachel transferred her elderberry wine into a new demijohn, we had a quick taste, it has promise. And we sampled the sloe gin that we started 3 months ago, it’s tastes really good already, and it should develop to be even better in a few months. My favourite winter tipple.

I hope you’re all having productive weekends and managing to get out there and catch up with those jobs!

Update: just realised this is my 150th post, where did that time go!

A New Year……..and a New Blog!

Well why not? It’s a bit like children, when you have one you may as well have a second!

Regular readers will know I’m now a member of the Winterslow & District Horticultural Society Committee. As I already have a blog up and running I was appointed website officer and I thought it would be a good idea to start a blog to keep members and the general public updated on upcoming events and involved in garden-related discussions. I’m hoping it will be a way of attracting new members to the Society particularly the young families just discovering the benefits of growing their own fruit and veg for example.

So please click here and take a look. Anyone can join in the discussion and I’d welcome any comments and suggestions you have for future content. It’s early days yet but I’m hoping it will be a success!

Store Check

Happy New Year everyone! With all the celebrations going on it’s the time of year when your stored veg can get a bit neglected. So it’s worth taking a peek now to make sure you don’t end up with a rotten mess that’s fit for nothing.

Take the last of my pumpkins and squash for example.

They are starting to turn and need to be roasted or souped as soon as possible. Well worth a check, if I’d have left them another week or two they would have been useless.

With the first day of the New Year collective thoughts turn to shaking off that Christmas excess and the National Trust can help. At one of our local NT sites, Mottisfont Abbey, near Romsey, Hampshire, they’ve built a “Trim Trail” so you can power walk in the beautiful surroundings and stop off at a number of exercise points along the way. Click here for more information.

Best wishes for 2011.