Monthly Archives: April 2011

Successfully Overwintered?

I’ve been really pleased with the crops I overwintered this year. With the warm Spring anything that was already up and running when the temperatures started to warm up has really shot on.

Take the broad beans for example, there’s loads of flowers on them already.

The Radar Onion sets I planted back in early November are doing well. I’m sure they’re starting to ‘bulb-up’ already.

And the pansies that I sowed last Spring made it through to give some welcome colour this Spring.

Considering all of them were under a foot of snow for most of December they’re doing pretty well. I think it’s worth taking the risk with the hardier crops. And what an April we’ve had, barely any rain here in Salisbury which has meant glorious weather, BBQs, too many cocktails yesterday for our Royal Wedding garden party but who’se complaining! The only downside is the extra watering, very unusual for April, but I’m now only giving each brassica plant a good soaking once a week which is all they need and this is keeping the watering time down to a minimum. The nights are still cool though and with my Dahlia tubers out and up through the soil already that’s a bit of a risk that I’ll have to keep an eye on for another few weeks in case a late frost strikes.

So what crops have you overwintered successfully this year? Enjoy the rest of your long Bank Holiday weekend (sorry any Scottish readers!).

Greenhouse expansion & sowing frenzy!

The spate of Bank Holidays have meant lots of work in the garden interspersed with the odd BBQ or three! So I finally got round to building the two mini-greenhouses that Rachel bought for me very cheaply at the end of last season. They’ve joined the one I already have as an overflow to the 8’x6′ cold greenhouse. I positioned them between the greenhouse and the fence, a gap just big enough for them, which also meant blocking off a favourite path for the girls to run round – but running round between a fence and a load of glass wasn’t fun for me watching an accident in waiting! A lot of people have had trouble with these things blowing away, I’ve got mine in a very sheltered position but have also driven an iron rod into the ground and hooked it over one of the shelves so there’s no chance of them going anywhere.

Yesterday I sowed leeks, more dwarf beans, more marigolds, alyssum, poppies and rudbekia. The crunch will come when all of them need pricking out, I’ll be out there for days with the amount I’ve sown!

The tomatoes are looking good, this is the first batch, the first true leaves are just appearing on the second. With the recent weather it’s tempting to plant out some of the tender plants to make more space inside. I think Spring will have a sting in the tail so be warned, don’t put them out too early!

Hope you all have a great Bank Holiday!!

Sweltering in April!

The unseasonably warm weather continues and you can work up a sweat just doing some light jobs around the garden. A day off work is a time to take stock of where everything is up to and what I need to get done over the Easter weekend.

Around the plot the garlic and broad beans are doing well.

And the lettuce, Webb’s Wonderful, planted in the coldframe is coming on.

The chillies have shot on in the warm weather.

And the first batch of dwarf beans have germinated. I followed Mal’s advice of sowing scar side down for the best results. Well worth checking out his experiment into bean germination.

I decided to plant out these Brussel Sprouts, a bit early, but they were bursting out of their pots. The patch they went into had been dug with a helping of well rotted manure in April and I finished it off by hoeing in a top dressing of blood, fish and bone the other day. I then dug the planting holes (2 ft apart, should be 3ft apart ideally but I wanted to get 3 plants across my 6ft bed) and firmed them in really well. When they get a bit bigger I can either earth up or stake them.

And finally the bluebells are starting to flower, which following the daffs and tulips is another welcome burst of colour.

Hope you all have a great long weekend!

Allotment Threat

Just read Debbie at Carrot and Kids latest post to find out the government is proposing to remove the statutory duty of councils to provide allotments. Read here for further information. The consultation closes on April 25th so please add your views before it’s too late. This may threaten the future of allotment sites up and down the country.

There’s also a thread on UKVG running here or click here to go straight to the online petition.

Thanks for your time.

No Room at the Inn

The Two Chances Veg Plot is getting full to bursting at the moment. All the first and second earlies are now out along with the brassicas planted this morning.

The large bed (18ft x 6ft) has overwintered onions, shallots, calabrese, cauliflower, cabbage, celeriac and a couple of rows of Charlotte potatoes.

The medium bed (12ft by 6ft) has parsnips and long carrots in pipes, stump carrots and parsnips sowed direct along with spring onions, spinach, beetroot and mangetout. The small bed (6ft x 6ft) has garlic, broad beans and a trench for runner beans. The beds are surrounded by 20 polypot bags of spuds and a couple of old dustbins with stump carrots. The girls really enjoyed helping me fill up the spud bags!

That’s it really there’s a few spaces for some lettuce and radish but it’s pretty much full up. There is a strip along the back garden fence that will take the dwarf beans and the rest of the brassicas (brussels, swede, sprouting broccoli) will go into the front bed (12ft x 6ft) where there is already a few Autumn fruiting raspberry canes. In the other front garden bed there’s already summer fruiting raspberries, strawberries and a gooseberry and blackcurrant bush but I should be able to squeeze in some courgettes. The tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, chillies and aubergines will go in the greenhouse.

So anything else will be going up to the shared plot in the next village. At the moment that’s maincrop potatoes, sweetcorn, summer and butternut squash. These will join onions, shallots, broad beans, parsnips, carrots, beetroot and cabbage that are already in. Not sure when we’re going to eat all this veg!!

As you can see crop rotation and advanced planning are not my strong points. The crops rotate every year but I don’t follow a strict crop rotation plan I just try and ensure that nothing is grown in the same place for consecutive years.

And we had a bumble bee visitor today.

On Tuesday I went to a talk on bees given by a local bee farmer at our Hampshire NVS DA meeting. It was fascinating stuff, I didn’t realise bees were such a complex subject. Bee pollination supports every third mouthful of food we eat so they are vital to the environment and us. There’s a number of challenges ahead for bee communities under threat but it was good to hear there’s a lot of money going into research at the moment and progress is being made. Fingers crossed they can come up with a solution to the problems.

Anyway time to get back out in the garden. Hope you are all having a good weekend!

A Bit Thin on Top

Time has come to thin the long carrots and parsnips I sowed in pipes a few weeks ago. Following an in-depth, scientific analysis, and after weighing up a long list of pros and cons I went for the ‘pull’ approach rather than the ‘snip’ approach advocated by Darren. Two reasons, I couldn’t find any scissors, and I thought it would be a lot faster (it was getting a bit nippy outside this evening). And I was right, in a couple of minutes the job was done and I was back indoors with the kettle on!

And here’s the results. Now all they need to do is grow. With one huge variable in the equation……me!! Will I be able to nurture these chaps to the August show bench??

And to top it all off the Two Chances blog received a nice mention from Dobbies. Just waiting for that chap from the Observer Sunday supplement to give me a call now. Not a bad day all in all!

Sow, sow, sow!

With the warmer weather truly settled in for a few days it’s time to sow, sow, sow here at the Two Chances Veg Plot. With Rachel away in London I’m looking after the girls so what better way than getting them to help me in the garden. I use the term ‘help’ very loosely indeed – so while they were ‘helpfully’ raking the gravel from the path onto the lawn and tipping soil onto the plants, not to mention trying to scoop water from the watering can with an empty plant pot and trying to drink it whilst it leaked from the bottom all over them – I got on with some sowing.

The greenhouse is filling up nicely……..

There’s a long list of seedlings that have been pricked out and are now growing on:
Brussel Sprouts (Bedford & Evesham Special donated from a friend), Calabrese (aquiles), Cauliflower (snowball), Cabbage (golden acre primo), Celeariac (donated from a friend), Broad Beans, Mangetout (oregon), Early and Late Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Aspargus Peas, Beetroot (burpee’s golden), Red Orache, Tomatoes (various), Chillies (cayenne), Peppers, Aubergines (bonica), Sunflower and Pot Marigolds.

And sown this morning:
More cabbage, cauliflower, calabrese, mangetout and lettuce and for the first time courgette (Defender), pumpkin (rouge vif d’etamps), runner bean (moonlight), dwarf french (purple teepee and ferrari), dwarf borlotti (firetongue), cucumber (carmen), parsley, basil, thyme, chervil, summer savoury, coriander, nicotania, alyssum and french marigolds.

Growing away on the plot are parsnips (gladiator), carrots (sweet candle), onions (radar), shallots (hative de niort and golden gourmet), garlic and broad beans. Last year’s leeks and parsnips are coming to an end and the PSB is just coming into its’ own to fill the gap. More parnsips and carrots have been sown direct along with lettuce, radish, beetroot and spinach. And all the first and second early potatoes are in.

Talk about hectic!! But it’s great to see everything coming up and looking healthy and green. It’s going to be a great harvest this summer I hope!

And there’s some lovely spring flowers in the garden as well. I’m going to take a break later to watch the Grand National having placed my annual bet on Ruby Walsh, an each-way on State of Play and the pot luck work sweepstake pick Calgary Bay. Have a great weekend!

Spuds & Tulips

Had a busy afternoon in the garden getting most of the first and second early potatoes in. I planted a couple of rows of Charlotte and put the remainder of the Charlotte and Kestrel into 17 litre polypot bags. I’m trialing them this year to see if I can grow a good crop in bags and save space on the plot for other veg. I managed to get 15 bags filled with a mixture of compost, top soil, fertiliser and vermiculite so fingers crossed they’ll do well. Just Lady Christl to go now and then onto maincrop. The main varieties will go in my shared plot up in the next village where there’s lots of broad beans, onions and shallots that have just been planted.

The long carrots are up and there are a few of the stump carrots showing. All the seedlings in the greenhouse are doing well with the broad beans, beetroot, caulies, cabbage, calabrese, brussels, psb, sunflowers and red orache coming on nicely. I need to sow some rocket, radish and spinach direct in the beds tomorrow evening if I get a chance.

And a real April treat the PSB is out and will be ready for Sunday dinner, can’t wait to try it!!

I dead headed the first of the daffs as well and their vibrant colour is being replaced by these lovely tulips.

I hope you’re all having a colourful and productive weekend!