Monthly Archives: August 2011

Quick Cook Composting

After first posting about this in February 2010 today I’ve finally got round to building a compost bin.

I first learnt this method from Ray Broughton in a talk he gave to our local Horticultural Society. It should produce a good compost pretty quickly after filling the bin.

The advantages of the quick cook method are:
1) Pretty much all plant material can be placed on the heap including woody material up to a diameter of 1cm – good I’ve just put the hedge trimmings in there.
2) No turning needed – no faffing around a la Monty Don on GW, this is a method for those who don’t spend all week in the garden.
3) Due to the heat generated plant pests, diseases and weeds will be killed by this method – great you can bung anything in, particularly good if there are a lot of weeds in your garden……like mine!
4) Vermin will not be attracted to this heap (I’ve had rats in my black council bin before so this will be interesting to test out).
5) Compost should be ready in 3 to 4 months – just what I’m looking for!

The heap can be built up over a period of time but for optimum efficiency it should be no longer than 3 months. Now here’s the important bit – the heap has to have a solid base of paving slabs, you don’t want nutrient loss or worm activity with this method it’s all about fungi and bacteria breaking down the plant material and creating a serious amount of heat that kills off weeds, seeds etc.

You need to construct the sides out of wood or other suitable material to contain your heap (I’ve used some old pallets), the best size is 1.5 metre by 1.5 metre. It is important that oxygen is present but you only need a relatively small amount as the material going into the heap is bulky and will trap air. So drill some small holes into the sides (I’ve put thin board over the gaps in the pallet and left a handful of holes for some air to get in). Remember this must be on a solid base, I’ve used half a dozen small paving slabs and I plan to build another bin alongside soon.

Ok once you’ve built your compost bin, start filling with plant material, you can put pretty much anything in from the garden up to 1cm diameter, including weeds, lawn clippings, and the usual kitchen peelings etc. Fill to 1/3 of the height of the bin. At this stage place two shovel loads of good quality soil over the heap and two handfuls of nitrogen fertiliser (e.g. hoof and horn). If you use organic fertiliser make sure it is ground into a fine powder (amounts quoted are for a 1.5 x 1.5m heap).

Add more material until you are up to the 2/3rds mark. Then add one shovel load of ground limestone (calcium carbonate). This is essential as it prevents the heap from becoming too acidic which is a common problem. Carry on filling and when you reach the top add soil and fertiliser in exactly the same way as you did at the 1/3rd stage. That’s it, there’s no need to cover the heap, and then it’s just a waiting game until the heap cooks down.

Happy composting! I’ll keep you informed of progress.

And finally here’s this weekend’s plot harvest:

There’s french beans (sultana with a few purple ones, purple teepee), runner beans (Stenner, Moonlight), Beetroot (Burpee’s Golden) – roasted beetroot has been a revelation for us this summer – lettuce (Little Gem) and courgette (Black Beauty).

I’ve enjoyed growing them all and will enjoy eating them even more!

Have a great Bank Holiday everyone!!

Greenhouse Harvest

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.

200th post – Six of the Best!

You may remember my Pipes of Peace post from earlier in the year or whatever it was called. I had 8 drain pipes growing long parsnips and 6 with long carrots. I ‘harvested’ the parsnips last week for my local show and I managed to get the six best parsnips I’ve ever grown:

The variety was Gladiator and they were about 3′ 3″ long with a great skin condition. A very successful experiment.

We had them with a roast dinner the day after the show and they tasted lovely, all that nonsense about letting the frost get to them, just stick ’em in the fridge for a couple of days to sweeten them up a bit. But whatever you do don’t get burnt!

This is my 200th post over the last 21 months. And I’ve enjoyed every one but most of all your comments and feedback. Thanks to you all!! Please scroll down to the bottom of the post page for the comments box.

Best Carrots Ever

As I was saying in a previous post carrots have been my nemisis as a veg grower with pretty feeble previous attempts. But I thinked I’ve cracked it this year with these specimens:

These are easily the 5 best carrots I’ve ever grown. The variety is Sweet Candle, a show variety of stump carrot which has a good flavour too. Since the show we’ve been steadily munching our way through them. They were grown in a raised bed and I cored out the soil at regular stations and replaced with a compost mix. I’m really pleased with the results particularly given my track record!

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Feel the Burn – A Warning to all Parsnip Pullers this Autumn!

Despite Darren’s wise advice I neglected to wear gloves and a long-sleeved shirt on Friday when pulling some parnsips for my village show.

This is the result:

A nasty rash appeared at the top of my forearm about 24 hours later and the following day it blistered. I also have quite a few smaller burns on my forearms and hands. So when you’re pulling parsnips this Autumn be warned. Despite growing them for 3 years this is the first time this has happened to me. For more info read this article.

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Summer Show Results

Yesterday was the annual Winterslow & District Horticultural Society Summer Show and we had over 300 entries at the Village Hall for veg, flowers, jams, cookery, flower arranging and childrens.

I entered the veg for the 3rd year (of course) and Rachel went in for the 5 cookery classes with Chloe entering the three 3-6 year old classes. And here’s the results list:

Master Gardener (3 veg & flowers) – not entered
Society Top Tray – 1st (3 parsnips, 3 carrots, 3 potatoes)
Onions (larger than 250g) – unplaced
Onions (smaller than 250g) – not entered
6 shallots – 2nd
Truss of Tomatoes – not entered
5 Cherry Tomatoes – 3rd
5 Tomatoes – 1st
Carrots – 1st
5 Potatoes – 1st
5 Salad Potatoes – 1st
Beetroot – 2nd
Any other Root Veg – 1st (parsnips)
6 Runner Beans – 3rd
8 Dwarf Beans – 3rd
8 Climbing Beans – unplaced
2 courgettes – unplaced
2 indoor cucumbers – not entered
2 outdoor cucumbers – not entered
Any other Veg – unplaced (pair of marrows)
Collection of Veg from Garden – 2nd (Carrots, Squash, Celeriac, Chillies, Garlic)
Collection of Salad Veg from Garden – 1st (Lettuce, Cucumber, Beetroot, Tomatoes)
5 culinary herbs – 2nd

Flowers – entered 4 Dahlia classes
Miniture Dahlias – 1st
Small Dahlias – 2nd
3 Cactus Dahlias – 2nd
5 Dahlias – 2nd

5 Savoury Biscuits – 1st (Parmesan & Rosemary)
Summer Fruit Tart – 1st (Raspberry)
5 Sausage Rolls – 2nd
Millionaire’s Shortbread – 3rd
Cake from fruit/veg – 2nd (Courgette Cake)

Potato Face – 1st
Sponge Painting – Highly Commended
Collage of items collected on a summer’s walk – 2nd

For the veg I won the Top Tray shield, the Challenge Bowl for the most points in the roots veg section (were I only dropped one point getting a 2nd for beetroot), and the Joe Kiff Cup for the most points overall in the veg classes. Rachel won the Winterslow Cup for most points in the cookery and Chloe shared the Junior Class with two other children and received a certificate. What a fantastic result!! We were very pleased if a little worn out by the end of the day!

Thanks to all the competitors, the committee, judges, stewards, helpers and our local MP John Glen for presenting the prizes.

Here’s the best of the photos:

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My Arch Nemisis Defeated?

For three years now I’ve struggled to grow decent carrots and this year I think I’ve finally cracked it and defeated my arch nemisis of the veg world!

I pulled a few carrots for my local show yesterday and these were the rejects (all sweet candle). The batch on the left are from the standard veg bed where I cored out each hole and filled with a compost mix. From this batch I had 5 carrots good enough to show (not pictured). The middle batch was from a sand filled dustbin and didn’t have the weight or the stump end but the skin condition was really good and they were perfect for the standard carrot class. The batch on the right of the picture were in a second sand filled dustbin but this one was further away at the back of the garden were the hosepipe couldn’t get to so didn’t have any watering regime. Consequently you can see very thin, split carrots from there. I didn’t appreciate until now just how vital watering is to getting a decent carrot. In summary those grown in cored out soil were the best possibly because they drew extra nutrients from the soil around them compared to the ones grown in sand. Perhaps adding more soil to the mix next year will help the sand grown ones. I’ll definitely be growing more stump carrots next year with the aim of entering the New Forest & Hampshire show. I haven’t touched the long carrots growing in the pipes yet as I’m saving them for our mini-show at the NVS Hampshire DA next month. I’m hoping to get a decent set of 3 for the show and get some good feedback from the experts that’ll be attending.

Photos from my local show, including my best ever carrots (and parsnips), will follow soon in the next post. I think I’ve finally cracked it and confident I can grow better carrots next year rather than the usual finger-thick spindly things I’ve grown up to now!