Monthly Archives: April 2012

What’s Growin’ On

With March and April being the busiest sowing months you’d expect there to be loads of seedlings growing on at the Two Chances Plot. And you wouldn’t be wrong. Here’s a few progress photos from the three growing areas; the greenhouse, cold frames and good old windowsill.

The sweetcorn is growing on well in the greenhouse. Two varieties, Earlibird and Lark, around 40 plants destined for the allotment towards the end of May, possibly earlier with bottle cloches if I need the space in the greenhouse.

Brussel Sprouts (Bedford) hardening off in the cold frame. Around 150 plants for the shared plot, possibly a few for the Hort Soc plant sale. Even though they are one of my favourite veg I think 150 may be overdoing it a bit!

Continuing the brassica theme there’s cabbage (green ramco), calabrese (aquiles F1), brokali (apollo) and cauliflower (cornell).

I grow beetroot in modules ready to plant out. This is Boltardy and I will be sowing Pablo later.

Moving indoors, the tomatoes are going well. Goldstar, Marmande and Gardener’s Delight around 8-10 inches high.

The cucumbers (Carmen) are just starting. I’ll be devouting the greenhouse to them this year with the tomatoes outside in the mini-greenhouses for cover with the rest at the shared plot greenhouse.

Last, and defintely least, aubergines (bonica F1). After a disastrous performance last year I’ve been suckered into trying them again. No doubt only bitter disappointment will follow but that’s gardening, without failure you can’t fully appreciate your successes.

In various states of germination are french and runner beans, leeks, parsnips, courgettes, pumpkins and squash. There’s also celery, pea and onion plants in the greenhouse with lettuce growing on and more lettuce, rocket, radish and spring onions sowed. In the garden there’s potatoes, carrots, parnsips, peas, cabbage, shallots, onions and garlic growing away with PSB coming to an end. On the shared plot there’s potatoes, broad beans and onions with a few of last season’s cabbages and cauliflowers left. And the half allotment has so far been planted with more potatoes, broad beans and asparagus.

I think it’s going to be a busy year!!

I get by with a little help from my friends

One of my favourite songs and very applicable to anyone attempting to grow veg for showing. Most of my veg growing is for the table but I do have a few plans for showing some of the veg this summer, hopefully at the NVS Southern Championship at the New Forest Show at the end of July (here’s what I’m aiming for!). Most people growing veg for show rely on a little help from their friends from time to time. Be it seeds, a few plants or some advice and guidance.

This morning I planted 7 Green Ramco cabbages from friend Darren after my sowings had been slow to grow on. I’ll pass mine back to Darren for the NVS Hampshire DA plant sale on 12th May which I can’t attend as I’ll be at my neice’s baptism.

I’ve also been kindly given some long carrot seeds from former National Champion Bob Brown and much advice from him and Darren along the way. Now I’m only dabbling really compared to others who have expert set ups and lots of time and dedication to devote to the pastime. But without the help of friends I wouldn’t have a chance. And that’s what it’s all about for me.

Slow progress

It’s slow progress at the moment up at the allotment, every time I have a spare hour to nip up there it’s been raining. So far I’ve planted a few rows of potatoes and a double row of broad bean plants. But with the asparagus crowns arriving this morning I had to get up there come rain or shine and thankfully dodged the showers this afternoon.

It’s looking a bit better since I first started. From bottom to top is rhubarb – one large clump I inherited and three small crowns I put in. Then there’s the ‘soon to be gone’ weed patch – I’m planning to put sweetcorn in there. Next is the new asparagus bed – two rows of 6 plants, varieties Backlim, Darlise and Gijnlim – in 3 years time I’ll be harvesting the first full crop! Then there’s the beans and potatoes.

And today is the first time I’ve harvested from all three of my sites. Some rhubarb from the allotment, cabbage, cauliflower and parsnip from the shared plot and purple sprouting broccoli from home. It’s great to have some fresh produce at a typically sparse time of year.

Tomorrow, with the girls off to a birthday party, it’s time to get some Ramco cabbage plants in at home and get the dreaded mower and strimmer out for a long overdue garden tidy up. Maybe it’ll rain so I’ve got an excuse to put that job off for another day!

First Caulie

I was up at the shared plot this morning getting the rest of my potatoes in, Casablanca, Kestrel and Bonnie. about 60 in 5 rows around 2ft apart so there’s plenty of room to earth up as they grow. Also planted a double row of broad beans to complement those I put in at the alloment last week.

Looking around the plot I noticed that the row of overwintered caulies were starting to heart up and I took one home for dinner. There’s about 20 which should all grow ready for harvesting in the next few weeks. It’s a great time to have caulies to eat in the typical ‘hungry gap’ at this time of year. The pigeons don’t seem to bother with the mature plants and we’re a few months away from the worst of the cabbage whites plus we’re not quite on the salad meals of high summer. So they are a very welcome crop indeed!

This afternoon I’ll be out in the garden with the children getting a few jobs done when I can making the most of a dry day. Hope you all have a great weekend!

Potatoes in at last!

There were a few problems with the delivery of the potato mix but it finally arrived last night. So after collecting my share (5 x 75 litre bags) this morning I set about filling the fifteen 17L polypots. Half will have Kestrel and half Bonnie and the leftovers will go into bags with a sieved soil/compost mix. This is the first time I’ve used a specialist potato mix and it certainly beats all the hard work of shredding/mixing a homemade version. Time will tell if it produces some decent spuds.

At the end of one of the raised beds I dug out a trench and threw in some manure, fertiliser and slug pellets. Then placed two rows of bags side-by-side and filled in the surrounding soil so it was almost up to the level of the bags. Each bag was filled with the mix and a seed potato (with 1 or 2 strong chits) was plunged to the bottom of the bag. The idea is that the potato roots grow out through the holes into the trench with the manure and fertliser and the bag fills up with spuds. I don’t bother filling the bags as they grow; starting off with a full bag is easier! Then it’s just about the watering and supporting the haulms properly so they don’t fall over and grow as vigorously as possible producing the energy to form new tubers. That’s the theory anyway!

I’ve already got Arron Pilot, Lady Christl, Charlotte, Pink Fir Apple and Salad Blue in at the allotment and Casablanca will go into the shared plot hopefully this weekend. I also planted a double row of broad beans at the allotment and have plans for a serious amount of sweetcorn and an asparagus bed. I’m really enjoying the allotment, it was so peaceful down there yesterday and I’ve now met three of my immediate plot neighbours. It’s great to have a quick chat and share a few tips.

Greenhouse sowings

I’m lucky to have gained a greenhouse when we moved in next to which I’ve built three raised beds which form the main part of my plot at home. At this time of year it’s invaluable to grow on seedlings and take pressure off the indoor windowsills which can get a little crowded.

There’s onions (from Darren), beetroot (Boltardy), peas (show perfection), mangetout (oregon sugar snap), broad beans (longfellow and an unknown variety), leeks (porvite), celery (from Darren), sweetcorn (lark and earlibird), cabbage (green ramco), cauliflower (cornell), brokali (appollo) and calabrese (aquiles F1) all jockeying for space. I’m converting the growing area on the other side of the greenhouse into a space for salad veg and I’ll be growing cucumbers (carmen) from the staging over the roof in the summer. My tomatoes (goldstar) will go into 3 mini-greenhouses in a narror bed by the side of the greenhouse.

As tradition dictates Easter weekend is potato planting time. Whilst waiting for a potato mix to arrive for my show potatoes which I’m growing in bags (Casablanca, Bonnie & Kestrel) I need to get on and plant the rest. I’d like to put some in my allotment as they’re good for working the ground which was pretty compacted when I took over. Most of the seed potatoes I have are 1st and 2nd earlies, Aarron Pilot, Lady Christl, Charlotte, Salad Blue with Pink Fir Apple as well. So planting now will mean some lovely spuds to eat in late July through to September.

The only problem I have at the moment is celeriac germinating. I was given a few seedlings last year which I grew on and we really liked the taste. So I bought a packet this year but I can’t get any to germinate – a bad packet or user error? Any tips for me?

Whatever you’re doing this weekend I hope you have a lovely Easter!

Digging and Thinning

Another busy morning up at the allotment defining the plot edges that had become overgrown in recent years. I’ve gained a few square feet and it all looks neat and tidy. Now I just have to dig over and weed the middle bit!

Back at home the spring flowers are in full bloom making the most of the lovely weather we’ve had recently. The main job was to thin out the carrots and parnsips in pipes down to two seedlings and I did the same with the stumps. The greenhouse is filling up with all sorts of trays and pots, broad beans, brussel sprouts, cabbage, calabrese, celeriac, sweetcorn, onions, leeks, celery, peas and mangetout. And there’s tomatoes, chillies, peppers and aubergines on the windowsill indoors. April will be a busy month with sowing, potting on and planting out. With a bit of time off over Easter I’m hoping to get ahead of the game or at least keep up!