Tag Archives: calabrese

Frostbite

The temptation at this time of year, with the greenhouse stuffed full of plants, is to get everything out into their final positions.  A word of warning though, a late frost can strike, even down here in the balmy south it can come calling up to the end of May.  It’s forecast for tonight so I’m on frost protection duty later covering any susceptible plants with fleece and newspapers – thankfully it’s only my potatoes and dahlias that I need to worry about!

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My father kindly built this potting shed for me whilst we were away on holiday last year. It comes off the north facing end of the garage and was a piece of unused land up until that point. During April and May it’s my main workstation where plants are sown, pricked out and potted on. An invaluable space that gives some protection from the weather whilst allowing me to be outside with the greenhouse door only a few feet away.

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As you can imagine the greenhouse is pretty full now. I’ve started to put the tomatoes – Alicante and Gardener’s Delight this year – into their final positions. There’ll be a couple of cucumbers at the end of the bed eventually. The tender crops – celery, beans, courgettes, pumpkins, squash – are all waiting to go out. There’s also some bedding plants to sort out as well. In a couple of weeks I’ll be left with the chillies, peppers and aubergines in pots on the staging with the tomatoes and cucumbers in the raised bed on the other side of the greenhouse. It’s amazing what you can fit into an 8′ by 6′ space.

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I have a few Savoy Cabbage that are starting to take off. Cabbage is a much maligned veg but I love them and will always eat plenty of cabbage and caulies through the year.

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You’ll remember I sowed parsnips and carrots in February. They’re starting to come on now and I’m hopeful they’ll be ready for the New Forest Show at the end of July.

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The parsnips are getting strong now.

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And finally my favourite veg for next month is broccoli and I’m looking forward to a good crop from this little lot. I plant quite close (9 inches) due to space limitations but I’ve found I still get a great crop. Cut the main head first then harvest the side shoots. Keep cutting before any of the heads flower to prevent a bitter taste developing. Can be frozen if you have too much!

That’s all for now, hope your growing season is going well with the promise of some fantastic harvests this summer.

Belated Easter update

We had some great weather during Easter week and I’ve been far to busy out in the garden to update the Two Chances blog so here’s a belated post and a quick catch up on how things are going.

Let’s start with where the season began with the prep for the long parsnips and carrots due to be entered in the New Forest Show at the end of July. How are they doing? Well they’ve germinated and are growing nicely (the pictures below are from 2/3 weeks ago).

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I protect them with small plastic cups with the ends cut off as the nights can still be quite cold. They now have two to three true leaves on each plant and should really start to grow quickly now with the warmer and longer days over the next few weeks. There’s 16 of each, the parsnips are a variety called Panorama from Medwyn Williams and the carrots are New Red Intermediate re-selected by Bob Brown, previous National Champion and the same seed I did well with last year. Fingers crossed they will come good in time.

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I’ve also been busy sowing through March. The calabrese have now been planted out as they are between 6-9 inches tall. I have 14 plants and I’ve put them in the bed in a block spaced around 9-12 inches apart. These should crop through June and July. First remove the central head when it’s fully developed and this will encourage side shoots to sprout, keep cutting making sure none flower (as this will make the heads taste bitter) and you’ll have a good harvest of broccoli over a few weeks which will be finished before the cabbage whites get going. Also broccoli tends to bolt in hot weather so I grow in late spring / early summer and then sow an Autumn cropping variety.

To go with the calabrese will be some Savoy cabbage which are in the greenhouse along with the tomatoes (Fawoyrt & Alicante), chillies (apache), aubergines (moneymaker) and peppers (Californian Wonder). The tomatoes will be planted into the greenhouse bed in the next couple of weeks. Also sown in greenhouse are half a dozen types of lettuce at various stages, broad beans (Longfellow), runner beans (stenner), beetroot (Pablo & Choggia), sweetcorn (Earlibird) courgette (Venus), squash (butternut, autumn crown, winter dumpling) and pumpkin (rouge vif d’etamps). Next will be the French Beans (Hawkesbury Wonder). I also have some celery plants (Morning Star) from Darren growing on.

Out on the plot I’ve sown parsnips and carrots (sweet candle) direct. I also have onion sets (red baron and centurion) and some toughball plants again some spares from Darren. These are in alongside the potatoes. I have ten 17L polypots each of Kestrel & Winston and various containers with Charlotte, my favourite salad spud.

So it’s been a busy few weeks and the next month is the key time when the beds will fill up and the greenhouse will really start to take off. Lets hope the recent good weather continues and we have a great growing season!!

First broccoli of the season

Calabrese (Broccoli) is one of my favourite veg to grow as it’s relatively fast to mature and the whole family loves eating it.

I cut the first heads at the weekend which is around 11 weeks after sowing. The seeds (variety Aquiles F1) were raised in the cold greenhouse, pricked out into small pots and then planted in the final positions 9″ apart. I’ve found that this spacing gives me the size of head I prefer whilst allowing me to get as many plants as possible into a small space. I’m growing 8 plants in all which will keep us supplied with plenty of broccoli for the next 6 weeks. You can see here what they looked like a month ago.

At this time of year I find the plants aren’t affected by pests and there’s enough rain usually to mean additional watering isn’t necessary.

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Once the central stem is cut this will encourage side shoots to develop and you can keep on cutting from the same plant a number of times. There’s still spring cabbages being harvested and once these have finished the cauliflowers will be ready – I’m growing a Romenesco type and also a standard white-headed variety (Cornell).

Finally we have a number of different birds in the garden attracted to the feeders that I put out and our favourite is this Great Spotted Woodpecker which has become a regular visitor. A lovely sight in the garden.

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Ready for take off!

Well my last post “Warming Up Nicely” was the kiss of death for the warm weather so I’m hoping this post isn’t similarly doomed! The majority of May has been cold in between two glorious Bank Holiday weekends, the like of which I don’t remember experiencing for a long time and then back to cold and wet this week. But over the next few days the forecast promises warmer weather and a look round the plot this evening and I think everything is ready for take off!!

So let’s start the tour………you may remember I put my potatoes into polypots just over a month ago and now they are through and will romp away over the next few weeks. They are Winston, Kestrel and Amour which I intend to show at the end of August. Behind are some Brussel Sprouts – Wellington – Brussels are one of our favourite family vegetables! I’ve earthed them up a bit and I’ll stake them as they get bigger to ensure they don’t ‘rock’ in the wind. I’ll also put some heavy duty canes and string around the potatoes to keep the haulms up off the ground.

Next up are the beans that have just gone out last weekend – a double row of Runner Beans – Stenner – and a double row of French Beans – Cobra. I’ve tied them in at the bottom to get them going, about a foot apart up 8 foot canes.

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The small 6′ by 6′ bed has garlic (Solent Wight), a few shallots (Hative de Niort), onions (Stuttgarter Giant) and Broad Beans (Longfellow). I’ve supported the broad beans and also the onions to keep their stems straight but other than that they’re left to their own devices.

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The two green cabbages – Ramco – are coming on well, they’re next to a row of calabrese – Aquiles F1 – and protected by an environmesh tunnel. You can see how far they’ve come on in a month when you compare them to the first photo in my last post. Behind them are some Romanesco Cauliflowers again protected by environmesh. Lastly in that bed are the parsnips which are very slow to get going this year.

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The long carrots and parnsips in the pipes are starting to grow noticably now.

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And the Sweet Candle carrots in the dustbins seem OK.

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And the girls have their own bed by the greenhouse in which they’ve planted some Little Gem lettuces, Land Cress and a couple of tomato plants.

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The greenhouse is starting to fill up. The beds have Sungold tomotoes underplanted with basil and french marigolds which I’ve found to be the best companion plants to keep white fly away (just don’t deadhead them as that’s where the best smell comes from). The tomatoes are in bottomless pots of compost on top of a bed of manure and top soil and are tied into bamboo canes at regular intervals. Side shoots are pinched out and I’ll feed regularly once the first truss has set. On the floor are a few chillies and peppers in pots, some more tomotoes to go in containers – Tumbling Tom – and a cabbage – Duchess White – in a large pot waiting for a spot outside.

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On the shelving are all sorts of veg growing on, some a little tender for the cold nights, and others being held back until space becomes available.

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There’s a few leeks (Musselburgh), two varieties of squash (Butterbush F1 and Hunter F1), Pumpkin (Rouge Vif D’Etamps), Lettuce (Little Gem), Aubergine (Moneymaker), Cucumber (Carmen), Dwarf French Bean (Ferrari), Courgette yellow (Soleil F1) and green (Venus), Mangetout (Oregon Sugar Pod), Beetroot (Pablo), more brassicas – cabbage, romenesco cauliflowers and calabrese – celery (Morning Star) and Sweetcorn (Sweetie Pie). Not sure where this lot is going to go, only the sweetcorn is earmarked to join the potatoes, rhubarb and asparagus up at the allotment.

On the shelf below are more lettuces (Little Gem, Tom Thumb, Salad Bowl & Webb’s Wonderful), Peas (Show Perfection) and more sweetcorn and mangetout.

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The soft fruit bed is full to bursting with strawberries, summer and autumn raspberries, a blackcurrant and gooseberry bush. I must make more room for soft fruit as it’s one of the things we enjoy most, picking ripe fruit right by our front door is a real treat – not that I see any of it!

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Well that’s enough of the veg, what else is going on? Well 3 months or so ago I mentioned I started a diet – mid life crisis and all – well I’ve lost just over 3 stone so far and started cycling on a regular basis, doing 20 or 30 mile rides around the country lanes between home and Romsey. Also coming up in a couple of months is the final leg of the Pennine Way the last 3 days from Bellingham in Northumberland, through the Kielder forest and up over the Cheviots to Kirk Yetholm in Scotland. Can’t wait to get out on the hills, something to look forward to and hopefully summer will have arrived by then!

Warming Up Nicely

What a cracking Bank Holiday weekend, not often you hear those words together! The good weather’s meant that there’s been much activity at the plot, a huge amount of sowing and some urgent jobs that needed attending to. One of the main tasks was fixing the mesh frames which were getting a bit tired after 5 years of good service and had taken the worst of the snow last winter. With new timber frames I recycled as much of the old mesh as possible and the first new frame is now covering a couple of cabbages (Ramco) and a line of calabrese (Aquiles F1). Also in are some Romanesco cauliflower the first time I’ve grown them.

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The smallest bed is now full, with broad beans (Longfellow) at the back, some Hative de Niort shallots, garlic and a few onion sets.

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The greenhouse is starting to fill up and the lastest sowings of sweetcorn and french beans are now coming through. Hopefully the warm weather will continue!!

Catching Up

We returned from a fantastic two weeks away about on hour south of La Rochelle (pictured), on the west coast of France, last weekend and there was lots of catching up to do on the plot.

The cucumbers (Carmen) in the greenhouse are coming on well. There’s six plants in two growbags on the staging which I’m training up and across the roof. The growbags are laid on large trays with a layer of gravel to act as a reservoir for water which is drawn up through the cuts in the bottom of the growbags – this has proved an effective method to make sure they are always well watered whilst I’m away. Picking off any sideshoots and tendrils as they develop so all the energy is concentrated into the fruits, plus removing the lower fruits that would not be able to fully develop without touching the staging. Hopefully I’ll have an unmarked pair for the New Forest Show which is three weeks on Tuesday. I won’t be giving them my full attention though with a three day stag do in Dublin and four days walking the Pennine Way between now and the show. Fingers crossed the hands off approach will pay dividends.

Alongside the greenhouse the Goldstar tomatoes are between five and six foot high with some of the fruit on the lower trusses forming nicely. As with the cucumbers I’m keeping them well watered and feeding regularly with a potash feed.

One of my main hopes for the show is a pair of cabbages (Ramco) – difficult to get a decent photo of them as I daren’t lift the net tunnels off them for fear of breaking some of the leaves. This won’t happen until the night before the show. Fingers crossed they’ll heart up by then and remain bug-free. A liberal sprinkling of pellets every so often has helped keep the slugs off them up to now.

I’m concerned the long carrots won’t be thick enough as they’re behind last year and I’m also hoping a set of stump carrots will be ready in time.

I’m not entering celery in the show as this is my first real attempt at growing this difficult veg, but I’m pleased with progress so far. I need to swap the collars for longer ones to draw the plants up further for a good blanch on the stems.

And the potatoes are looking good, with really healthy looking haulms which are in flower. These are in polypots filled with a potato mix from Medwyns so they are my best hope for the show. As with all the veg a question mark on whether or not they’ll be ready in time – never sure what’s underneath. They’re all coloured potatoes so I’m hoping for a decent matching set. Next weekend I’ll cut the haulms and move the bags under cover to dry out and let the skins harden. Hopefully I won’t be looking at a bag full of marble-sized spuds after that!

This is also the first time I’m growing peas and the pods are starting to fill out nicely.

On the harvest side we’ve had loads of soft fruit this week, the usual strawberries and raspberries and also these gooseberries for the first time which all the family loved!

Also some shallots, a mixture here of Hative de Niort and Jermor.

And finally some mangetout and calabrese as well. Not a bad harvest.

It’s not all be great news though, up at the shared plot I lost most of my squash and pumpkin plants to slugs but up at the allotment the sweetcorn are doing well and no sign of the dreaded deer so far. It’ll be a busy few weeks as everything comes to fruition and also getting in some late sowings to take us through Autumn. Have a great weekend everyone!

All In

The Two Chances Veg Plot is now fully planted. Every square inch of available space in the garden has been used and the plot is flourishing.

In the large bed (front to back) are potatoes which are coming on nicely after a slow start. They’re followed by 7 Green Ramco cabbages which I’m really pleased with at the moment – they’re perfect and putting on top growth that you can see every day. I’m just hoping I can keep the pests off them until the end of July when I’ll hopefully have a pair good enough for the New Forest Show. Then there’s some calabrese, a double row of celery, a couple of kale and a couple of late purple sprouting broccoli plants and finally a row of french beans and a row of runner beans.

In the medium sized bed there’s the pipes with the carrots which are starting to take off along with shallots garlic and onions. And in the small bed there’s a few more onions, dwarf french beans, mangetout and peas. My main hope for the Show out of that lot is the carrots although they are behind where they were last year but I guess we’re all in the same boat.

In the greenhouse I’ve got the cucumbers set up on the staging to grow over the roof and tomotoes, salad crops and aubergines in the bed. The greenhouse is being optimised for cucumbers so it’s shut up 24/7 apart from a few minutes of watering each day or damping down so the tomotoes in the greenhouse will have to fend for themselves. In the 3 mini greenhouses alongside the main one are the Goldstar tomotoes which I’m hoping to get some decent fruit off.

In the front garden is a bed full of summer and autumn fruting raspberries and strawberries and another bed with marrows, cauliflower, courgettes, carrots and parnsips and that’s it there’s no more room. I have a couple of trays of celeriac seedlings with nowhere to put them – up at the shared plot or allotment I can’t water them as much as they’re going to need so they may not get planted at this rate. There’s some leeks which I’ve got room for at the shared plot alongside the 24 squash and pumpkin plants I’ve just planted out up there. The last of the runner beans will go in tomorrow along with sowings of carrots and beetroot and then that’s it, I can do no more, and to be honest I haven’t got the energy even if I wanted to!

With today being the best of the long weekend weatherwise it’s a BBQ and a few drinks with friends and 24 hours off the gardening – well apart from watering the greenhouse, tieing up the peas, supporting the potato haulms………………