Tag Archives: Cucumber

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.

Plot update – Halfway point

With the dry weather we’ve had over the last few weeks I’ve been very busy on the plot keeping everything watered, hence the lack of blog posts, and with the warmer conditions the veg has really come on and I’m harvesting everyday now.

Firstly you’ll remember I put three new beds in the front garden, two of which have been filled up with soil and crops were planted a few weeks ago.

Beans

The runner beans and french beans (both climbing and dwarf) are doing well with lots of flowers on them. I keep the runner beans well watered and support the dwarf french beans so when the beans develop they are off the soil.

Brussels

In the adjacent bed the brussel sprouts are looking strong – I’ve earthed them up for stability – and there’s a couple of rows of swede squeezed in before the broad beans with a few squash dotted around that will start to scramble over the paths. Everything is looking great, dark green and lush which bodes well for harvest time.

Cauliflower

I’m particularly pleased with this cauliflower (Cornell) as I’ve found them hard to get right in the past. This is one of Darren’s spares and has turned out really well.

Brocolli

Alongside the cauliflowers the broccoli just keeps on coming. For productivity in such a small space over a relatively short growing season it’s one of the best veg in my opinion. The whole family love it and eaten fresh from the plot is incomparable to the stale supermarket version.

Cukes

I constructed a makeshift greenhouse for my cucumbers and they love the hothouse conditions all sealed up with a good daily watering and weekly feed. They’re over 6 foot high now and we should have the first cucumbers in 10 days which will see us through to the end of October.

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The fruit has been the star of the show so far this year with the raspberries providing a phenomenal harvest, we can’t keep up with them! There’s also strawberries, blackcurrants and gooseberries as well.

Raspberry muffins

We all have produce gluts from time to time and rather than eating the fruit and veg straight off the plot it can be made into something gorgeous like these raspberry and white chocolate muffins that Rachel made. And if, like us, you have a 10 year old bottle of Limoncello lurking at the back of the cupboard from that long forgotten Italian holiday why not try raspberry and limoncello semifredo which is in the freezer at the moment, can’t wait to try that!

Peppers

The chillies and peppers look great as well and have lots of flowers coming into fruit. I have high hopes for these and it’s certainly the most plants I’ve grown in one season so fingers crossed we will have a good harvest come September/October.

Toms

And last one of my favourites the tomatoes – Sungold – are around 6 foot high now and we’re starting to pick the first of those wonderful golden cherry fruits which will come thick and fast now over the next few months.

I’m sure you’re all harvesting loads of great produce at the moment. The Two Chances harvest list at the end of June is lettuce, rocket, radish, shallots, broccoli, cauliflower, courgette, tomatoes, raspberries, strawberries, gooseberries and blackcurrants. Next I need to dig up some potatoes to see how they have got on. It’s a great time of year to see everything growing so fast and so much lovely fresh food to eat!

Old Fashioned Veg

In recent years traditional British veg has fallen out of favour with many growers and been replaced by the likes of courgettes and squashes. Whilst I grow a wide range of veg on the plot I’m an advocate of traditional allotment fare such as cabbage, cauliflowers, leeks and brussel sprouts for a number of reasons. Firstly they suit our variable climate – when summers can be relatively cold and wet they will thrive where veg needing warmer conditions suffer and fail to produce a decent harvest. They’re normally very cheap to buy as seed, with our local Horticultural Society discount I can buy a packet of leek seeds for 50p for example. And with modern cooking methods (i.e. not boiling them to a pulp) they taste fantastic!

Spring Cabbage

The Spring Cabbages have been eaten for a month now and still going strong. They’ve covered the gap until the brocolli and cauliflowers are ready.

Cabbage cut

Once the cabbage is cut I cut a criss-cross in the stalk from which new leaves will sprout giving spring greens which are lovely steamed with a light coating of butter and seasoning.

Leeks

The shallots have been lifted now and replaced by leeks (Toledo). I make a hole 8″ deep and pop the leek seedling in. This is then gently watered until the water reaches the top of the hole and then left alone. Over time the soil will loosely fill in the hole and allow the stem of the leek to swell until ready for lifting in the Autumn. The holes are 6″ apart and I’ve fitted 66 leeks into a 6′ by 4′ space. I usually follow shallots with leeks as they are out of the ground by end of May/early June. The shallots were put into pots mid-January and a couple of months later planted out so they have only taken up the ground for just over 2 months, perfect when space is limited.

Cucmber House

I also needed to find a home for a couple of cucumbers (Carmen). The greenhouse was taken up with tomatoes and all my chillies and peppers so I decided to put together this greenhouse extension. It’s basically two of the cheap mini-greenhouses put together with one cover put on upside down. It’s 8′ high which should give plenty of room for the cukes and secured with steel rods pinning the frame to the ground and twine around the top of the greenhouse to stop it blowing over.

Cukes

They will enjoy the hot, humid conditions of the sealed greenhouse. I keep them well watered – but watering away from the plants themselves – by watering into the grow rings that are normally used for tomatoes. Our family eats a lot of cucumbers so I’m hoping for a good long harvest from early July through to the end of October.

Other traditional veg I’m growing this year are potatoes, carrots, swede, parsnips, beetroot, broad beans and runner beans. I’m looking forward to a bumper harvest fingers crossed!!

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly 2013

Awards time again

The Good…..

Plenty of decent veg this year, broad beans – Longfellow, runner beans – stenner, french beans – cobra, cabbage – ramco, carrots – sweet candle, parsnips – picador, brussels – wellington, courgettes – venus, shallots – hative de niort etc but the award goes to TOMATOES SUNGOLD – I had 12 plants (8 in the greenhouse and 4 outside) which fruited their socks off from the end of June right through until early November. We picked about two kitchen cullander fulls of the orange cherries every week and the family loved them! So sweet it beats the supermarket hands down.

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The Bad………

Thankfully not much in this category but the CUCUMBERS CARMEN were awful for me this year (again) so I need to rethink. After a promising start with half a dozen huge cukes they failed around the end of July turned yellow and only produced again briefly in September. I know this variety can be amazing and have had 30+ cucumbers per plant off it before so it’s all my fault. Back to the drawing board.

The Ugly………

Scab

Has to be POTATOES. Scab, scab and more scab. With the dry end of June/July I obviously didn’t keep up with the watering. Thankfully this doesn’t affect the eating but they do look seriously ugly!!

Whilst I’ve been away………

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, mainly due to a two week holiday in France (Brittany), and the heatwave beforehand which meant I was spending the vast majority of my spare time in the garden rather than on the computer!

Whilst I’ve been away my father kindly built me a potting shed so I can spend even more time in the garden!

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This was a “dead space” between the north-end of the garage and the greenhouse which didn’t get any sunlight. It’s protected from the elements with an outside light and power socket with a workbench to do various odd jobs on. Handily placed for the greenhouse and garden I think it’s going to make those winter sowing and potting on jobs so much easier. I was very impressed when I returned from holiday to see the finished result!

Carrots

I picked some carrots recently, these were grown in a couple of dustbins and the best three went as part of my Top Tray entry for my local Horticultural Society Summer Show. I wasn’t going to enter having just got back but I managed to stage a few entries in the end.

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And my shallots won first prize and best exhibit in the veg division as well which I was very pleased with. Would like them a bit bigger but they were a good shape and colour.

Dahlias

I also won first prizes for 3 of the 4 Dahlia classes I entered – I forgot to take the camera to the Show so these were taken the day after. They include Pink Giraffe which I’ve nurtured from a small tuber kindly sent to me from a fellow veg blogger. The Dahlias fill my main flower bed to the front of the house which is in full bloom at the moment against the deep purple backdrop of the tall, Red Orache running through the centre of the bed.

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I’m also pleased with my bedding plants this year which I purchased at the NVS Hampshire DA plant sale in May and potted on. This is one of the hanging baskets full of flowers.

Lots of veg coming off the plot at the moment. Our favourite by some distance are the Sungold tomatoes both inside and outside of the greenhouse. Amazing flavour and eaten like sweets straight off the plants! And the courgettes have been fruiting like crazy which we love roasted with onions and peppers. Fingers crossed the veg will keeping on going well into the Autumn. It’s not all been good though, a lot of scab on the potatoes – not sure why – and cucumbers almost died whilst I was away – they had plenty of water but turned yellow although they are starting to come back now. So as always with grow your own a mixed result but the successes far outweigh the failures. The cherry tomatoes we’ve bought in the past from our local supermarket are a million miles from the flavour we have from the homegrown ones – well worth the effort!

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………………