Tag Archives: raspberries

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.

fruit

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!

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!

Review of 2011

Where do I start? There’s been lots going on at the Two Chances Plot this year as there was in 2010. First of all a recap of the veg growing successes and failures:

Top of the Class
My best ever carrots and parsnips this year.
And it was a cracking year for beetroot, we had barrowfuls of them.
Strawberries and raspberries – not that I saw many of them as the girls picked and ate them as soon as they were ready!

Pretty good effort
Quite a few in this category – all the brassicas, beans, spuds, mangetout, overwintered onions, leeks, tomatoes, peppers, chillies and courgettes.

Could do Better
Sweetcorn, cucumber, aubergines, squash and pumpkins.

Weatherwise it was a strange year again. A really hot, dry spring but with cold nights running through into July. When we left for our annual holiday to France in mid-June it was with some trepidation as the weather had been fantastic – why were we going abroad? Thankfully we did as it chucked it down in Salisbury for 2 weeks and continued to be damp and miserable for the main part of summer only drying up in September and October. No wonder all the veg that need a hot, dry summer did badly. Oh well there’s always next year.

Best Newcomer
…….was celeriac…..only grew a few but they were great and I’ll definitely be growing more next year. Closely followed by mangetout, not many made the steamer as they were great eaten raw.

Never again
Aubergines…..what’s the point? Maybe in 20 years once global warming really makes an impact on the South of England! That said I expect I’ll try again next year.

This year was the first for my shared plot in the next village and it was filled with onions, brassicas, beans, carrots, parsnips, beetroot, spuds, sweetcorn, squash and pumpkins. Next year the Empire expands further to half an allotment in the same village as my shared plot. Can’t wait to get stuck in! And I finally got round to building a much needed proper compost bin which will bear fruit next year.

On the show front it was the last year of entering all the vegetable classes in my local Horticultural Society village Summer Show were I won cups for most points overall veg, root veg and Top Tray. I’ll just stick to the Master Gardener and Top Tray next year with my sights firmly set on the NVS competition at the New Forest and Hampshire Show after seeing Darren pick up his first red card for long carrots. I have 30 pipes to use for my carrots and parsnips and the mix is already shredded and ready for the mixer. Bring on 2012!

So what will I be doing next year? Well more of the same really. Loads of good quality family time, cooking and eating great homegrown food. Producing loads of veg and enjoying the fresh air as much as possible. Raising the bar on my show entries and expanding to the allotment so we can have more veg on the table. The annual trip to France – same place as last year as we loved it so much – and the next leg of the Pennine Way hopefully. As always lots to do!! I hope you’ve all had a good Christmas and are looking forward to a great 2012!!!

Thanks to everyone who reads and hopefully enjoys this blog. I haven’t been online much in the last couple of months due to working longer hours – the last thing I needed was more time in front of a computer screen! But I have the whole winter to catch up with what you’ve been doing so I’ll see you soon!!

Shock News – Plot flourishes whilst I’m away!

Just to prove how little value I add with my nurturing of the veg plot in my absence the plot decided to have the best two weeks of the season so far. Thankfully I arrived back just in time to harvest some of the benefits.

The plot was starting to look like a jungle by the time I got back.

It’s the first time I’ve grown Mangetout and they are doing really well.

And the harvest, a couple of large broccoli heads, 3 cauliflowers, a load of broad beans, mangetout, asparagus peas and some garlic. Not bad at all! We were very fortunate to have a friend and neighbour keeping an eye on things although not much watering was needed with the rain we’ve had. And the strawberries and raspberries just keep on coming, definitely the best year for them so far. I should go away more often!!

Veg Update

This morning I managed to get the front bed planted up and finished. There’s various trailing plants dotted around the edge – marrow, crown prince, jack ‘o’ lantern and a tromba courgette – I’ll train these up the fence so they don’t take up space in the bed. The rest of the plants are a cabbage walking stick plant (for our Hort Soc competition in the Autumn), early and late PSB, cauliflowers (snowball), brussel sprouts (Bedford – now earthed up and staked) and some autumn-fruiting raspberries. Two mesh tunnels will keep the pigeons and cabbage whites off the brassicas.

I’ve also filled the bed under the living room window. A few scraps of mesh have been joined together to keep the birds off the strawberries – we’ll be picking our first ones later today! There’s loads of fruit forming on the raspberries and in between is a blackcurrant, gooseberry and courgettes – black beauty and rubesa fruilana.

Out the back the beds are filling up.

From front to back are root crops, spring onions, spinach, rocket, radish, mangetout, garlic, broad beans, and runners/french beans on the canes right at the back. We’ve eaten spinach, rocket, radish and mangetout which was all very nice and the broad beans shouldn’t be too far behind.

And the cabbages are coming on well tucked up in their mesh tunnel.

Lastly the long roots in the pipes:

The parsnips and carrots are around 8″ high now, hoping they will be good enough for the show in mid-August. Hope you’re having a good weekend.

The Pipes are Calling

I’ve finally started getting my pipes in. What’s this got to do with growing veg you ask? Well over the past few months I’ve been planning to have a go at growing some prize winning veg on a very small scale concentrating on a few carrots and parsnips (the long carrot experiment part II, some of you will remember my pathetic effort last year!).

I could only find 4″ black drainpipes in the local DIY store, in 7 foot lengths. 6″ diameter is ideal for parnsips but to be honest if I get a parsnip big enough to get stuck in a 4″ pipe I’ll be chuffed! Cut in half I buried them in a section of raised bed. The pipes will be filled with the growing medium and should I manage to grow something longer than 3 and a half foot the tap root can keep going into the soil below which I can carefully dig out at show time in August (haha who am I kidding!). By part burying them in the raised bed I hope to avoid the hassle and expense of constructing some sort of frame to support the pipes. And I avoid the need for drums and tonnes of sand – don’t know what I’m talking about? Check out Darren’s method. 8 pipes are now in and I’ll buy enough for another 8 towards the end of the month. I’ll sieve the topsoil in the rest of the bed and core out a number of stations to fill with mix and sow stump carrots directly. I’ll also grow some stump carrots in sand in half barrels – with a variety of methods I’m hoping to get a decent result from one of them!

The seeds, from Medwyns, have arrived. I’ve gone for Gladiator for the long parsnip and Sweet Candle for stump carrots. I have some long carrot seeds left over from last year. The remainder of the parsnip seeds will go direct in the bed as they don’t last more than one season.

I also got round to planting my shallots. Traditionally they go straight in the plot on the shortest day but with the weather we’ve had I’m starting them off in 3″ pots with compost and some Vitax Q4 to get them going. There’s 5 Hative de Niort and the rest are Golden Gourmet that I grew last year.

The rest of the morning I spent digging over the plot which has now all been dug apart from the patch of parsnips and PSB left. I’ll dig in some well rotted chicken manure and I should then be ready for the new season.

Tomorrow I’ll plant the raspberry canes I bought a few weeks ago and put these bulbs in containers – Rach picked them up for 50p each from B&Q. I’m hoping that I can get the Tulips to grow and flower in April and early May.

There’s been some good discussions recently on the UK Veg Gardener’s forum. If you’re not a member yet why not join and benefit from the expertise on the site?

Off the plot I’ve joined Hugh FW’s Fish Fight campaign – what a crazy policy we have were good fish get thrown back into the sea dead because the fishermen are not allowed to land them. Surely there’s a more common sense approach?

And don’t forget the Save Our Forest petition against the proposed goverment sell-off of some of our most precious woodlands. Over 135,000 of us have signed the petition so far, join us here. For more info click here.

Hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Snow & Christmas Bargains

We finally got our turn down here in South Wiltshire with 6 inches of snow on Thursday. Not as much as most areas but the first time I’ve seen snow this early in the 25 years I’ve lived here.

I’ve been reading with interest some of your snow posts like the ones from Jo and Sue who have had a lot more of the stuff!

With the garden locked in the freezer for a few days I turned my attention to Christmas bargains. Rach picked up a couple of codes off the Internet for Thompson & Morgan £10 vouchers with no minimum spend so just had to pay P&P.

With one of the offers I ordered some raspberry canes, 9 canes of 3 varieties, Glen Moy, Glen Ample and Autumn Bliss. With the second offer I turned my attention to seeds, well with 50-odd varieties in store and a Dobies order on the way I thought I was a bit light on seeds! So I bought:

Nicotania sylvestris – looks pretty and hopefully the strong smell will ward off the cabbage whites.
Asparagus Pea – the flowers should attract beneficial insects to the plot and we can eat the crop.
Alyssum Golden Queen – planted around the plot edge it should attract more insects in meaning heavier crops.
And herbs summer savoury and chervil.

I think 2011 is going to be a busy year! Hope you’re having a good weekend.