Tag Archives: shallots

Growing Fast!

With the wet and relatively mild weather we’ve had recently everything is growing fast and the plot is looking lush and green.


The cabbages (Dutch White) are starting to grow now they’re established and well rooted. I’m hoping these will be good sized cabbages and possibly a pair for my end of August show.


One of our favourite family veg is brocolli (calabrese). These are planted 9″ apart and the central heads are just starting to form. When they’re slightly bigger than fist size I’ll cut them to encourage the side shoots. They should be ready in a couple of weeks and then we’ll have a continual supply for 6 weeks until it gets too warm towards the end of July.


The shallots (Hative de Niort) are starting to fill out. These will the biggest I’ve ever grown and the trick now is judging when to lift them to try and achieve a matching set. This is not as easy as it sounds as the bulbs continue to grow slightly after lifting and can become “pregnant” which spoils the perfect rounded appearance. They taste great as we have had thinnings over the last few weeks.

Parsnips, Carrots

I need to thin the parnips and carrots that I sowed directly into one of the beds. I’ll be spraying with Garlic Wonder to ward off the carrot fly as these don’t have any mesh protection. Hopefully that will work. The Spring Cabbages behind them are ready now and have provided a tasty, nutritious veg whilst we wait for the broccoli to come through.

Long Carrots

The long carrots are looking good, a cane and some clips for support.

Long parsnips

And the long parnsips in pipes are also doing well. They’re getting plenty of water so I’m hoping for a good set in a few months.


The Sungold tomatoes have been planted out in the greenhouse on a bed of manure and compost using bottomless pots. I also plant French Marigolds as I find the smell means I don’t have any whitefly and there are a few comfrey leaves rotting down to give them a boost.


We have a few herbs (chive & parsley) along with lettuces growing in a three tiered stand. It’s great having this by the kitchen door and using “cut and come varieties” such as Salad Bowl means there’s always leaves when we need them for sandwiches or salads.

new project

Sorry for my lack of posts recently I’ve been busy with my new project. I’m converting a section of the front garden next to the road in a vegetable area (possibly a fruit cage eventually). You may remember I had one bed here before (where the broad beans are). As this is in the part of the garden we use the most (as it’s south facing) I’ve gone for better quality timber rather than using the cheaper gravel boards. There’s a 12 ft by 4 ft and a 12ft by 6 ft bed at the moment with a 10ft by 6ft bed to go in behind. More on this later but you can hopefully get an idea from the photo. Have a great Bank Holiday weekend everyone!

Shallots out and Fruit tree plans

I attended the NVS Hampshire DA Seminar last Sunday afternoon which was an excellent event with two top speakers from the fruit and veg world.

Gerry Edwards is one of the countries top experts on fruit growing and his talk on apple and pear trees has really inspired me to plant some in my own garden. Gerry is on the RHS Fruit Committee amongst other things and what he doesn’t know about fruit probably isn’t worth knowing.

There were a few points from his talk that are key for anyone thinking about starting out growing fruit.  Choose the right rootstock – either M26 or MM106 – and buy from a reputable fruit nursery.  Blackmoor fruit nursery in Hampshire is one, out of a total of four in the country, he recommended.  You can get cheap fruit trees in supermarkets – I saw a few in Lidl’s this morning – however these will be the lowest quality trees that the commercial growers and nurseries have passed on and the supermarkets have hoovered up cheaply – you don’t always know what rootstock they’re grafted on either.  Best to spend a bit more and buy quality, after all it will be productive for 20 years if looked after correctly. You can also grow fruit trees in a small garden, particularly as cordons, which Gerry grows 18 inches apart. Finally you need to know the pollination group (1-7 for apples) and buy trees from the same pollination group or one either side. It would be no use having trees from group 2 and group 5 for example as they would flower at the different times and pollination would not take place.

We’ve just had a new south-facing back garden fence put up and it will be the the perfect spot for some trained fruit trees.


I’d like a couple of espalier trained fruit trees like this one. Blackmoor sell Fiesta and Discovery espalier apple trees which would look great against the new fence.

Also this weekend the shallots were planted out in between the showers. I’ve put in 24 plants for exhibition shallots – one they divide I’ll thin to 3 per plant. They’re planted 9 inches apart following Dave Thornton’s direction (top NVS shallot grower). And there’s 14 plants for pickling shallots which I’ll just leave to grow naturally. Growing shallots for show is quite tricky as they can easily grow to far where each bulb starts to divide again and become “pregnant” and not perfectly round. They can continue to grow after they’ve been harvested so it’s all about timing when to lift.


Other news to report – the long and stump carrots have germinated and I’ve planted out a few first early potatoes – Pentland Javelin – just in time for the first frost we’ve had in a while which is forecast for tonight! Ah well fingers crossed it’s mild enough for most veg to get started.

Winter Greens

The lettuce planted in the greenhouse have done really well over winter and keep us supplied with plenty of leaves for sandwiches. There’s a couple of land cress plants also which are easy to grow and give a bit of variety at this time of year.

Winter lettuce

With the warmer weather I decided to sow some parsnips (Gladiator), carrots (Sweet Candle, Match, Flyaway, Purple Haze) and some broad beans (Longfellow) direct in the beds. And I also finally got round to planting out a few spring cabbages I had in pots.

Spring Cabbage

The shallots are coming on well – now thinking of keeping them in pots to save space in the beds.


On various windowsills indoors there’s chillies, peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower and potatoes chitting. I’ve just sown another batch of tomatoes and some cabbages.

All in all quite a productive day and long may this warmer weather continue!!

Getting Organised

A welcome change this morning with a crisp, sunny start and a lovely walk with the dog in Bentley Wood.  Saw some deer and plenty of birds, the walk really blew away the cobwebs and I wanted to spend some time when I got home getting organised on the veg plot.

Getting organised - potting shed

You may remember from an earlier post that my father built this handy potting shed for me  whilst we were away in France last summer.  There’s plenty of space to store compost and hang tools with a sturdy bench to work from.

My main job was to get the shallots started.  I grow Hative de Niort and want to enter both the pickling and exhibition classes in various shows this year – these are mainly my own saved shallots from last season with a few I won in the Hampshire DA raffle.  The exhibition shallots were planted out in 3″ pots of Levington’s M2 compost with the picklling shallots in the standard multi-purpose.  I had 32 exhbition and 16 pickling.  I’ve heard people say that pickling shallots are Hative grown badly – I guess there’s an element of truth in this as whilst you are looking for good shape and uniformity you need to restrict the growth to keep the size fairly small.  Hopefully they will put on some strong root growth in the cold greenhouse before I transfer them to their final postions in March.

Shallots in the greenhouse

Also in the greenhouse are some spring cabbage (Pixie), spring bulbs starting to come through and winter lettuce and land cress in the bed.

January tends to be a month when everyone organises themselves after the holiday and I’m back on the diet to shed the Christmas excess.  Last year I lost 3 1/2 stone cooking recipes from the Hairy Dieters cook books and sticking to roughly 1200 calories a day whilst on the diet.  This worked really well  and, whilst I was only eating half of the recommended daily calorie intake, I was having tasty meals which got me through the lean times.

Mince & Vegetable Pie with Tumbled Spuds

This is one of their recipes – Mince & Vegetable Pie with Tumbled Spuds – which was only 292 calories per portion.   I’d recommend the books to anyone who wants to cook great recipes with less calories.

The next job on the veg plot is to get the chillies started.  Have a good weekend everyone!



NVS Hants DA Show

Unfortunately due to work commitments I couldn’t attend Tuesday evening’s NVS Hampshire DA Mini-Show. Darren kindly offered to stage my shallots and I picked up a second place in the well contested pickling class with 8 entries in total.


Please check out Darren’s new blog if you get a chance. He’s just moved in up the road from me and has an exciting new garden project on his hands over the next few months. You’ll definitely pick up some good tips too along the way.  Follow his progress as he builds a new veg growing empire!!

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.


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.

Small bed

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.


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


And the Sweet Candle carrots in the dustbins seem OK.


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.

Kids veg

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.


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.


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.

Greenhouse 2

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!

Soft fruit

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.


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


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!!