Tag Archives: shallots

April showers…..

More like April torrential rain today! I feel like this year is already well behind with the cold winter and early spring. Hopefully we’ll get some decent weather and everything will catch up soon.

There’s three main areas of activity at the moment. Firstly the south-facing living room windowsill the best place for young seedlings. There’s a couple of pots of rocket – interesting in exactly the same conditions Runaway is far outstripping Va-Va Voom – Lettuce (Little Gem), Aubergines (Money Maker), Chillies (Joe’s Long), Celery (Morning Star) and Tomatoes (Sungold). All are making good progress and I’ll keep sowing rocket and lettuce every couple of weeks throughout the season. Later in the spring these will be sown direct into a three tier planter that I’m putting near the kitchen door for ease of picking when we need a few leaves.


Next is the cold greenhouse which is housing shallots and onion sets that haven’t gone out yet. Broad beans (Longfellow), and various brassicas – Cauliflower (Romanesque & Cornell), Brussel Sprouts (Wellington), Cabbage (Ramco), Calabrese (Aquiles), land cress and more lettuce.


And lastly there’s the pipes that I covered in the last post – and the carrots and parsnips have germinated so the cover is off and each one has the top portion of a plastic bottle protecting the seedlings which I’ll thin down to one in the next week or so. The stump carrots aren’t through yet but should be by next weekend. I’ve started three potato planters with Charlotte and the task of filling the polypots and getting the Kestrel, Winston and Amour out has begun and will be finished next weekend. On the showing front I’m aiming for the NVS SW show which is at the end of August so I have time yet.

I hope you’re all having a nice weekend and managing to get some jobs done despite the miserable weather. Here’s hoping we actually get a summer this year!!


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………………

Sun at last!

At last some sun and a few days of dry weather after the deluge of the last five weeks or so. With lots of jobs to do I’ve concentrated on the home front this weekend and thought I’d give you a virtual tour as I haven’t focused on this for a while.

I started with the onion bed finding a few spaces for the last of the vento onion plants I’ve been growing on from Darren. There’s also shallots, Hative de Niort, and garlic, purple wight, in this bed.

Next were the peas, show perfection on the canes, and oregon sugar snap up the netting.

The cabbages, green ramco, have been out for a couple of weeks now and should reach a good size by the end of July. There’s seven in all aiming for an entry at the New Forest Show.

The stump carrots in two dustbins of sand are coming along nicely.

And after a slow start the long carrots in pipes are starting to take off.

The greenhouse is starting to clear slowly. There’s lettuce, radish and rocket in the bed on the right hand side. And celery, calabrese, cauliflower, brokali, purple sprouting, sweetcorn, runner & french beans, celeriac and leeks on the staging. These all need to planted out over the next three weeks.

And the hardening off area is pretty full. The tomatoes are about two foot tall and ready for planting out as soon as the weather warms up. There’s also marrows, beans, brussels, beetroot, cucumbers, squash and pumpkins waiting to go out. It’s all a bit of a jam waiting for the end of May when I’ll be confident the threat of a late frost has passed. Then it will be a frenzy of activity to get this lot all out into their final positions before we go on holiday!

Hope you’re all enjoying the sunny weather!

Shallots out

With today’s rain receding I managed to get my shallots out this afternoon. A few sets of Hative de Niort and Jermor went in next to the overwintered onions. And some onion sets left over from those I planted out at the shared plot which I filled any gaps with.

I attended my local NVS DA vegetable seminar last weekend (see Darren’s blog for all the details). This was the first weekend event the DA had put on and they’d lined up two excellent talks for us. The first was a year on the allotment from NVS national chairman Barry Newman and he pointed out some great tips that he had picked up from the showing side of the Society and applied them to his allotment growing to get better results for the kitchen table (this is the way the NVS willl attract new members I think as the show tips and disciplines can be translated to the garden/allotment with great results). The second talk was from the legendary Charlie Macey on cucumbers and tomatoes. What Charlie doesn’t know about these subjects isn’t worth knowing. I learnt that you can’t really grow cucumbers and tomatoes in the same greenhouse effectively as they like different conditions with cucumbers preferring the humid, steamy greenhouse conditions that are achieved in summer by keeping the doors and vents closed and regularly damping down. We also saw slides from Charlie’s tomato greenhouse were he was still getting a great crop off the 12th truss of the plant which was growing across the top of the greenhouse. This was some serious tomato growing but nothing that anyone with a greenhouse or polytunnel couldn’t achieve. I came away with plenty of notes and a plan to concentrate on cucumbers in the greenhouse this year (the family favourite) and grow my tomatoes in a bed alongside the greenhouse using 3 mini-greenhouses side by side as protection in the early part of the summer. My main tomato variety will be Goldstar (recommended at the seminar for both its excellent taste and show qualities) and the cucumber variety is Carmen (which all the family love eating and is the top show variety).

And there’s plenty of sowing done and to do. So far Brussels, Celeriac, Broad Beans, Tomatoes, Chillies, Pepper and Lettuce are all in various trays indoors or the greenhouse. I’ve pricked out some celery plants that Darren kindly gave me and there’s the very first signs of carrots coming through in the pipes. Fingers crossed I’ll get decent germination from the pipes as I’ve only got one chance for the New Forest Show at the end of July. Well off to do some more sowing now. Have a great weekend!

Spring well underway and I’m behind

A walk round the garden on this lovely, mild weekend has brought it home just how far Spring has progressed and I now have the feeling that I’m behind on all the jobs that I’m usually ahead of at this time of year – too far ahead of in some cases like sowing seeds for example.

In previous years the greenhouse would be filling up with various brassicas on the go whilst at the moment there’s just half a dozen trays of broad beans germinating and some shallots – I would have sown these direct in Autumn before. And usually I’d have trays of chillies, peppers, and tomatoes growing on but at the moment there’s just a handful of tomatoes germinated and I’m still waiting for the peppers to poke through.

Yesterday I sowed some more stump carrots (Sweet Candle) and four rows of parsnips (Gladiator & Picador). So I’m on track with the roots it’s just the rest of the veg I need to get a move on with. The only thing I’ve done at the shared plot is plant a couple of hundred onion sets and I haven’t touched my half allotment plot – although on visiting I realised it’s much smaller than a standard council plot (it’s run by a village charity) so I am less worried about catching up there, and it’s still got the previous tenants cabbages and sprouts on so I have an excuse for my tardiness. This is where the asparagus bed will go and the plants haven’t arrived yet; there you go another excuse!

It’s great to see so much colour in the garden already. This was a tiny hellebore plant I put in last year which is doing well. And the daffs are out, even an early tulip or two, but the most colourful thing is the blossom on the cherry plum tree. We often overlook just how beautiful trees can be, not just a green backdrop.

So I’ve got plenty of work to do, the next six weeks is the critical time for every veg grower, lots of sowing and planning for the season ahead!

Beaten by the Ugly stick

In the veg world celeriac probably takes the prize for being the ugliest crop on the plot. But don’t judge a book by its cover, hopefully there’s beauty within, particularly in the taste.

I grew 4 plants this year from seedlings given to me by a fellow Hort Soc Committee member. This was the size of them 6 weeks ago. 1 was around the size of a small football and the others cricket ball size. Not bad for a first go, they need quite rich soil and plenty of water so they don’t dry out. And I started stripping back the stems once they got to a decent size to focus growth to the bulb. I’ve never eaten celeriac before and the inaugral dish will be HFW’s celeriac and chilli gratin, as I have chillies in abundance, a good kilo of celeriac and garlic. It’ll give me an excuse to get the mandolin out – a five year old wedding present still pristine in it’s box – and practice my first aid skills afterwards! Is there an uglier veg out there?

This weekend has been all about tidying up after our Bristol trip. The Dahlias had been caught by the first couple of light frosts this week so I took the blackened tops off them. It’s important to leave the tubers in the ground as long as you can as they are still growing at this time of year and any remaining foliage protects them to a certain extent. I normally wait to all the foliage has been hit before I lift them, hopefully not for a couple of weeks yet, we’ll see.

The compost heap I built has been worth its weight in gold, it’s taken so much plant material and is almost full now. I’d recommend anyone with a spare corner building one out of a few old pallets and paving slabs.

I should be taking over my half plot at the local village allotments soon. They’re run by the Winterslow Land and Allotment Charity (previously known as the Winterslow Poor Folks Charity) and will cost me £10 a year for the half plot. I can’t wait to get started and have lots of plans for what to grow up there.

So with the season winding down now thoughts turn to next year and what to grow to feed the family and what might do well in the shows I plan to enter next year. And I’ve already got some Hative de Niort and Jermor shallots ready to start off in pots in the greenhouse.

Hopefully I’ll get good results with these next year!