Monday, November 11, 2019

A Review of 2019

My apologies for the lack of posts over the summer, while I have managed to keep up with the tasks on the plot and get a good haul in the process, time for posting here has been a bit short. Work and DIY does tend to get in the way, along with quite a few BBQ's of course.

The cold start and hot couple of months did cause a few issues but it's fair to say that everything planted put in some kind of appearance and we certainly didn't go short this year.

So here is a rather pictorial update of this years progress.

Love a freshly picked sweetcorn. They did well this year despite a bit of wind damage
50mph winds bent a few of the sweetcorn
The changeable weather meant that the sprouting broccoli put in an early appearance this year
Plenty of tomatoes this year, although the dry conditions did make some of the skins a little tough
Malbec carrots. The first planting had to be scrapped but the second produced a good crop. Carrot fly have been an issue this year

Even managed to get a couple of decent sized peppers
It was a good onion crop this year

Last of the onions strung for winter usage. I'll definitely grow from seed next year as well
Carrots, leeks and parsnips. The leaf miner has hit the leeks again this year but there are still some usable ones. Some kind of protection will be needed for next year
The biggest of 2 pumpkins, large squashes didn't have a great year
And they ended up like this!
A picture from last weekend. Leeks, parsnips and brassicas. Oca covered in fleece in the background. I need to remind myself what to do with them. 
This year I've pickled my own onions, they do have a bite! and even got to like a boiled beetroot

The plot is looking quite tidy. I've manured and covered all the finished beds and I've been working on tidying the fruit bed. I don't think I'll get the strawberries replaced this year but I'll have the bed ready in the spring.

We've had the usual end of season visits from the vandals and they slashed the pea cage netting and Brian's shirt. It happens every year, usually closer to christmas, but at least they left the veg alone.

Hope you've all had a good season.

Happy Gardening Folks!!

Monday, July 08, 2019

Let the picking begin!

A good blast of rain and a hot weekend later and things are kicking off nicely. Now as well as keeping up with the weeding we have the picking to keep up with as well. 

The Arran Pilot potatoes didn't flower much but as they have been in the ground since March it was time to see what we've got. The results were good, giving a good yield per plant and some of them are huge. They have a really nice taste and don't fall apart when boiled. There was very little pest damage or scab so really pleased with them.

I thought the Shetland Black spuds had gone a bit wrong and been ruined by something but after looking through all my books and digging around online I couldn't find pests/disease that matched what I was seeing or any evidence on the plants themselves.

Then I found an article that says this variety often doesn't flower and that while they are second earlies they are often ready at the same time as first earlies. It also said that they don't get very big. Based on this and the condition of the spuds themselves I've decided they were actually a success. They are a pain to harvest though. They just look like lumps of mud and are quite hard to spot as you dig.

They are really a roasting/chip/crisp spud as they are floury and fall apart when boiled, they actually turn the water a rather strange green colour too. 

The first couple of Dutchman summer cabbages have been really good. No damage from pests, very clean and a good size. 

The mangetout peas, Oregon, are ready now, the Boogie ones won't be far behind. They are very nice but grow so quickly that picking them at the right moment is a challenge.

A glut of broad beans is being dealt with by taking them to work, they go down well and make a healthy snack that keeps us out of the biscuit jar as well. 

The good news is that I'm getting requests for courgettes. As the courgette madness will be upon us soon this is good news.

Some of onions had some browning of leaves, when I tried to remove them they came out of the ground very easily. It looks like the dreaded white rot, luckily it only affects 3 onions so far. They weren't wasted though, they were fine to use straight away.

I've had to plant more carrots as carrot fly had been at them and I found the tips had gone soft when I pulled the Malbec variety. I think this was caused by the amount of rain we had as I've never seen this before

As always there is the odd problem but in general I'm happy with everything. The farm certainly looks a lot fuller than last year.

Happy gardening folks!! 

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Meet Brian!

We have a new helper on the farm, a rather snazzy dresser he is too, meet Brian.... we've been meaning to make a scarecrow for the last couple of years and have finally managed it, thanks to some free straw we got on freecycle.

Things are starting to look good on the plot now, we aren't picking much variety wise but things are looking good for a couple of weeks time.

So here's the latest update.

Bed 1:
On the left the sweetcorn are doing well and are about 18 inches high now. They all survived the transplant. I lost a blue pumpkin to the wind but had a replacement, it and the orange Halloween pumpkin are doing ok and slowly starting to spread. Same for the spaghetti and butternut squash.

On the right Brian is guarding my marrows and 4 courgettes. One courgette didn't look great after bring potted out but after a feed is starting to pick up. The cucumbers are nearly big enough to go in.

Bed 2:
At the back the 6 tomato plants are looking nice, they have some good solid stakes to support them. After all the rain I am just hoping the breeze and lower temperatures are keeping the blight at bay.
Also in here are 3 more courgettes and a line of lettuces I should be able to start picking soon. I lost a lettuce to something but I'm not exactly short at the moment so not too worried.

In the front I'm planning to give the asparagus another week or so before I let it grow out for the season, Its done well and has paid for the plot again this year (£32). All 4 crowns I put in last year have come up as well which I wasn't expecting. I'm cutting the salad bowl and lolo rosso leaves as I need them and they make a lovely salad. I have a second sowing of radish in here, the pigeons are finally leaving the beetroot alone and the multi tiered lettuce I plan to give away as growing salad are doing well. Spring onions however are eluding me again, well certainly in this bed.

Bed 3:
In the back are my second early Shetland Black spuds, and something is going wrong. The tops are dying off before they flower and some of the stalks can be pulled out of the ground. I had a dig around one of the plants but apart from red ants can't find anything wrong. It's not blight, doesn't look like blackleg and I can't find any cut worm. There are spuds there and cutting one open revealed it is small but healthy. I'm going to leave them and see what happens.The Oca are looking good and I've got more lettuces and radishes around them to use up the space.

At the front the parsnips still have bare patches but I've used all seeds trying to fill the gaps so they will have to take their chances. The Malbec carrots are looking a bit pale and the tops are wilted. They probably just need a feed but they could be a bit wet, which makes a high nitrogen liquid feed a bit risky.  The resistafly are looking good though. The main onions are starting to swell nicely, some of tops are a little bent from being under the tunnel but they don't seem to mind. The pickling onions are doing well and I've put out the leeks, all of which of survived.

Bed 4:
The arran pilots are flowering and the rain has really made them put on a spurt, I'm looking forward to those and will dig a plant as a trial next week. The Oca look good again, and there are yet more lettuces, a variety called amaze, a purple tipped little gem which I'm told are very nice.

In the front the brassicas are very good this year with no bug issues so far. The kohl robi are being cut now in the main cage to give the sprouts, kale and broccoli more room. It's the first I've grown kohl robi and it turns out they are lovely in a salad. In the cabbage cage the summer cabbages are starting heart up nicely. The winter ones look ok so far, they will get some more room once the summer ones are out.

Bed 5:
In the pea cage things are really starting to move. The Oregon are flowering and both varieties have needed tying back with string before they get tangled., and also so I can get to the beetroot at the back which are nearly ready. The broads have had very little black fly, partly helped by the bug gun, and should be ready for picking next week.

In the bean bed all varieties are doing well, some were nibbled but have recovered nicely, I'll be tying them to the poles and string soon. The lettuces around them look nice now and keep the weeds done.

Fruit Bed:
There's still a bit of work to  do here. I've netted the strawberry's so I'm finally getting more than the birds. A spare courgette has been plonked in here just to use the space.

I skip dived another load of decking wood to do the bed edges and I'll get round to it soon then build my raised strawberry section.

Happy gardening folks!!


Monday, June 10, 2019

Planting Out

Now with the danger of overnight frosts gone, the young plants big enough to survive in the big bad world and the ground prepped it's time to the put plants out to take their chances.

Sounds simple doesn't it, dig a hole, stick the plant in, fill it up and water.....or is it?

I follow a 3 simple rules for planting out and thought I'd share them with you. They are quite simple, those that go in deep, those that in level and those that need a hill.

Those that can go deep:

By deep I mean putting them in the ground up to the first set of true leaves, not the baby leaves. These are plants that will put out extra roots from the stem, or those that need strong support such as brussels and sweetcorn.

It this category I put tomatoes, sweetcorn, sprouts, Kale, sprouting broccoli

Those that go in level:

These are plants that need the surface of the compost they were planted in to be at the same level as the ground soil, where planting them deeper could cause the plant to rot.

These are plants were the end product is swollen stem, such as onions, or very close to the ground such as cabbages and cauliflower.

Some say lettuces should be included here, but I've always planted them a little deeper to provide support.  

Those that need a hill:

Some plants don't like their leaves and stems getting wet. Not only can they not be planted deep, but water shouldn't be allowed to pool around them. This is the cucurbit and gourd family, mostly known as squashes.

These should be planted on a mound, pile up the earth, make a hole in the top, pop the plant in level with the surface. This can mean the root ball doesn't have much soil around it in the first couple of days so it's best to put a plant pot in so you can water near it.

I tend to dig a bigger shallow hole, make my mound in the middle and then water into the moat around it. The white pipe is instead of a plant pot

If you have a sloping plot then planting them at the top will stop the water pooling.

Hope this helps someone out

Happy gardening folks!!

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Slugs, Pigeons, Rabbits..................and Horses!

The last couple of years we've had mercifully few problems with slugs and our site doesn't really suffer with rabbits like the one up the road. Pigeons we most definitely have a problem with and peas or brassicas without netting don't stand much of a chance.

One thing you don't expect though is horses. There are some living in the field beside our site and of late they have been escaping to our side of the fence occasionally.

When I popped down to water last Wednesday the first thing I noticed were some holes in a dug but empty bed. As there was no soil flung about I wondered if someone had been nicking the topsoil by the bucket full, then I saw the unmistakable imprint of a horse shoe in the clay surface of the un-dug bed one.

It looks like the beast had had a wander round half the plot, including splitting my two rows of carrots into four! Not happy. Somehow he missed every parsnip that has germinated.

I looked up to see the horse merrily wandering around the far end of the site defying all attempts to catch it, or take its picture. Needless to say a complaint has gone into the council who were supposed to replace the fences in April.

At least I haven't put in many of my plants yet, the sweetcorn are due to go in this week, quite happy with these.

I'm glad I waited unlike some who lost more than a carrot or two. Very disheartening for new plot owners.

Happy gardening folks!!


Monday, May 13, 2019

So here's the plan.....

I like to try and stick to a crop rotation plan, there is usually a little tweak required every year, something doesn't come up, you get given something new or more than expected germinates so you think why not put it in. So here is this years plan. Having the cross paths splitting the beds does actually make things easier to manage.    

I'm pretty happy with things so far, I know there is a long way to go yet, so here's a run down of the progress so far. 

Bed 1

Nothing happening here, not even got the covers off yet. It just needs a little dig and its good to go but I have a good couple of weeks as some of the plants due to go in there haven't even come up yet. I'll probably add a couple of buckets of manure to the bits that was exposed over winter.

Bed 2

At the front the asparagus bed is getting into it's stride and if this keeps up it will effectively pay for the plot again this year.

The other half of the front bed if being used for quick growing crops such as lettuce, radish, turnip and beetroot. Once I get all the crops in other beds I'll mix them into the those and maybe use this space for something else. I'm thinking more ornamental this year. 

The back of the bed where the tomatoes and chillies will go has been dug and prepped ready.

Bed 3

I planted 24 stations of parsnips, with 4 seeds per station, so far 12 have come up, that's a 1/8th germination rate, don't you just love them! I've replanted the failed stations again.

The carrots are coming along nicely and onions seem to be enjoying life in the fleece tunnel which will continue for the next couple of weeks until the risk of allium leaf miner has passed..

At the back of the bed the Shetland Black potatoes are looking good and the space for the Oca plants is prepped.

Bed 4

The summer and winter cabbages are looking healthy in the small cage. Only 11 in total but how much cabbage can one man eat! In the big cage The kohl robi are started to swell, I've never grown these before so I'm watching them closely and the broccoli, sprouts and kale have settled into their new home quite nicely.

At the back are the arran pilot early spuds, some of which are a little behind but all showing now. There will be more oca in here once the danger of frost has passed.

Bed 5

The bean canes are up and the seeds are in. I've gone for the odd angle in the bed to make the best use of the space and put in different coloured varieties to make it look a little more interesting.

At the back of the bed the broad beans have plenty of flowers, but no pods yet, they are a dwarf variety so the wind hasn't ravaged them too badly this year. 

In the pea cage things are looking good, the germination rate has been very good, I thought about thinning them but I think I'll just leave it. The beetroot plugs I put in have taken nicely too.

Fruit Bed

I've finished clearing the old raspberries, weeds and herbs, dug it over and turfed the new paths. Once the turf takes I'll cut the edges and put in the boards. The strawberries have lots of flowers but no sign of and berries yet.

So that's where we are so far. As long as everything that is filling up all my window sills does its job we should have a lot more planting out to do soon.

Happy gardening folks!!