Saturday, 19 April 2014

Revisiting my roots

No, this is not a post about family history, I just thought that was a clever title!

About 6 weeks ago I sowed carrots and parsnips in my big Woodblocx raised bed, but the germination rate has been very low - probably only about 10% - so I have re-sown them. I even double-checked to see that the seeds were still within their "sow by" dates, because I could hardly believe they had done so badly. They were all fresh seeds. Maybe the weather was the cause, because it has been a lot dryer than normal for this time of year.

I made sure to do the re-sowing as quickly as possible since I had to remove the "Enviromesh" carrot root fly protection in order to do the task:

You can see that the row of radishes dividing the carrots from the parsnips is fine:

One of the types of parsnips (Guernsey Half-Long) had germinated OK. Here you can see them in the right foreground. I deliberately sowed them in a wide swathe rather than a thin row, since I plan to thin them out to make what will be effectively a staggered row, giving each root plenty of space to grow.

Here's a view from directly overhead.

They look all right, but only one or two of the other type of parsnip (Duchess) had germinated. Likewise, I could only find about 20 carrots in total, from probably hundreds of seeds, of three different types. Funnily enough, the germination rate of the finger carrot varieties sown in the plastic crates has been completely different - extremely successful, despite using 2-year-old seed. I'm not taking the mesh off to show you though!

The radishes are just about big enough to pull. I can hardly wait. Home-grown radishes are just so much nicer than bought ones - crisp and tasty as opposed to rubbery and bland!

Here's hoping for a better germination rate this time!

Friday, 18 April 2014

Broad Beans

My Broad Beans have moved on to the next stage of their lives. They had got too tall to fit under the cloches.

The catch-crop of Radishes is beginning to swell now, and I expect to be picking the first ones within a few days.

Broad Bean plants never seem very robust (though I suppose they must be), so I always give them some support. This is my method: I put a stout stake at the end of each row and tie two lengths of soft string to them.

I then arrange the beans so that one string goes each side of the stalk, like this:

As the beans grow taller, I put in more rows of string - usually about 3 or 4 pairs.

The final part of the procedure at this point is to put in some aluminium rods topped with balls from the "Build-a-Ball" kit, and drape a net over the whole thing.

The net will protect the bed from the foxes / badgers, deterring them from nosing about in the moist soil in their search for worms.

Looking closely at the plants, I see that flowers are already forming:

This means that we'll be eating Broad Beans in about a month's time.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Not veg at all

Here are some photos of plants in my garden that are not veg - yes, there are quite a few of them these days...

Aquilegia nicknamed "David Ford"

Dogwood - Cornus Alba "Aureum"

Cotinus "Royal Purple"

Apple "Scrumptious"

Apple "Scrumptious"

Pear "Conference"


Daffodil "Sundisc"

By the way, I have finally made up my mind what to do with my second batch of Sweet Peas. The ones I planted in pots are not looking very good, so I have put some of the second batch in with them to "hedge my bets". I think maybe that first batch may have got too cold, because they have hardly grown at all since being transplanted, and some of the leaves have gone yellow. The second batch, being under cover in a mini greenhouse has grown a lot, and is generally looking much more enthusiastic:

The other half of this second batch has gone in a really strange place - amongst the Raspberries! I couldn't think of anywhere else for them to go, and they desperately needed to be planted somewhere. I'm hoping that as the Sweet Peas grow they will be supported by the Raspberry canes.

Well, it might work. If it does, I will have a rather more picturesque row of Raspberries than normal!

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

A growth spurt

During the first half of April the plants in my garden have grown very rapidly, helped by mild temperatures and a fair bit of sunshine.

The potato plants are growing at a rate that is almost visible to the human eye, and some of the foliage is amazingly beautiful:

Potato "Red Duke of York"

The plastic "seedling greenhouse" has been earning its keep, protecting the plants from cool night-time temperatures. There hasn't been any frost recently, but it could happen at any time still.

Just about time for more earthing-up, I reckon...

The Asparagus is not doing too badly either. It looks as if I will have a better crop this year - which is just as well, since I had told it that if it didn't buck its ideas up I would be removing it this year!

The tomato plants have grown a fair bit too. They will probably need transplanting into bigger pots over the Easter weekend. I have had them outdoors in one of the mini greenhouses during the daytime, to give them maximum light, but it is still too cold for them to be outdoors at night-time.

The plants around my micro-pond have shot up too:

Most of that lot is Lily of the Valley, but there are also some Hardy Geraniums, and some Red-veined Sorrel.

Over by the fence, the "Autumn Bliss" Raspberries are coming up strongly. Last year was a very poor year for Raspberries, so I'm hoping for a better result this time.

My clump of Wild Garlic has been decimated since this photo was taken. It had grown so strongly that I felt justified in picking enough of it to make a small batch of Wild Garlic Pesto.

The photo shows very clearly that the Wild Garlic is spreading-out rapidly. Just look at all those little babies! I don't know how they got there (birds?) but tiny seedlings of Wild Garlic have appeared all over the garden, so I am keeping a watchful eye for them, and removing all those I find except for the ones in close proximity to the parent plant.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Transplanting chillis

My chillis had outgrown the little 3" pots in which they began their lives. Leaving them in those any longer would risk having them run out of space and nutrients and making them pot-bound.

As you can see, the size of the plants varies a lot. Even plants of the same variety can be very different in size.

As I normally do, I have put the chillis into intermediate-size (5") pots, not the big 10" pots that will be their final homes. I'm not sure of the science of this, but they always say that for some reason tiny plants don't like being put into huge pots. Here you can clearly see the difference between the 3" and the 5":

It was good to see that the plants all had a strong root structure.

I potted up one plant of each of 8 different varieties. I have some other, smaller, ones coming on, so I intend to eventually have 12 plants. This is about as many as I can conveniently manage, considering that I will also have potted tomatoes and potatoes to look after. I'll probably not have much trouble finding homes for my spare ones.

For the time being the chillis will live outside in one of the mini greenhouses during the day, but will be brought indoors overnight, until such time as the night-time temperatures rise to double figures.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Harvest Monday - 14th April 2014

Only a small contribution to Harvest Monday from me this week, but an interesting one because it is the first time I have harvested Wild Garlic (other than one or two leaves used as a garnish).

I have read about Wild Garlic pesto a lot, and most people seem to think it is nice, so that's what I did with my harvest. I "zuzzed" it in a food-processor, along with pine-nuts, Parmesan cheese and olive oil, producing this beautiful bowl of pesto:

It was powerful! You wouldn't want huge quantities of it (unless you were prepared to have smelly breath for the next couple of days!).

This week I have also picked a bit more Purple Sprouting Broccoli:

The broccoli has not been very prolific this year, and although I had plants of three different varieties, supposedly flowering at different times, they all came on at once. It's tempting to say "Oh, forget it; I'll grow something else instead", but I know that every year is different and you can't expect perfect crops every time. I have been growing PSB for many years now, and I'm not going to stop just because of one poor crop.

I have cut another few spears of Asparagus. Not enough though!

The final harvest I have to report is this endive - it is the one I wrote about blanching, the other day. The blanching process only took 7 days this time.

New furniture for the patio

Until very recently we had a gas barbecue on our patio, but we have just disposed of it. We felt that since we had only used it about 5 or 6 times in the last 3 years - and not at all during 2013 - it was not worth hanging on to it. We generally prefer to cook indoors, even when we eat outside (which to be honest is a fairly rare event). So, since the barbecue has gone we have re-vitalised the patio by replacing the old plastic furniture with some new wooden items:

These are items from the "Acacia" range marketed by  We actually have four more chairs, but we have not put them out yet. The table is an expanding one. In the configuration shown here it is 1.5 metres long, but it expands to 2 metres if you need it to, so it will comfortably accomodate six diners.

We are planning to get a set of cushions for the chairs, because I imagine they would not be comfortable to sit in for any length of time without them.

The quality of this furniture seems very good, and I think it is excellent value for money. I was impressed with the ease of assembly too. Actually it was only the table that needed any assembly - the chairs are folding ones - and it only took me about half an hour to do it. Amazingly for flat-packed furniture it went together easily, and there were no bits missing! They even provided the necessary Allen keys and screwdriver. This sounds like a sponsored review, doesn't it? Well, it's not, but I believe in giving praise where praise is due. Last year I had a really bad experience with a flat-packed potting-bench which I was given (free) to review, by a well known retailer. It was awful: poor quality wood; missing parts; bits that didn't fit properly; minimal instructions - everything was wrong, so you will understand why I was apprehensive about this stuff from Greenfingers.

Now that the furniture has arrived, I will be re-arranging the potted plants to enhance what I call the "Mediterranean Courtyard" feel of the patio. I have two Bay trees and an Olive tree to go at three of the corners. The other corner is obstructed by the rotary washing-line! There will be a clutch of Rosemary and Lavender plants too, which will all add to the ambience.

My only worry in all this is "where will I put my seedlings?". In the past I had no qualms about putting dirty, wet pot plants and seed-trays on the plastic table, but now I won't want to damage the posh new wooden one!