Monday 17 January 2011

Decisions! Decisions!

I'm not one for making formal New Year Resolutions, but at this time of year my mind is always full of plans for the forthcoming growing season. During the Christmas holidays I have the time I need to peruse in detail all the seed cataloges and websites, trying to decide what I will grow.

I'm sure that many of you will be like me in that your plans tend to exceed the capacity of your plot - however big that may be. There are just so many things I want to grow, and never enough space. I usually end up buying more seeds than I can use, though I seldom go too far over the top these days - I have learned to be more realistic! I think I make pretty good use of my plot, and I manage to get plenty of produce out of it, so my conscience is clear.

One thing I like to do every year is to try growing something new, rather than sticking with the same old things year after year. Having said that, of course you do want to ensure that certain "staples" are always represented, and it makes sense to grow things that you like and things that do well in your garden. For this reason, I always grow Runner Beans, and Sprouting Broccoli, and Tomatoes, but in recent years I have experimented with things like Tomatillos (they produced a bumper crop, but we found them to be less versatile in the kitchen than we hoped),

and Celeriac (lovely taste, but disappointingly small bulbs),


and the Red-veined Sorrel, bought as an ingredient for baby leaf salad, but which grew so slowly that it was left behind by everything else - though it turned out in the end to be very decorative...

Red-veined Sorrel

So my "resolution" for the coming year is to make a conscious effort to try a number of new crops. Top of my list is a new hybrid vegetable called Brokali - a cross between the European broccoli and the Asian kailaan. In the UK you can get a variety of it called Apollo F1 from Dobies or Marshalls Seeds  This is a fast-growing plant, suitable for the Summer months. It sounds as if it may be similar to the Tenderstem broccoli that performed so well for me in 2010. 

Tenderstem Broccoli - re-sprouting for the Nth time

Another new one is Brukale - a cross between Brussels Sprouts and Kale. It apparently produces loads of little shoots like "blown" sprouts. In fact it is also know as the Flower Sprout. In the UK you can get seeds from D.T.Brown or from Dobies (and probably many other places besides...) This veg ought to allow me to have more variety in the garden during the Winter. Dobies say that it is "...very hardy, standing happily in the garden all winter".

Inspired by my blogging friend Takaeko in Japan I am also going to try out a few oriental veg. Jane has never been very keen on the Pak Choi style vegetables - she finds them rather bitter - so I am going to experiment with some other crops, hoping to find something we both like, and (significantly) something that will survive the cooler temperatures of Autumn and Winter in the UK. I'm going to try some Komatsuna, and some Bekana, and also a different variety of Mustard - called Osaka Purple. I think we will probably enjoy the mustard most as a salad ingredient at the baby leaf stage, but the other two will probably end up in stir-fries of some sort.

Komatsuna (Photo courtesy of Takaeko)
Whilst searching on the internet for suppliers of oriental veg seeds I discovered Nicky's Nursery which has a very extensive selection of this type of thing. I notice they (she?) also have a good selection of tomato and chilli seeds, which immediately attracted my attention. Their prices are very reasonable too, so I'm hoping this proves to be a good find. Whilst I have no particular gripes about the big-name seed suppliers, I do like to patronise the smaller businesses if I can.

I am very fond of beans of all types, and I have had a lot of success with the climbing varieties, with one notable exception - the Italian Gold , which performed very poorly for me.

"Italian Gold" produced a very small crop

 In 2011 I will be trying a couple of new ones. For instance Selma Zebra, a re-introduction by Thompson & Morgan  It has very striking stripey pods. I am also going to try Yin Yang, which has bi-colour black and white beans, as well as the well-known heritage varieties Mayflower and Cherokee Trail of Tears (which surprisingly I have never grown). Another newcomer will be Amethyst, seeds of which were brought across from France for me by my daughter Fiona. This dwarf variety has purple pods. Alongside my old favourites Cobra (climbing French bean), Aintree (Runner) and the Firetongue (Borlotto), these ought to make a pretty good show!

Runner Bean "Aintree" - a reliable performer

"Firetongue"- very impressive

This post could go on for a long time, couldn't it?? Let me bring it to a close then by saying that just because I haven't mentioned it here, there is no guarantee that I won't be trying anything else that happens to take my fancy!

This blogpost was put together as a contribution to the Blog Carnival being hosted by Fer on his blog "My Little Garden in Japan"... Why not visit (or contribute)?

new year gardening resolutions

Visit New Year Gardening Resolutions Blog Carnival

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  1. Mark, I'm one who's eyes are often bigger than my gardening beds. I find I've become quite the collector of vegetable seeds. I can't help myself! My 2011 grow list is big but I hope to pull it off. I'm trying tomatillos for the first time this year. I hope to make salsa and can them. I've never tried celeriac before but got some celery seeds in a trade and my take a stab at that this year also. Those hybrid crosses sound interesting. I can't wait for reports on your growing season! Good luck with the asian greens. I love them! I grew baby bok choy last year and couldn't get enough of it. This year I got a great deal on other greens like osaka purple mustard greens, tatsoi, mizuna & pac choi. I've grown fresh beans before but this year will try some dry beans. I can't wait to see how your garden does!!

  2. Good luck with your choices for this year. I'm growing Cobra and Firetongue as well and have a packet of Tomatillos I've been meaning to try.

  3. I'm just going through my seed store at the moment and deciding what to grow this year.
    Interesting that your celeriac didn't grow very well last year, neither did mine but the year before they were great. An old timer said that you can never give them enough water! So if you give them another chance just make sure you really give them a good soaking when you water.(I didn't last year and they really weren't worth harvesting)

  4. Holly & Damo; If you decide to grow tomatillos, think carefully where you will plant them. I grew 4 plants, and they got very big, producing huge quantities of fruit - more than I could manage to consume, so I had to give lots of them away. Also note that you need at least 2 plants of pollination purposes!

    Janice; Thatnks for the advice on celeriac. I thought I had watered mine fairly generously, but maybe they need even more water. I'm not giving in just yet, so I'll try swamping them next time!

  5. Looks like your going to have a busy year! The tomatillo look lovely but don't look like they'd be very tasty. When does your seed sowing start or have you started already in your cold frame? I generally wait until April (bit late by some standards).

  6. Hi Kelli; Re Tomatillos - the picture in my post is of some immature fruit, so perhaps not a good indicator of their culinary potential. The fruits do have a very distinctive flavour, and we made a couple of batches of quite nice salsa from them, but we found them to be nowhere near as versatile as the tomato.

  7. I saw a tomatillo in the nursery recently and wondered about it. You don't seem to think it is worth the space, Mark. Isn't it funny you are keen to try all the new vegetable crosses and I am interested in going back to the old heirlooms.

  8. Mark all those names made me think of the crosses we have with dogs now, labradoodles and spoodles and whatnot.

    I think I'd have a giggle if you served me up some Brokali.

    It makes me sound like I've got no money left.

  9. You are SO right about wanting to grow everything. I'll be interested in learning about Brokali. Sound interesting!

  10. I'm happy to see my photo of my komatunas!
    But I wonder why a spices of the komatunas which introduced in the post is named "Osaka Purple"?
    Was it originated or bred in Osaka?
    Although I live in Osaka, I've never heard of the komatuna. I'll try to seek the roots.

  11. So cool to see you trying Komatsuna and Bekana. I am growing them too. And you have so many others that I haven't even heard of before.
    That is what I like about the carnival, is great for inspiration.
    Oh, one more think, (as I am sure you know) tomatillo is a staple of mexican food, I can send you some recipes to help you out

  12. Hi Fer; Thanks for the offer of recipes for tomatillos. however, I don't think I will be growing any this year, due to space limitations! Looking forward to comparing notes with you on growing Bekana, Komatsuna etc...
    BTW: Full marks to you for hosting another popular carnival. Thanks!

  13. Hi Takaeko; It's so funny that you have never heard of that mustard called Osaka Purple! It's probably a variety bred in England, and they needed to have a Japanese-sounding name for it, so they pretended it came from Japan.

    Thanks for letting me use your photo, by the way.

  14. Hazel, Ali, GLA; I'm only half-convinced that the new hybrids will be worth growing (I generally go for the well-established ones), but I am keeping an open mind. You can't know what they are like until you've tried them!
    And I'm certainly not giving up growing some of my favourites in favour of some unproven upstarts just yet...

  15. Your house will be a fun place to eat vegetables this year. I love being a member of a CSA because my share contains all kinds of fruits and vegetables I have never tried

  16. Hi Carolyn; Thanks for your kind remarks. Not being a member of one, I am not 100% sure what a CSA is - presumably a "Crop-Sharing Association"? Perhaps you could tell us how one of those works? Do you get back produce in proportion to what you contribute? Who decides who gets what?

  17. This post is delightful... all the veggie photos are so tempting (now I really want that 'Tenderstem' broccoli)! I can give a good word to 'Cherokee Trail of Tears' bean and 'Osaka Purple' mustard. The mustard grows so fast it's a bully in mesclun mixes, so give it its own space. For some reason none of the catalogs I've looked through this year are carrying that variety, I've settled on a different red mustard instead. Guess I should have saved seeds!


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