Wednesday 19 January 2011

I am still a gardener...

Just recently I seem to have put most of the emphasis of my blog onto photography. I suppose this is mainly to do with two factors: 1) It is Winter; and 2) I have a new camera. However, the weather has been a bit milder these last few days and I have had the opportunity to do one or two tasks in the garden, thus reminding myself that I am indeed a hands-on gardener, not just an armchair one.

You remember that I have been making some plans for upgrading my cucumber-growing arrangements? Well, I have made one more step towards this. I'm planning to acquire a big deep container in which to grow the cucumbers (current thinking is that this might be a domestic dustbin, perhaps with a few "alterations"). I'm assuming that without spending a lot of money on buying an ornamental planter (probably costing upwards of £50), the container is likely to be a bit unsightly. I have therefore re-planted a trio of fern plants that previously lived around the base of the old wooden compost bin in a row in front of where the cucumber receptacle is going to go. Hopefully they will put up some nice big fronds and make the area look a bit more attractive. We shall see...

Another task has been the lifting of my final batch of parsnips. I wanted to free-up the bed in which they have been growing, so that I can dig in some home-made compost. This bed will be playing host to my salad crops this year. The parsnips were (as before) a bit of a mixed bag. Some of them were a good size, but there ware also a few tiny ones too. This batch weighed-in at 1.4kg, so it will be enough for two servings for each of the two of us.

They are no great beauties, but they scrub up well!

Last year I had for the first time ever some "issues" with getting parsnip seeds to germinate, and I re-sowed twice (with a different variety for the third sowing), so I don't really know which were the good ones and which were the poor ones. Nevertheless we have eaten parsnips a lot these past few months! Looking back through my photos (which conveniently record dates for us these days) I see that the first ones were harvested in September, and here we are four months later with more lovely sweet roots to enjoy. Definitely good VSR (Value for Space Rating).

I had another, impatient, peek under the fleece and netting protecting my red chicories...

They are growing incredibly slowly! In other years I'm sure they would have been ready to use well before this. Notice by the way the little stone placed over the end of one of the leaves to hold it in place - a photographer's ploy enabling me to get a better view of the lovely delicate pink inner leaves shielded by the coarser greener outer leaves.

All my recent fretting about getting some mint to come on quickly by bringing it indoors was completely unnecessary: the plants I have kept in the cold-frame are putting up strong new growth already - and it's not leggy either!

These plants are going to need re-potting soon. Each Spring I re-pot my mint, saving a few of the best bits of root-and-shoot, and discarding the rest. During the year the plants grow enormously and their roots soon fill the pots and use up all the nutrients. They would not do well if I left them in the same compost (or lack of it) for a second year. I'm sure that most people will do as I do and grow mint in containers, because if you grow it in open ground it can soon take over, and spread to places where you don't want it to go.

The chives are also just beginning to grow again. I don't generally re-pot these every year, and I did last year so I probably won't this time. The pots have gone very mossy, so maybe I will... I don't know.

The final task I did over the weekend was applying some pelleted chicken manure to the soil around the base of my broccoli, to give it a bit of a boost since harvesting time is getting quite close. Even I didn't think this was very photogenic though, so you get away without having to see pictures of it!

So there we go - some dirt under the fingernails again. My gardening enthusiasm is re-invigorated!

[By the way, were the **** are all those seeds I ordered over the Christmas holiday? I haven't received ANY of them yet.]


  1. I like your idea of the cucumbers in a container. They should do very well there. I'm sure they'll drink up all the water they get. That should make for a great harvest!

    If you just disturbed the mossy areas, maybe that would let it dry some and the moss would die out. Maybe it just needs some moving air to help dry it up a bit.

  2. re. parsnips - VP at Veg Plotting - - is a parsnip person and I'm trying to remember if she had tips on germination because I think she did but I can't see so in the labels . . . but it might be worth picking her brains . . .

  3. Thanks for the pointer towards VP, Esther. I've never had a problem with parsnip seed germination until 2010, and I often keep parsnip seeds for 2 or 3 years. I know you are supposed to get new ones every year, but if you're not trying for 100% germination success, it doesn't matter much. I usually station-sow 2 or 3 seeds together, on the assumption that at least one will germinate, and you can always thin them out if they all come up. Another trick one can try to test the viability of seed is to put a few on a piece of damp kitchen paper in the airing cupboard for a few days. If the seed is viable it will soon sprout in those conditions.

  4. It's hard not to get sidetracked into the photography bit. I have a one-to-one photo tuition session coming up this weekend and am looking foward to knowing what to do with my camera at last!
    Cucumbers seem the height of exotica to me. I think the Scottish climate is against them, but I'll enjoy following the progress of yours.

    I've had the opposite problem with orders arriving too early - potatoes arrived last week, just when I didn't want them. The seed companies seem to be gearing up now - hopefully you'll get your seeds soon.

  5. Lol, that's the first time I've seen you asterisk Mark, and it gave me a good giggle. I think I am more of a blogger than a gardener to be honest, I love the writing and the photography. I of course also love the garden and the produce, but I'm not a talented gardener at all and seem to have a lot more trouble growing things than most!

  6. I tend to keep seeds for several years too, most of them come up for a couple years anyway. We have lemon balm all over the yard but the other mints did not seem to spread too far. Now I have a couple of nice patches of garlic chives that I really like but have never been able to grow regular chives, like the thyme, I am really good at killing them. I love the parsnips and the chicory. You might have me trying to plant those yet at least so I can taste parsnips anyway, lol.

  7. I was beginning to think you were never going to do a gardening post again...not that I don't love all your post, just that I like the gardening ones best.

  8. My red chicories are also growing slowly. I have never grown them before, so I thought that this is normal... It looks exactly the same as yours.

  9. I've left you an award on my blog. Don't feel under any pressure to accept it if you don't wish to do so, I just wanted to let you know that I enjoy reading your blog.

  10. Thanks to Jo for choosing my blog to be one of her 15 for the Stylish Blogs Award. Nice to know that someone reads (and likes!) the stuff I write...

  11. OOps we received some of the seeds we ordered last week today and had a email to say our potatoes had been dispatched. Who did you order from?

    I love ferns. By the way our parsnip method that hasn't failed yet (oh why did I say that?) is here

    By the way the seed potatoes have just this minure arrived at the door!

  12. My comment about non-arrival of seeds obviously did the trick - 3 of the 4 lots arrived in the post this morning, having been posted on 4th and 5th of Jan. I'm sure the Post Office will blame the weather. Good job I was ordering seeds not plants! My potatoes are still to come, so I hope they have not been hanging around in a freezing cold sorting office for the last 2 weeks!

  13. Excellent, lovely to get some gardening talk! I'm still waiting for my seed potatoes and veg seed, but am already worried about space in the greenhouse for seedlings. I've just added 22 strawberry runners in individual pots... You could always put some grit on the chives pot to keep the moss at bay?


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