Posted in : 2009 Season
Once again I'm starting a post off with "been a tad since I last posted". It's not because I have nothing to say, it's because I've had bugger all time spare to make a post Ideally I'll find the time to create a gallery concept/skin that works, and then I can just upload all the pictures I take on a daily/weekly basis to show how things are coming along .... don't hold your breath though, I've not had the time/inclination to do any coding for many a month now
Anyway, back to happier thoughts/times ... we're already at the point where the plot is starting to provide ingredients for our meals, it may only be radish and the occasional lettuce, ohhh and a few herbs, ohhh and some spring greens ... but it's only May, and the season's only just starting to kick in. Most of the beds are now full of stuff, I've one more bed in the large greenhouse that will soon be filled with sweetcorn ( true gold ), squashes ( butternut & courgette ), and the odd runner bean and borlotti beans ( about 10' row of each ) which will keep the broad beans, pak choi and beetroot company. Our own little greenhouse, that's recently had a bloody good spring clean and is looking good as new, has been press ganged into holding some of the less robust seedlings, mainly the sweetcorn and the runner beans, because the small greenhouse is starting to get a smidge full of dahlias.
After spending a bored afternoon, on one of the sunny days, rearranging the piles of bricks that sit on the concrete base, beside our lil greenhouse, I managed to not only find a space for our water butt, I also managed to sneak in a 11'x4' raised bed. Mind you, when Barry noticed his only comment was "why didn't you just dig a bed in the field, it would've been far easier! .... so, being ever the opportunist I mentioned the fact that I was contemplating the possibility of slapping in 4 more 15'x4' beds in the field ( "but only if I cope with the space I have this year, because you'll want that back next year" ) ... god loves a trier and all that huh? ... and I'm living proof because, not only did Barry go "sure, no problem", he followed it with "you may have the same space next year ... if not more" ... damn, how cool would that be? At the same time he mentioned that the space I'd slapped the raised bed on was where he was considering building a shed to house our lawn mower(s) ... ooops ... the good news is, it won't be this year.
So, I decided to use the new bed to raise some Asparagus seedlings, after checking that I had enough time to plant seeds this year, as it's faaaaaaaaaaaaaar to late ( and bloody expensive! ) to buy 1 year crowns for this season. Apart from saving me a fortune ( £2.05 compared to £20+ huh ) it'll also allow me to select the best 20 male plants that grow ( males produce more spears than females ) and I won't have to "wait the extra year" that you normally do by growing from seed because I wouldn't be able to buy 1 year old crowns until next year. The bad news is, I have very little time to get the seed ordered and finish prepping the bed up.
I can't remember if I mentioned in my last post, but a couple of weeks ago I went round to my dads and he had some very leggy tomato plants that were crammed together in little 3" pots, the good ones were just about able to support their own weight, so I offered to take them away to see if I could improve them as I had better growing conditions and far more time than they did ... So, off I meandered to the potting shed with them. I decided that I could definitely save 4 of them by slapping them into 12" pots and burying them as deep as I could, the others were pretty much buggered, and that's when the experiment I ran earlier this year paid off. One of the things I'd done with the worst of my plants was to decide "bugger it, they'll die anyway", so I cut the tops off and rooted them .... and it mostly worked ... So, I did the same with Sue's tomatoes.
As you can imagine, decapitation isn't something that a plant enjoys to much and they spent quite a bit of time looking pretty dead. I'd slapped them under the misters in the potting shed so they'd at least get some water through their leaves, after that it was a race to see if they'd grow new roots in time to stop them dying. One week on and not only had the plants recovered but they'd also started to put on some new growth! Meanwhile the ones that I'd slapped into tall pots had decided that they weren't going to be out done and have promptly produced their first set of fruit! Damn, here's me growing my own tomatoes in as close to ideal conditions as I can provide and they're beaten to the fruiting stage by a bunch of gangly plants ... I may never live this down
By a lucky coincidence I managed to get some free time, some sunshine and a sledgehammer, all at the same time. A tad of grunting later and I'd dropped both our side and our neighbours side of the coal shed, I even managed to leave the dividing wall intact! Unfortunately since then it's pissed it down every time I've had some free time so I haven't been able to clear up all the rubble and take it to the tip. In true frugal fashion I'm going to be reusing any bricks that I can salvage to build a raised bed along the back of next doors garage. Eventually this will be converted into a kind of 9' x 3' greenhouse / cold frame, but first I have to wait until the strawberries have stopped fruiting as I'll need to dig them up before I can start. Once the bed is built I'll then be able to sort out the tuft of grass that we lovingly call a lawn.
Posted in : 2009 Season
Now that the weather's starting to get a tad warmer, just a tad mind, things have started to happen faster, it won't be long before I have to start putting stakes in to support the peas, and I still need to make a Munty frame for my runner beans which will be going in next month, but I'm getting a tad ahead of myself. Before I could plant anything I needed to get the 4 beds in the large greenhouse and the 3 beds in my own little plot sorted out. For most of them this meant rotavating them and adding a liberal amount of chicken shit to them, apart from the bed that I'll be using for carrots and parsnips as they don't like rich soil. The good news was, I didn't need to rotavate the brassica bed, as they like firm soil, so I just tidied up the surface and called it done.
The first bed to be ready was my pea bed, probably because I had some company whilst I was doing it, even if that company was an ugly frog So now I have ½ a row of peas ( Kelvedon Wonder ) and ½ a row of Sugar Snaps growing merrily away under some netting to keep the foxes off. Some time in the next week I'll be doing another ½ row of each of them so I should get a reasonable cropping period. Not long after they popped up I had a visit from DD who's known as the Pea God on the allotment forums that I'm a member of, so I got the chance to point proudly at my 2" tall peas
As I mentioned, I didn't rotavate the bed where my brassicas are going ( Calabrese : Quick Heading, Broccoli : Summer Purple Sprouting, Cabbage : Greyhound & Rouge Tete Noir ) as they like really firm soil, so firm in fact that you're advised to walk on the beds and then walk around the plants after you've planted them. Normally you're advised to avoid walking on beds at all costs as it can damage the soil structure, which is never a good thing. To plant them I just dug a hole slightly bigger than the pot they were in, slapped them in the hole, sans pot of course, and then did a kind of shuffle around the base of them to really firm the soil up, I must have looked like a demented Indian who'd forgotten the steps for the rain dance, but if it works then it's worth it. A couple of days later I had to replace one of the plants with a spare as it had keeled over, and I had plenty of spares so it was easier to just replace it than to try reviving it.
The next bed to get planted up was the onion bed, it's now chock full of onions! 200 Red Barons, the few Ailsa Craig & Bedfordshire Champions that had germinated. I also went out and bought some onion sets to fill the rest of the bed due to the naff germination of the Ailsa & Bedfordshire, these were planted at the same time. Along one edge of he bed I left a strip so that I could successionaly sow some pickling onions ( Paris Silverskin ), about a 1⁄3 of this strip has now been sown, I'll be sowing another 1⁄3 every couple of weeks so I should have a continuous supply.
Sounds like the title of a porn film huh, but it's actually a planting arrangement that's meant to really work, I guess time will tell. Basically you throw sweetcorn, runner beans and squash in the same bed, and they kinda get on in a beneficial manner. The corn becomes poles for the runners, although I'll be adding a Munty frame, and the squashes roam through the bed space between the corn so you get a decent return from a single bed. I decided to use the longest bed for this and put 2x7' rows of broad beans ( Super Aqualduce ) at one end, and a 2' strip across the bed for successional sowings of beetroot ( Pronto ) at the other end. This leaves me with 20' of bed space which I'm going to be doing the 3 sisters with, Runner Beans : Cherokee Trial of Tears & Borlotti, Squash : Butternut & Courgettes, Sweetcorn : True Gold. I'm also going to be using the spaces between the squashes for lettuces ( little gem ) and Pak Choi until they get so big that they fill it all.
As 20' of sweetcorn would be a tad much to eat/preserve all in one go I've sparked some off *really* early, and I'll be doing another "slightly early" batch next week, and then a "normal time" batch some time in may. If they all live then I should have hopefully spread out my harvesting period over the space of a couple of months. If they don't live then I'll just sow the whole 20' space at the correct time of year and then hope like hell I can cope with the glut when they harvest I've also sparked off a couple of squash and a couple of courgettes early as well, so that the sweetcorn doesn't feel all lonesome in the bed by itself. I was tempted to start some of the runners early as well, but I don't have a lot of the seed so I'm not going to risk it. I'll be saving my own seed at the end of the year, so if I have enough space I'll be able to play with more early stuff.
If my experiment had been successful then the small greenhouse would have had a dozen or so tomato plants growing in it by now, but it wasn't so there isn't. The main reason for the failure was that the heated beds in, the potting shed, didn't get turned on as early as usual and I couldn't provide enough light at home in my little lightbox. Ah well, there's always next year huh? The good news is that some of them survived and I still had the other half of the seeds, so I sowed them a few weeks ago and most of them are now coming along nicely, they just won't be as early as I was hoping for. Rather than just stare at an empty bed I decided to throw in a couple of rows of radish ( Cherry Belle ), beetroot ( Pronto ) and lettuce ( Little Gem ) and they're all growing nicely, although not quite as fast as they'll do now that it's started to get warmer and lighter.
I've also been using the small greenhouse as a kind of giant coldframe for the seedlings that didn't need as much heat but, now that it's getting warmer, most of these are being moved outside to the large greenhouse. We've also started moving the first batches of Dahlias into the small greenhouse where they'll stay until they're ready for planting, sometime near the end of May, so it's rapidly beginning to fill up and will soon be very over crowded. I've also lost a few feet of the bed in here as Barry needs it for one of the varieties of Dahlias, it'll only be a few plants so I'll probably just grow a few less tomatoes ... and it makes me feel less guilty for extending my beds in my normal lil veg plot in the corner
Last year I decided to join an allotment forum, although I'd been lurking there for a fair amount of time already. After reading about how other people lay out their plots, and why, I decided to re-arrange my lil patch in the corner, I also took the opportunity to square it off, which has gained me a few extra feet of length on the beds. I'd already decided to get rid of the bed that ran across the top of the patch as it was a nightmare to rotavate and maintain but, after all my reading, I'd now decided to rearrange my current 3 beds into 2 wider beds and to put a path along the side fence, instead of having a bed tight against it. The end result is, I now have 2 x 15' x 4' beds with a net gain of 20'2 of bed space, although the real gain is much more as I can now get 3 rows of spuds into one bed instead of 1 row of spuds each in two beds. I still need to finish sorting out the second bed, it'll be used for carrots ( Lisse de Meaux ) and parsnips ( Tender and True ) which means that I need to rotavate the arse off it and remove all the stones, which will involve me sieving all the soil ... all 15' x 4' of it!
I've mentioned successional sowing a few times now, it sounds really easy in theory, you just make successive sowings of seeds to extend the cropping period. For example, my radish take approximately 6 weeks to crop, so if I want to have a continuous crop of radish I'd sow a new batch every couple of weeks and Bob's yer uncle, you have fresh radish every day for the whole season. In reality it's a lot harder than that, mainly because you forget to sow a new batch until you've harvested the last batch! So, this year I'm determined not to forget and I've put aside various bits of bed space specifically for veg that I'm going to sow successively ... I guess I'll find out soon enough how successful I am
Considering the size of our tiny lil back garden I'm pretty impressed but what we've managed to cram in so far and we've still got more to put in. The garlic and shallots are coming along nicely especially since I gave them a high nitrogen feed, which has reduced the yellowing of the leaves and the Egyptian Walking Onions have just started to poke their noses through. The rest of the bed has some spring onions in, which have just started to germinate. I can't wait to be eating my own garlic and I can use some of them for growing next years crop. About the only thing I'm missing in the Allium family is some Welsh Onions which I'd love to grow, so if anyone's got any that they can let me have then let me know.
The strawberries, which did crap last year, have got some flowers on (yay), they must have known that I'd intended digging up the whole bed so that I could make a decent raised bed that I can turn it into nice sized greenhouse. Now I'm going to have to wait until a lot later in the season, and I'm going to have to find a new home for them ... which is going to be a challenge in itself! So far my Asparagus hasn't put in an appearance, it didn't do so well last year either, so if it doesn't have a blinding year this year then I'm either going to re-home it or bin it and use the space for something that works. I'd hate to give up on it though, so I'll probably think of somewhere I can home it, and maybe get a few new plants at the same time.
I've not really done that much with the other beds at home yet, mainly because I'm going to be dropping the coal shed some time in the next couple of weeks and I'll have to redo those beds when it's done. Once I've finished them I'll be using them to grow a few salad crops and herbs as it's always good to have a few handy for a quick meal without having to traipse back to the field because I forgot the lettuce
I must ask Barry if he minds me starting a couple of compost heaps, made out of pallets of course, as we easily produce enough compostable waste and it means I could slowly raise both the beds in the field which get pretty waterlogged in winter. I also need to clear the space on the concrete beside our lil greenhouse so that I can stick a raised bed in there, which I would either use for my strawberries or the asparagus. The good news is, if we use all the bricks on building work I'll be able to slap in an 8' x 4' raised bed and still have room for my water butt.
At home I want to knock the coal bunker down and convert the strawberry bed into a raised bed / greenhouse, I've still not worked out a good design for it though, and it's been delayed by the strawberries actually looking like they'll make an effort this year. At the same time I'll finish laying out the salad and herb beds which means I'll then be able to sort out the tiny bit of green stuff that we call a lawn. I'm also considering building a couple of large planters for under the front windows but the Mighty V's not entirely convinced ... yet
Posted in : 2009 Season
Due to a couple of websites being on a tight deadline I didn't get chance to make a post last week. Not helped by the fact that Scott then dragooned me into coding a new website ( sorry no link as it's not a public release yet ), to help him in his quest for best job in the world. I hope like hell he wins because then I can go squat in Canada for a month
Some of the chilli peppers are also a little bit leggy, although this seems to be more based on which variety they are, some of them are still pretty stout. The good news is that we've started turning on the heated beds in the potting shed so I'll soon be able to grow them on there where they'll have the benefit of real daylight. Of course, that means I need to find some gaps between all the dahlia tubers which will soon be rapidly filling the beds.
Whilst I've sparked off a fair few seeds early to try and get a jump on the season there are some seeds that need sowing now. So in the last week I've started the first lot of cabbages ( Rouge Tete Noire and Greyhound ) and Broccoli ( Quick Heading and Summer Purple Sprouting ). I'll be successionally sowing both of these for the next few months so that I don't end up with a huge pile of cabbages all at the same time. Some time over the next week or so I'll probably start chitting my spuds as they take up to 6 weeks before they're ready for planting and with a tad of luck my lil patch in the corner will be dry enough for them by then.
I know you may think it's a tad early, but I'm also starting to plan what I can grow in the beds through the winter months. This is a new one for me because our lil patch in the corner isn't really suitable for growing much more than leeks through the winter months, but this year I'll have 5 more beds, that are under cover, to use. That's about 130 feet of 3 foot wide beds! My intention is to use the beds in our lil patch in the corner to grow leeks, I think I can get about 500 in them which should be enough to see us through to next year. In fact, I'm pretty sure it will as we're still eating last years leeks and I only planted about 50. Of the five beds that are under cover I'll probably use 1 for winter cabbages and 1 for spring cabbages. I'm also considering planting a couple of varieties of Kale and I *think* you can also grow lettuce, beetroot and spinach through the winter, but I'll need to look into that to be sure. Basically anything that I can grow through the winter that can be timed to take up an empty bed will be considered.
Posted in : 2009 Season
I decided that the tomato plants were strong enough this week so I potted them on into 3" pots burying them up to their seed leaves in compost. This has the advantage of curing their legginess and the buried bit of stem will produce new roots as well. They're still in my light box, which is rapidly becoming crowded, as the heated beds won't be turned on until later in the week. As soon as the heated beds are turned they'll be moved into one of the light tents in the potting shed. They'll be joined by my chilli peppers which are also doing well since they were potted on as well. Not all of the tomatoes and chill peppers got potted on, some were thrown away because they were just to leggy, but I expected some losses and germinated more than I needed, so that's no great problem.
Once the heated beds are turned on it's rapidly going to become to warm for my leeks and onions to stay in the potting shed so they'll be hardened off and moved into the small greenhouse for a while, before they're hardened off again and then moved into the large greenhouse which will be their eventual home. I'm very impressed with the Red Barons, I put two seeds in each module and pretty much every seed has germinated, so now I have the choice of thinning them down to one per module or pricking out the extras and doubling the numbers that I have. The Ailsa Craig on the other hand have been far slower and more sporadic to germinate so I've decided to sow a couple of trays of Bedfordshire Champion as replacements. They've only just been sown so I don't know what their germination rate will be like, and it was an old packet of seed so I'll just have to wait and see I guess.
One of my biggest failures last year was that I just threw a load of seed in and sat back and waited for it to be ready to harvest. It was great, pretty much everything germinated and went on to be something actually worth harvesting ... all at the same time. This meant that we had huge gluts of produce followed by a barren wasteland as I hadn't had the forethought to spark of replacements. So this year I'm determined to successionaly sow as much as I can as this not only avoids gluts, it also helps to keep each bed as productive as possible.
With a tad of luck I should be able to successively grow beetroot, cabbage, carrots, lettuce, pak choi, peas, spring onions, sugar snaps, radish, various herbs and any other seeds I find. My goal is to have a harvest every month, some from as early as the end of March, right through to the end of the summer growing period although that's going to take some imaginative usage of the beds. The quick growers are easy, I can use the bare bits in the beds of the slower growers until they become full, after that it'll be a case of finding space.
Apparently they really do walk! Egyptian Walking Onions are something that I've been after since I saw them on the RealSeeds website but unfortunately they'd sold out until at least next year. Then Andy from the allotment site very kindly sent me some so that I could have a play and grow them. I'm pretty excited about it as they look very different and I like different. I've not actually planted them yet as I haven't decided which bed to slap them in but they'll be going in somewhere soon no doubt.
Posted in : 2009 Season
There wasn't really a lot to do this week except to keep my eye on the seedlings to make sure they were happy enough. It's a good thing really, because I spent most of my week at the farm house helping Barry put a floor and ceiling in the store room above the garage. Which was loads of fun because I got to play with a nail gun all day ... those things are awesome, a tiny pull of your finger and BLAM 2 1/2" nail buried in the timber
I spent part of this morning potting on the rest of the chilli peppers which is cool because now I can rotate them under the lights so they don't get leggy. Talking of leggy, my tomatoes are getting far to leggy, I can't wait until they gain their first set of true leaves so that I can pot them on. I can cure the legginess at the same time by burying them up to their seed leaves. They'll then need to spend about a week in my light tent after which the heated beds will be on at work and I'll be able to put them into one of the two light tents there.
The basil and the coriander have both germinated and are now basking in the light tent, which is becoming rapidly crowded, it'll all work out when the tomatoes and chill peppers get moved to the potting shed light tents ... mind you, then I have the other set of chilli peppers to sow, my li'l 8' x 6' greenhouse is going to be packed to the gills with chillies. The onions and leeks are both doing well in the potting shed but they'll need moving into the small greenhouse when the beds get turned on as it'll be to hot for them then.
The Mighty V came with me to the field when I went to pot on the chilli peppers armed with her own little box of seeds, all these are flowers though. By the time she'd finished she'd sown several trays of various colours of Pansies, as these are hardy plants they've just been put on the paths in the small greenhouse. With a tad of luck she'll be able to sell these later in the year. She also sowed a few trays of Rudbeckia and some red sunflowers. These are now scattered around the kitchen and under my light box shelf as they need more warmth than the pansies. Some of these will also be able to be moved into the potting shed when the beds are turned on ... I hope ... if not then we'll just have a crowded house like we do every year
It'll be interesting to see if she manages to sell all of these because if she can then we'll *really* be able to scale up next year by using the large and the small greenhouse as neither of these is needed until later in the year. Mind you, that'd be lots of plants that'd need looking after when it's bloody cold outside.
Posted in : 2009 Season
Due to the fact that I was busier than a ... urm, a busy thing having a busy day ... I didn't have a chance to make a post last week, so now you're going to have 2 one on top of the other whilst I play catchup One of the main reasons I've been busy is that I've been designing a brand new blog skin specifically for the growing half of my blog. It's still in final testing so it hasn't been officially launched yet, and it may contain a few bugs ... ohh and I haven't tested the commenting system to see if you get munched by the spamhound, so if you stumble across the skin before it's published and get chewed by the hound ... urm, sorry huh?
The tomato experiment has now reached the end of week 1 and things are mostly going right. The seedlings are a smidge leggy because they were to far away from the lights when they first came through, although this was rectified when I recycled the odd beer can and made a platform to put them within inches of the bulb, it's a fish tank bulb so there's very little problem with heat. As soon as they're old enough I'll be potting them on, at which point I'll bury them up to their first set of leaves, the stem will just turn into more roots, and hopefully they'll be sturdy enough to be planted out some time in March.
Some of the chilli seedlings, which are also a tad leggy but less so than the tomatoes, we're big enough to pot on, so they got put into some 3" square pots and given a good watering. These are now back in the light room and are doing well. I'm hoping that rest of them, or at least some of each variety I've germinated, are big enough to put into pots next week, they look like they should be, but only time will tell. I also found a few more seeds from other varieties hiding under the sink, so I'll be trying to germinate these as soon as I gain a smidge more room in the light box.
Seeing as how the optimistic basil plant was still alive I decided to take pity on it and threw in a few more seeds to replace the ones that had died, they should soon germinate and then it'll have some company and, seeing as I had a spare bit of shelf in the light box I decided to germinate some coriander seeds as well. The shallots and onions in the back garden are storming along and the rosemary plant is looking a lot better since I potted it on into a 50/50 mixture of compost and gravel last year.
This is a diary of all the vegetables I'm growing.
With a tad of luck this will help me learn from my mistakes