LL's Gardening Diary

Members adventures in the Vegetable Patch all year round
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lancashire lass
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LL's Gardening Diary

Post by lancashire lass »

The plot has been too wet to work on since mid-December despite most beds being raised but there was an urgent need to call in and check all's well yesterday. The kitchen waste/leaves I dropped off was dug straight into the largest bed on the plot (a permanent squash bed) where they'll help to break up the heavy clay soil and build up the soil level to reduce recent flooding problems. I took a photo of the plot from the track end - I hadn't realised what a murky day it was until I looked at the photos:

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From an earlier photo, mid-way into the plot showing a bed of green manure (mustard) with a variety of winter cabbages under netting and at the far back some calabrese. Yesterday I found the Romanesco (weird looking lime green calabrese/cauliflower) had finally produced heads which should have been in autumn, and also the Marathon calabrese had heads too (my third lot of cropping from the plants since September and still going strong - I'm very pleased with this variety):

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I found a couple of blueberry bushes bursting into leaf, and one of my new rhubarb crowns coming up too which is a bit worrying for this time of year. A row of early garlic are about 6 inch tall, and some late garlic are just starting to push shoots up. The mustard greens and kale have been hammered by pigeons grrrr but I managed to lift up some Weiner Runder Kohlschwarzer (a large winter radish which when cooked is a lot like turnip).

My priority was harvesting the sprouts - with the soil so saturated, some weren't looking so well so I decided to harvest the lot from 12 plants (3 plants each of 4 different varieties). There was only one stalk with some sprouts that had blown, and 3 stalks had yellow outer leaves but once peeled off were fine so not a bad harvest after all. I spent most of the afternoon preparing and freezing the sprouts:
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Annie
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Re: LL's 2013 GYO Diary

Post by Annie »

LL you are a true gardener, even when the weather is less than good , you seem to grit your teeth and get on with it. I am glad you allotment is still rewarding you after all your work. Tell me do home grown sprouts freeze well ? I really don't like shop bought frozen as they seem to have a bitterness about them.
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LittleBrownFrog
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Re: LL's 2013 GYO Diary

Post by LittleBrownFrog »

I love Romanesco - we used to get it occasionally when we had a veg box. Is it easy to grow?
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lancashire lass
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Re: LL's 2013 GYO Diary

Post by lancashire lass »

Annie wrote:LL you are a true gardener, even when the weather is less than good , you seem to grit your teeth and get on with it.


LOL - the plot is quite big (360 sq metres) so you can't really abandon it in autumn and start in spring. The soil is very heavy clay so needs a lot of time, effort and whatever I can chuck into it to make it easier to work.

Annie wrote:Tell me do home grown sprouts freeze well ? I really don't like shop bought frozen as they seem to have a bitterness about them


I have to confess this is the first year I've ever grown a batch big enough to freeze my own sprouts so I can't comment on flavour. In the past I only ever grew about 4 plants on the shared plot (I let that go a year ago), and even then not all that successfully. Since concentrating on the big plot, I have found the soil better suited to a lot of crops and brassicas do well - I've had some lovely cabbages and calabrese.

LittleBrownFrog wrote:I love Romanesco - we used to get it occasionally when we had a veg box. Is it easy to grow?


Oh yes )t' Like all brassicas it is prone to all the usual pests and diseases and needs to be protected from cabbage white butterflies and pigeons, but if you can grow cabbages then you'll have no problems growing Romanesco. However, this is only the 2nd time I've grown Romanesco and the seed packet says autumn cropping but on both occassions I have had to leave them in the ground until spring (the recent mild conditions must have triggered the flower head a little earlier) so a bit odd.
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Re: LL's 2013 GYO Diary

Post by LittleBrownFrog »

Thanks - I think I'll give it a go this year )t'
"Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder..." Thoreau.
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Re: LL's 2013 GYO Diary

Post by HappyBob »

Great harvest of sprouts LL, I grow the same amount as you do, 12 plants and we also freeze a lot and they still taste better then the frozen ones from supermarkets, not that we buy them, always when having sunday lunch at the daughters, cheap pub meal etc. I still havent been on my plot this year. I was hoping to get down last Fri but something or other popped up preventing me. Again great pics/sprouts. )t'
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lancashire lass
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Re: LL's 2013 GYO Diary

Post by lancashire lass »

HappyBob wrote:Great harvest of sprouts LL


thanks Bob - I am proud of my harvest of sprouts this year :-D

On Saturday I decided to harvest the Romanesco and calabrese as they were a bonus I wasn't expecting at this time of year and are not really winter hardy so would never survive any snow. While at the allotment I also picked up a savoy cabbage which was starting to look a little ropey - I suspect the mild spell we had earlier as well as the continuous sodden soil is not doing any of the winter veg any good. Once the outer leaves were removed, it didn't look too bad. Not the biggest harvest but I'm pleased all the same:

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Not knowing what time I'll get home tonight due to the weather and roadworks, I decided this morning to make pan of thick vegetable soup using some of the cabbage so all I'll have to do is reheat it. The Romanesco are like a cauliflower with curds but they taste more like broccoli - I have made a dish with cheese sauce and it is ready to pop in the oven to bake )t'
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Re: LL's 2013 GYO Diary

Post by mrs boodles »

Gosh seeing laners with their allotments makes me wish I still had mine, yours look fab and they ae hard work are`nt they.
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lancashire lass
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Re: LL's 2013 GYO Diary

Post by lancashire lass »

mrs boodles wrote:Gosh seeing laners with their allotments makes me wish I still had mine, yours look fab and they are hard work are`nt they.


thanks mrs b - they are hard work but well worth it )t'

Though I guess I won't be doing any gardening today LOL Looking down the garden from the back door and messy patio (thank goodness for the covering of snow), the fruit trees running down the full length of the left hand side to the pergola at the bottom (my "secret garden" - another story) with the shed and greenhouses on the right, and my old dog still fascinated with snow despite being a grand age of 15 years.

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I'm amazed just how much snow we had as it didn't seem particularly heavy yesterday. My pots of herbs on the patio pallet table well and truly buried.

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Re: LL's 2013 GYO Diary

Post by lancashire lass »

On Thursday I came home to find my seed potatoes had been delivered )c( A sense of relief and a re-newed enthusiasm for the coming growing season. This year's potatoes are:

First Early:
Lady Christl (new for me)

Second Earlies:
Kestrel (an old favourite of mine)
Charlottes (another favourite)
Estima (only grown it once before but was impressed so trying again)
Vivaldi (only 5 seed potatoes to try)

Main crop:
Romano (I wasn't growing maincrop this year but I've heard promising reports of this one so decided to get a trial 5 seed potato pack)

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All the potatoes are now in trays and on west facing windowsills to start chitting.

Today the weather was gorgeous - blue skies and a fresh feel to the air. I had about 3 weeks of kitchen waste and compostables (banana skins, tea bags etc) which I collect from the works tea room and were in urgent need of being moved to the plot. At the site, the plot looked surprisingly good, even the leeks in the foreground were in better condition than I might imagine:

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I took the kitchen waste/compostables to the big squash beds where I dug them straight in - this way they'll compost down in situ and also encourage more worms to the bed. The soil was surprisingly good to dig over so I decided to expand the biggest bed (on the left) where I had erected another pallet to reduce the width of the path so now there's a little more growing space.

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Next task was to dig up some parsnips. I had 2 varieties growing so I lifted up the row with the Gladiator - I never know what to expect as more often than not my parsnips can look more like swedes than snips but I'm feeling particularly proud that most are indeed the right shape. I dug over the empty row ready to sow broad beans later:

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Next, to harvest some cabbage - the Savoy looked like it was coming to the end of its season so time to crop. I've been looking forward to trying out the January King (on the left) - I think it is very pretty. I have a feeling they can grow much bigger than my specimen but I'm pleased all the same:

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Then it was a case of seeing how other things are coming along. Most of the garlic are now sprouting - you probably can't see the ones that are about an inch high, but the early variety Illico is well up. And yes, I really do like my garlic :oops: and the entire bed is dedicated to this allium (and there's a smaller bed as well ....)

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At the back of my shed, a strange new structure has appeared - apparently the community plot behind mine have decided to erect a composting toilet ... not sure I like the idea of it being so close to my plot (I tend to sit behind the shed during breaks in summer for a bit of relief from the hot sun ...) Let's hope we get wind blowing up from the south LOL

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In front of the shed, the only bit of damage from recent strong winds - my pallet fence along the "pond" bed have fallen over. The pond is more a puddle from the previous tenants effort - it really needs to be re-lined and fingers crossed, I hope to do it this year before the frogs move in and lay spawn.

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Finally another view of the plot - the fruit bush bed has got a bit messy as marestail has flourished and really difficult to dig up. I was hoping to lift the bushes this winter in an attempt to tidy it up but I think I'm looking at covering the bed with heavy duty weed suppressant material - another task I need to get on with before spring arrives.

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Apologies for all the photos but I really had a good day at the plot (amazing what a bit of sunshine can do :-D )
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Re: LL's 2013 GYO Diary

Post by julieann »

dont apologise I kove looking at the photos and admire your hard work and results. Can I ask where you order your potatoes from? I'm going to try growing some in pots.
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lancashire lass
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Re: LL's 2013 GYO Diary

Post by lancashire lass »

julieann wrote:Can I ask where you order your potatoes from? I'm going to try growing some in pots.


Due to the wet weather, floods and blight, there was a rumour that stocks of seed potatoes were well down so I ordered mine in October last year (panic buy :oops: ) I usually check all the various online suppliers and see what's on offer, pack size, price and the p&p cost before making a decision. In the past I've been offered free p&p from Thompson & Morgan and bought seed potatoes from there but last year I chose JBA (Jamieson Brothers Seed Potatoes in Scotland) - they have a very good selection of varieties with lots of useful information. However, according to the home page they have run out of stock. I had a peek at T&M recently and their potato prices were eyebrow raising.

As I bought several varieties in pack sizes, I was only charged the one postage but if you were only after a few seed potatoes, that would make ordering online very expensive. My advice would be to source locally - maybe garden centres, diy stores (B&Q or Homebase) or something like Wilkos. I think you would need to get them sooner rather than later or you might be disappointed.

If growing in pots (the bigger the better), then may I recommend you go for a First Early variety (such as Rocket, Swift or Arran Pilot - harvested in about 12 weeks from planting) - the tubers tend to develop close to the plant whereas a Main crop variety will need a lot more space for roots to spread out. Second earlies may be a possibility as they are sort of inbetween the 2 types - you can lift them when recommended (about 16 weeks or so) or leave them to die back naturally and harvest as an early main crop.
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Chillies

Post by lancashire lass »

A colleague at work gave me some chillies to save seed and try to grow this year (ignore the grainy stuff as this is only a dessicant to keep them dry):

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In the packet is a Peter Pecker (a novelty chilli which is a bit rude ... ), Trinidad Scorpion Butch T(this variety currently holds the world record for being the hottest chilli), Naga Jolokia, Little Elf and Bolivian Rainbow. There weren't that many seeds (only 2 in the Naga) but fingers crossed they will germinate. It will be interesting to see how they all turn out.

I also had some old seed which may or may not germinate but I would like to give them at least one more go before I throw the seed out - Lemon Drop, Pretty in Purple, Kostadinov striated hot paprika, Peach Habenero and Cherry Bomb. All sowed today and in a heated propagator.

I've also been overwintering Red Habanero, Tabasco, Jalepeno, Jalastar (a hybrid Jalepeno variety), Cayenne and Kashmiri, as well as a few plants that I've managed to keep going for a couple of years now - Patio Sizzle, Orange Wonder and a red one which I've no idea but seems to do well outside (it was a rogue plant amongst the Orange Wonder plants which I had bought and managed to prise out and plant up) So hopefully plenty of chillies this year )t'
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Re: LL's 2013 GYO Diary

Post by mrs boodles »

Just had a look at all your photos and posts LL, your allotment looks great and you are so organised. certainly an inspiration. I have seen seed potatoes for sale at garden centre and other places but did`nt notice prices as no where to grow now, did try in container one year but no good so have never tried again. Hope they have a good amount of shavings or something to use in compost toilet could be a bit pongy when you are having a relax at allotment yike*
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Re: LL's 2013 GYO Diary

Post by lancashire lass »

mrs boodles wrote:your allotment looks great and you are so organised. certainly an inspiration.


)t' thanks mrs boodles but I'm not as organised as you might think - come spring it can be bordering on stressful so I try to get as much done as I can whenever I have free time.

mrs boodles wrote:Hope they have a good amount of shavings or something to use in compost toilet could be a bit pongy when you are having a relax at allotment yike*


I'm half hopeful it should be alright - from what I understand the community plot had to get planning permission from the council and from environmental so I imagine it has been built to specification.

Well, the gyo bug has struck, and usually that means a spending spree even though I know I had more than enough seed. The chilli growing has turned into a challenge from my colleague at work - he is a chemist - and to see if we can grow the "hottest" chilli and try to use our own equipment at work (called an HPLC) to see what Scoville Heat Units we come up with (click on the link to wikipedia to find out what it measures) I doubt we'll be in the Guiness book of records LOL. This however, has meant perusing chilli seed websites and buying some more seed.

As I only have one heated propagator to get the seed off to a good start, I decided to buy another. However, prices have shot up since I last bought one and I refuse to pay that much. When my father got seriously into growing cacti (hmmm, I can see a pattern here that I've only just figured out), he made his own propagator using nothing more than a small 3W light bulb connected to a fish tank thermostat mounted inside a wooden box and a seed tray sat on top. Now I'm no electrician and I think things have moved on with aquarium thermostats apart from more expense. More searching and even soil cables look expensive. About to give up, I happened to click on heating mats and terranium/vivarium heat mats are remarkably cheaper and could be adapted so I think I'll be going down that road.

I had called at B&Q yesterday to spend my Christmas voucher. It was going to go towards the propagator but fortunately they had none in stock but the tools caught my eye as I was about to leave. My plot has taken many years to dig out the marestail and bindweed, resorting to chemical warfare to get on top of it and apart from the odd straggler, most weeds now tend to be annuals. Bending down to remove them can be back breaking so I have been hankering after a dutch hoe. There was a selection of hoes but I particularly liked the shop's own brand with a nice sharp edge for slicing the tops of weeds off. So I went in for one thing and came out with a shiny new tool instead.

Meanwhile, Mr Fothergill's free p&p was calling to me :oops: I know I shouldn't have looked but it was too good an opportunity not to miss (wasn't it?). I've bought plants from there before and been happy so it was inevitable that I found the collection of Everbearing Strawberry that looked appealling - 15 plants of 3 varieties for £12.95p and free p&p seemed like a good purchase. The strawberries I have at the moment are getting old and I've been remiss in planting on runners so a fresh batch was called for anyway ( .ang. ). Everbearing strawberries have a much longer fruiting season unlike some of the other varieties.

I wanted to go to the allotment this weekend to get a start on the fruit bush bed even if it was just to prune them and move some manure and compost but yesterday it was cold, damp and raining and this morning's forecast was not much better. However, I did have a big bag of kitchen waste and compostables so I decided to pop round early this morning after walking the dog. And it was raining - when I got to the plot the paths were very wet and muddy so I didn't linger after I quickly emptied the contents of the bag into the newly dug over area of the squash bed.

Back at home it was time to have a look at my oca tubers - they've been a delicious alternate to potatoes and I want to grow more this year. There seems to be 3 (possibly 4) different tubers - a white one, a crimson and white (looks like a radish) and a salmon coloured one although there seemed to be some that looked dark almost reddish. Last year I didn't realise you "chit" them just like potatoes and silly me had left them in the paper bag too long so the tubers had grown long shoots. The Real Seeds catalogue instructions implied you could nip off and use the shoots to grow more plants so I managed to double up the quantities to plant out and amazingly the shoots were as productive as the tubers. I've sorted the tubers out into 3 main trays:

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so now it'll be a case of selecting some for growing.

This afternoon will be spent drawing up a plan of the plot and to make a list of what I need to grow, and where it is all going to go LOL :b(
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