Sunday, 14 May 2017

Spring 2017

So it is spring again. At long last.

My peas that were hidden by critters at the allotment, have turned out to be sweet peas. I picked the first two last night after planting them in the garden last week. They smell divine. 

I've started picking all the smelly herbs and using for cooking, so I pick and pop them in a vase until I lunch or dinner time. Meanwhile they are there on the windowsill looking and smelling lovely. Currently we have Tashkent Mint which I am pulling by the roots as it is spreading [I did want it to spread so am pulling it out where I don't want it], Fennel and Lovage. I find using lovage in cooking replaces celery for the taste and is such a breeze to grow it needs no looking after at all.

 Out for a wander the other evening so took a few photos of the garden - I am in the middle of digging out all the self seeded Oregano [hundreds of plants] and so we are replacing the spaces with new purchases. Our smoke bush is finally recovering after moving it a few feet 2 years happy that it will smoke this year

I put Walking Onions in the front garden last year, the first batch did indeed walk a few inches and both are now starting to form the top sets. 

We've been and harvested these from the allotment, which were in a bed that needed a good weeding. A nice little bonus. 

We have a new wall, previously it was an old knackered block work wall, 3 ft high and we had to have a trellis for privacy but new neighbours moved in and suggested a new wall and we agreed that would be fab if they wanted to build it. SO am hoping to put a nice smelly climber, espalier something I have grown from seed [possibly my Asian Pear from the seeds from windfalls at Ryton], and a wisteria in. More plants to buy - yay!

Sunday, 18 December 2016

A new way of doing things.

Well, it's been ages since I posted on here. I suppose that's the flow - the days become weeks and before you know it, blogging doesn't become part of the routine as other routines take over. 


I have recently changed careers. I am no longer doing the thing that the blogging originally led me to do. Which means I can enjoy gardening and particularly food growing for the pleasure again. Rather than it and the associated complications being a burden. 

Whilst we were sorting out the first community garden that we took over, in year 1 all we did was garden - clearing, digging, shredding, knocking stuff down, making the ground safe and removing unsafe structures. The next year however, once we started to have students on site, we ended up doing just 5 days of actual gardening. 

So onwards and upwards. 

 I like many of my organic gardening friends, take it as read that the year's gardening starts with this. 

The Heritage Seed Library catalogue dropping through the door. 

Last year, one of my images was used for the cover which was a great honour. 

If you are not a member, then you unfortunately do not have access to these wonderful seeds, which have been grown and saved by the staff at the Heritage Seed Library, and by Seed Guardians for many years. The difference with HSL seeds, is that they are not grown and saved in a seedbank, but they are grown across the UK and the best examples - ones which survive our weather patterns, pests, diseases - are the ones that are saved and so the seed is evolving each year and thus more likely to give you a fantastic harvest on your plot. 

If you want to join in with this you can join Garden Organic with an option to add the Heritage Seed Library. 

So this year I'm growing for me, and have picked the following: 

Avon Early Beetroot

Bossingham Long Pod Broad Bean
London Market Carrot
Armenian cucumber
Guernsey Parsnip
White Serpent Squash

I've chosen crops that I know grow well on my plot, apart from the carrots which I am determined to get a harvest from this year by growing in a sandy raised bed with lots of coriander to disguise the smell. This variety has some Carrot Fly resistance so am trying to hedge my bets with it. 

The last lot of White Serpent Squash germinated blind, that is with only the two seed leaves and never grew a centre stem. It was very disappointing but I am hoping that a new batch of seeds may be from a difference source. 

I have been an Seed Guardian for HSL for a while, but have found in the very recent past that the harvests have been poor so am going to just save from one crop as a Seed Guardian at the most for a while. I have some Sim Segur leek seeds that have come good this year, but whilst they were drying out a mouse has eaten most of them. which is a little annoying as it took me about 4 years to get a good harvest off them. 

To be a Seed Guardian you need patience. 

I have some fantastic yellow beetroots at my allotment. 

These are Burpees Golden - I love yellow beetroots for roasting, and also because they do not incriminate you should a visitor knock on the door whilst preparing them. 

So I will leave 3 over winter. Then in the spring when they start growing again, I'll dig them up and move them the back of a bed in the corner, and replant them in a triangle with three large canes around them and leave them to flower. 

The flower stems can grow up to 8 feet high so they need quite good staking. I'll also tie twine around them at intervals to try and contain their long dreadlock-type stems which droop as the seeds ripen. 

They are biennials which flower in their second year. I find that because I do not clear my plot during the winter, I am quite good at biennial seed saving. 

This year, because of the clay soil at our allotment, we have decided to really go for it in attempting to improve the soil quality. I managed to get a huge load of woodchip delivered for free [thank you Dave at Eco Tree Company] and spent many a happy evening moving woodchip around the plot as a mulch and getting bitten to shreds which I will talk about in a minute]. 

This has now been put onto as many beds as it will fill, to do the rest I am looking for another load so will contact the local tree surgeons again after Christmas. I have tried to give a good 12 inch mulch on top of the soil. As it breaks down over the next 18 months or so, the worms take down some of the woodchip into the soil, it transforms clay into loam and creates a network of mycelium in the soil which plants use to extract more nutrients from the soil. Basically, how forests work.

Which for a plot that is so clayey is a wonderful prospect. 

However, 2 months later I found two of these...

These are pea seeds that have been hidden by some critter and because of the warm weather have germinated. Bearing in mind this woodchip only went down at the end of August and during September, they have been hidden in September and October in order to be germinating by the end of October. 

Where some critter got the seeds from, is anyone's guess as I thought i had collected all mine!

So I have taken one batch of these and replanted in a mushroom container in my greenhouse for early peas [thank you critter] and this one above I am leaving to see what happens. 

Before I sign off for 2016, ready for a fresh new 2017 growing year, I just want to put a note about my new shed. 

We had a shed when we moved here, 10 years ago. It was pretty rum back then so I decided that this year I wanted a new one. I also wanted it to be bigger so that I could do woodwork in it. This was met with a wry smile, as Mark suspected I'd never use it for woodwork at all. 

So I bought a shed and we got the delivery and installation date. And then we both promptly went down with the flu. And we had to go out, in the bitter cold, and dismantle the old one, and help a couple from Freecycle to load it into their van, dig and level the extra footprint with no feelings in our fingers and completely fogged up heads, and lay two new strips of slabs after a very late cold trip to buy the slabs. We were very ill. 

But the new shed is fab. I spent a while fitting it out and painting it [once I was recovered], and it is now our tool shed but my woodwork shed. And as we redid our garden last year I have the most amazing view from it. I do woodwork, with my Solar DAB radio playing 6 music, and looking at this. 

At the end of the garden is the canal, and boats pootle up and down all summer long. The garden is full of lovely wildlife, and the trees we planted are growing strong. It is glorious. 

And in my little woodwork shed I make things like this:

Seed flats for my greenhouse made out of old pallets. 

What is not to like? This first one is already being used for cut and come again salad.

Just need those seeds now, to get sowing in 2017. 

Happy Christmas everyone, and hope you have a cool yule and a marvellous new year. 

And remember, drink responsibly.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Vertical potato bed

At the community gardens, we had some spare potatoes so we have decided to try a vertical bed.

We weeded the ground underneath, and put one of our wire compost bins on top of the soil. On that, we put a chimney of compost and soil, with a surround of hay. We then put about 3 levels of 3-4 potatoes, finishing off with around 8 in the top layer.

We watered it well, and will start to put kitchen scraps in and will tip the grey water into the middle to keep it watered.

Will update later in the season.

Leek/garlic grass?

So - I am only blogging new or interesting stuff, you don't want the same old nonsense each year right?

So - new developments.

My Leek/garlic grass. I seem to have bred a new thing. It has come from a bunching onion, which I think may have crossed with something else and the resulting well, result - is garlic grass.

I thought it WAS grass, and went to pull it out last year. To find it smelt of garlic. As it gets bigger, it grows to what we would call over here 'baby leek' size, and it looks like a baby leek. But it tastes of garlic. It grows bulbils on the stems and once it flowers it set seeds and grows new bunches like chives would. Some pics above. It is marvellously mild, delicious raw in salads and potato dishes and I love it! In the pics it is growing in amongst one of my garden beds, with nigella, Szechuan pepper, strawberries, parsley and poppies.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Summing things up and new to grow!

Well, what a busy year. I make no apologies, when things are busy you just have to knuckle down. So last year I only made a few significant posts on here.

I finished my teacher training in February, and almost a whole week later, was signed up to do another qualification - it came with a virtually guaranteed bursary and was a new qualification so it was hard to walk away from. I started off at one uni, doing the diploma and when I realised that the tutor was [to say the least] hard work, I thought I'd pull out. But when the notification came that the bursary was approved, and a list of other providers came straight after, I set about to find a new provider. After a few weeks, I found one, who was doing the qualification internally but was willing to accept me on their course. And now, I have finished that, and the bonus was - they weren't doing the diploma, but a degree. So that's nice.

I'll put it on here once I have been awarded the qualification but for now, lets just say I'm looking forward to having some spare time again. I've been doing some supply work and spreading the word about food growing in schools.

And to the future - my Heritage Seed Library seeds turned up yesterday. I have got Jordanian cucumber, Kelper gigantic swede, Paddy cabbage, Shishigatani squash, Cantalun melon, Relon Broad Bean, Cantalun melon [donated originally by one of the Nottingham Organic gardeners], and some Snake Bean as a lucky dip. I can't wait to try these, some are new to HSL and if they grow well for me I'll try and save some seeds for my seedy friends and share them out. Pic below.

If you haven't joined Garden Organic and the Heritage Seed Library then the link is here - there is still time to join and to choose your HSl seeds for 2015. If you already grow and save seeds, and have a bit of space to become a Seed Guardian and grow some seeds to give back to HSl members, then find out about Seed Guardians here. And if you are in the UK and want to be part of our seed circle, you have a couple of weeks to send me your 2014 saved seeds, so contact me through this blog and I'll let you know what you have to do.

And if you don't want to do any of those, but just want to sit and watch TV - then please watch Rob, another Seed Guardian for HSL, who won best in show for his Boothby Blonde Cucumbers this week, on The Big Allotment Challenge on BBC1. Come on Rob, we are all rooting for you!

And Happy New 2015 to all my readers, here's to a healthy and hearty year of growing scrummy food.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Egyptian Walking Onions, Topsetting Onions

I've been growing these for about 8 years now - I just leave them to grow and harvest the bulbils for giving away, or for selling etc; and I've not encountered this before.

The tops are usually quite small, a few mm in diameter, sometimes a cm but this year, they are the size of shallots.

From this:

To this:

And this is also the year that I got garlic that did not split:

I usually note if something strange happens and this is it. 

We didn't have much frost last winter; can it be something as simple as frost that makes such a huge difference to our perennial crops? 

I shall eat some of the Walking Onions, I mean it's a bonus as usually they are not worth peeling let alone eating; and I'll sow one large and one small and see what happens. But I am liking this new style Walking Onion alot.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Garden Organic Members experiments 2014

This year, I thought I would have more time as I am not employed full time, but only now teach 2 1/2 days a week; but it seems I am busier than ever as running a business, getting new funding and designing and delivering new courses is a very time consuming job! 

I had signed up to do the members experiments and wanted to document them on here to remind myself to make the necessary records as much as anything. 

Firstly; the Biochar experiment.

 We received a bag of biochar - enough to cover one square meter of soil.

I duly measured and marked out the area and spread the biochar over one half of the two square meter trial area.

I then dug the bio char in and marked out the rows, and sowed the seeds. I didn't have time to sow the cabbages and replant so I had to sow those half in each side, just like the carrots and beetroot that were also provided. The sowing date was 5 May 2014.

I will update herewith photos as the trial progresses - with the biochar side always on the left.

20 June 2014...I have counted 15 beetroot on the non-biochar side and 9 on the biochar side. I have harvested 2 of the non bio chat beets as they are at eating size.
27 June - harvested one carrot from biochar side. Notable comment - loads of weeds on the non biochar side but very few on the biochar side.

Harvests to date:
2 Carrot 124 g                
1 beetroot - 339g    
1 beetroot - 180 g

Non Biochar
3 beetroot, 220, 200, 251g
2 beetroot total 194 g

Secondly - Oca. I have grown Oca several times and already have tubers but I'll follow this through properly this time. Again, sown on the 5th May 2014.

Thirdly - I have Bronze Arrow lettuce that I will be sowing but I'm not going to sow until after 22nd June as I have so much lettuce already and I want to see if the trial also works on lettuce not bolting if sown after mid summer's day and it grows quickly enough to get a crop in before the autumn so it's win-win.