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.

Organic gardeners do not use peat...

And in any normal context I wouldn't even consider it. 

However at college, in one of the compost bins that we 'manage' [even though other people put things like whole trees in there and we have to regularly take them out again] I found someone had emptied around 10 very large pots into it. They had obviously bought the pots, filled with peat and mixed shedloads of slow release fertiliser in, planted them up and then forgotten to water them. So the plants died and instead of r-eusing the pots, they had been tipped straight into our [until then] organic compost bin. 

A dilemma then ensued.

As a group, we have no funds to buy compost so we make our own. And this peat is in fine condition, barely used. Seriously a complete waste of resources. What to do..leave it, where the fertiliser [not needed] will continue to rot down and infest our lovely compost....bin it as it is not organic or take it out, remove the remaining roots and fertiliser pellets and just bin the pellets and reuse the compost in our own pots. 

Of course, the cornerstone of organic gardening is that if you try to spend no would be pretty much organic even if you don't know much about organic gardening...and on that note I decided that there was no way I could let this precious resource slip through the net. 

So we have been sieving and picking out all the balls of fertiliser...and all the roots...and mixing it with our own leaf mould to bulk it up and using it for our potting mix

I would never buy peat, I find that my own compost and leaf mould mix is more than adequate and our dalek compost added to worm compost is wonderful for the more greedy cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes grown in pots; whilst everything else is fine in the ground...but I just can't see this resource thrown away and added to a general compost mix that won't get used until after I have left the college. 

So for the first year in many, I have used peat. Weird.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

And more sowing

Today it was chilli peppers, tomatoes, quinces from the fruits off the quince tree they gave me when I left Ryton, and some grape seeds. Pic of the seed circles ones sown to follow. 

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Sowing and growing

It is starting to look nice and green in the aptly named greenhouse now. 

I have some of my favourite things germinating, agastache, beetroot, kale. 

Chioggia from own saved sweet, and the first little agastache from home saved seed. 

And I am sowing seeds from the latest seed circle, today's were peppers, along with a few varieties from my own box. And peas, namely Kent Blue, and my own golden sweet mange tout are already on their way up. 
All seed circle seeds are being photographed upon sowing so that I can track their progress this year. 

Golden sweet mange tout. First of them up...and yes the compost is wet as I had just watered it. 

Kent blue 

Sunday, 26 January 2014

New courses for 2014

I've been asked to run some courses for Garden Organic, at their flagship gardens Ryton Gardens this year.

True to form, they will ALL be activity based hands on learning experiences very much driven by the needs of the delegates.

The first one is on March 13th, it is called Veg Growing for Beginners. Seeing as I spent alot of my time teaching people new to gardening how to do it [and to do it without breaking the bank or your back] this is one that I am enjoying planning as much as we will enjoy the day.

I've just sown some trays of seeds for this, for the delegates to get some practice on the day in transplanting and identifying seedlings. If you are coming along, I hope that you enjoy the mix of seeds that I've just sown, all for you to take home with you.

Can't wait!

The course should be on the Garden Organic website in the next few days. It was only booked last week so get it whilst its hot - as they say.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Sorting out the seeds

I have accumulated and collected and swapped and basically, have so many varieties of seeds that it's beginning to get silly. 

So...time to have a clear out. 

I will be saving just 10 seeds of all the peas and beans and tomatoes that I have, and all the rest will be put to one side for swaps, the community garden, for students or to be included in the Random approach which I will be continuing in 2014.

Just to show - these are just the beans...there are about 130 different varieties in here. 

Time to let them fly and let other people grow them.

Maria Zeller

This is a post about a lovely success story with one of the beans I had a few years back. It refers to this bean:

I had a few beans from a swap here in the UK. I tried to grow these and they failed and I had 2 left.

I was contacted about a swap with Russ Crow in the USA late 2011 and we swapped some beans.

I sent him the 2 Maria Zellers and after growing those two, he had 80 beans. He grew those and ended up with 1208 seeds. Which is totally brilliant and amazing and WOW!

Some pics are below.

He has sent some back to me, and hopefully will be swapping and sharing his batch in the USA as I will be doing here.

It's so good to resurrect a relatively rare bean and be able to share it out for growing.

Thanks Russ, and look forward to some more swapping in future years.

Russ's website showing the bean can be found here


Seeds saved in 2013

Well, hello 2014.

It was a busy year, 2013 - a new garden to manage, a new business with my lovely business partner, a DTLLS qualification to finish, a new job, and new students, new processes and procedures and teaching new people at the community gardens.

So, it would be understandable if I'd not managed to save any seeds but lo and behold - in amongst the chaos - I did. Both at home and at the community gardens. So to make myself feel better today I thought I'd list them as I am doing my usual yearly seed sift to see what can be grown, sown, swapped, given to students to grow and what to sell or give away.

Seeds saved in 2013:
Seed Guardian seeds:
Val's Bean - DFB
Rognon D'Loise - DFB
Bird's Egg - CFB
Bonne Bouche - CFB
Bountiful - DFB * I have saved these but they are somewhere in the house
Imur Prior Beta tomato
Yellow Perfection tomato
Peacevine Cherry Tomato

All the above I will be growing in 2014 [at home, at the allotment and at the community gardens] and 90% of the collected seeds will be going to the Heritage Seed Library.

I will also be hosting some plants for Real Seeds -  we have agreed to have around 6-10 Gelbe Kirschen Cherry Chilli plants and save from all of them for Real Seeds, plus a brassica which they are thinking about. So that will be amazing.

Other saved seeds for growing and local swapping:
Tarbais CFB
Corona De Spagna CFB
Bridgewater CFB
Berner Landfrouen CFB
Blue and White CFB
Reade Krobbe DFB
Brightstone DFB
Inca Pea CFB
Marfax DFB
Hutterite Soup DFB
Zuni Bush bean
Trionfo Violette CFB
Succotash DFB
True Red Cranberry DFB
A mystery lupino bean [no idea the variety]
A mystery black bush bean
Croatian bean

Butterbean - Soya Bean
Blackpod Runner Bean [at allotment, may not come true]
White Lady Runner Bean [isolated in polytunnel]

Goldensweet Mangetout Pea

Kyoto Market Bunching Onion

Piglet Willie's French Black tomato
Dark Purple Beefsteak tomato
Salt Spring Surprise tomato
Stonor's No 2 tomato
Sugar Plum tomato

Mini White Cucumber

Look - a pic of all the seeds all packed up

I also have:
Potato Onions
Egyptian Walking Onion
Oca [to dig up in the next week]
Load of herbs - Dill, parsley, Chioggia Beetroot, Swiss chard etc etc.

And more that I can't remember as they are being housed at the Community Gardens.

Not a bad haul for a busy year.

Bring on 2014. Happy new year to all of you growers and seed savers.