I had a wonderful crop of beetroot this year, my usual ’Boltardy’ and an orange variety called ‘Burpees Golden’. The attractive orange roots look wonderful grown alongside red/purple varieties, a great contrast grated together in salads. No bleeding or staining, unlike the red varieties!
The attractive green and yellow tops can be eaten too, harvest young leaves as baby leaves, older leaves can be steamed and used as Spinach or Chard. Easy to grow although germination can be a bit hit and miss, sow thicker than you normally would for beets to avoid gaps in rows.
The vivid root colour just gets better when cooked, a lovely sweet taste but I do prefer the red varieties for flavour. Thank you to Mr Fothergills for sending me the seeds to grow.
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on November 17, 2013
Back in May I blogged about having a go at growing a type of rare runner bean called Greek Gigantes. You can view the post here: http://thegardensmallholder.wordpress.com/2013/05/30/sowing-greek-gigantes/
I grew just 3 plants up tall canes at my allotment, they grew well in the warm sunshine producing lots of lovely white flowers. Leaving the pods to go brown and papery on the plants, I picked them before the real wet weather arrived to avoid rotting. As you can see, the beans are huge and as white as snow, with a lovely buttery taste which I’m a big fan of.
I did rely on the runners to feed us throughout summer, but these beans are unusual and worth growing if you like buttery beans and wish to avoid a glut of beans throughout summer, considering how prolific runners can be!
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on November 7, 2013
This year I grew carrot varieties that I’ve never tried before. After looking at so many tempting choices, I settled on a main crop variety called ‘Flakkee’ and a yellow-skinned variety called ‘Jaune Obtuse du Doubs’, a French heirloom with a beautiful sweet taste. Both nice varieties and trouble-free to grow if you fancy a change from your usual favourites.
I’ve just realised, I don’t have a photo of the yellow carrots! If I get to the allotment this weekend I will grab one. They’re a lovely colour and look fantastic grated into a salad.
I’m looking forward to browsing seed catalogues and websites soon, I’ll probably order new varieties for next year. I quite enjoy the challenge and unpredictability of growing new things.
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on October 25, 2013
I intended to do this post in July. Family and pet loss forced blogging out of the window for a while, along with all sense of time. I couldn’t find any enthusiasm to visit the allotment, as a consequence some of my planned posts haven’t met the publish button. So here we are, late October. Why bother to blog about peas now? Well, these particular peas, in my humble opinion, deserve a mention. The variety is ‘Blauwschokker’ and they’re definitely on my list of crops to grow next year.
Deep purple pods with huge minty-green peas nestled inside, the plants grow very tall so you’ll need to grow them against something sturdy and high (I used 7 ft canes pushed into sheets of wire mesh, such as chicken or aviary wire). Stems and leaves are thicker and heavier than any other pea I’ve grown, with tendrils as thick as springs. Pods are easy to pick, thanks to the bold colour, and can be eaten as mange tout before the peas begin to swell. Eye-catching pink/crimson flushed flowers are large and could easily be mistaken for sweet peas, for that reason alone, a perfect addition for the allotment or veg garden.
A doddle to grow, these peas are very similar in size to marrowfat peas with an earthy, punchy flavour. Shell and mix with young broad beans, mash and smash with a fork or pestle and mortar adding a little olive oil and fresh mint, spread onto warm olive bread. Yum!
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on October 22, 2013
I love seeing peas scrambling up natural pea sticks, tiny tendrils stretching out, curling tightly around their rustic support like miniature green springs. However, when it comes to supporting taller and heavier cropping peas (‘Blauwschokker’ for example), sometimes a sturdier or taller form of support is needed. Using several long bamboo canes and pieces of chicken or welded mesh wire, I fashion together support structures that have served me well for many years, even through gales. Unlike netting, wire mesh is safer for wild birds, so it gets a big thumbs up from me.
Measure out the area that you wish to use for planting, then cut your wire to fit using wire cutters making sure it’s at least 5 ft high. Take a cane and pass it through one of the lower holes of the wire at one end, repeat again somewhere in the middle and one last time near the top. Leave at least 7 inches of each cane bare at the bottom of the wire, these will be pushed into the soil. Repeat this process for the other end of the wire and pop another cane or two in through the middle section for extra strength. Once you’re happy, push the bare cane sections into the soil, keeping it taut as you go. If you use chicken wire, secure to canes with short lengths of garden wire if needed.
For some years now I’ve grown peas this way, the support structures can be left permanently in place and to save growing space and adhere to crop rotation practices, place the support structure near the end of a raised bed and refresh several inches of soil every spring to keep diseases and pests to a minimum.
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on June 3, 2013
One of my absolute favourite crops to grow and eat is the runner bean. Usually trouble-free, runner beans have attractive flowers and are useful for creating height and interest in the veg garden, flowering runner beans look great scrambling up tall willow obelisks in ornamental gardens too.
Browsing The Real Seed Catalogue website, I was drawn to a type of runner bean I’ve never grown before – Greek Gigantes. From the northern mountains of Greece, these beans are grown in similar conditions to our UK climate so they should do well. I expected the beans to be big, believe me, these beans are enormous!
Grown exactly the same way as runners, the buttery beans are eaten rather than whole pods. Leave pods to go brown and papery, shell beans and cook fresh straight away or dry them to store.
If you fancy having a grow yourself, grab yours at http://www.realseeds.co.uk/runnerbeans.html
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on May 30, 2013
Early this morning I woke to sun streaming through the window, squinting my eyes to adjust to the light the warmth on my face felt good. I stood at the window for a while, taking in energy from the sun as I viewed our garden from above.
I made a mug of tea and checked on the seed trays (as you do). Tomato seedlings are growing strong and I could just make out signs of life pushing through the soil in the chilli tray. I’m pleased to have tomatoes and chillies on the grow but I will wait a couple of weeks at least before sowing anything else, the weather is set to turn colder.
A sullen wintry sky returned by early afternoon, along with the promise of heavy rain, gales and sleet for the weekend.
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on March 21, 2013
The first seeds of the year are tucked up in a warm light room in the house. We went for Tigerella tomatoes this year (a first for us) and Cayenne chillies which we’ve grown before and love. Tigerella tomatoes have striped skin hence their name and I’m particularly looking forward to using them in salads to add interest and colour. I have a thing for pretty salads, adding vibrant colours using edible flowers such as Viola. We’ve heard mixed reviews on the taste of Tigerella, some saying they’re bland but I guess we’ll judge that for ourselves. I have my eye on another variety of tomato called Black Krim, Seed Parade tempted me when I saw a photo of the fruits on their Facebook page. I might try Black Krim this year, if not then it’s going on my ever-growing list of things to try.
Rich is the chilli fan and head chef of our family, cooking with chillies regularly so we decided to grow as many plants as we have space for to save buying them so often. We went for Cayenne because they’re meant to be quicker to germinate than other chilli varieties (some taking up to a month or longer). Cayenne have the heat that Rich likes too, so it was an easy choice really.
Are you growing tomatoes or chillies this year?
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on March 11, 2013
I dragged myself away from cleaning the greenhouse yesterday and made my way to our local garden centre to buy seed potatoes and a few other things including onion sets. We’ve usually done this by now but if you’re a regular reader of our blog you’ll know we’ve been a tad busy lately with a house move. I decided to try a different main crop potato this season, a variety called Sante caught my eye. I almost changed my mind, tempted to grab a bag of faithful Desiree but I stayed strong, eventually swayed by the excellent disease and pest resistance that Sante offers. Anyway, it’s good to try something new.
Just out of curiosity, what do you do with the ‘tiddlers’? You know, the tiny seed potatoes often found at the bottom of the bag (unless you’re buying your seed potatoes loose and hand choose large seed). I have some old car tyres to stack and fill with compost just for our tiddlers, or I use large tubs. Of course there’s nothing wrong with planting them the usual way in the ground, I just like to use the smaller ones for container planting.
I’ve set the seed potatoes out to chit in large egg trays, our light and cool conservatory is perfect for this. Tomorrow I will be sowing tomatoes and chillies, the start of the new growing season is so exciting!
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on March 8, 2013
Being a hands on gardener I use lots of different gardening tools, many of them older than I am. Over the years I’ve slowly built up my own personal collection of vintage garden tools, old shabby tools that have stood the test of time. Timeless and stylishly beautiful, I love the idea that old garden tools can be loved, treasured or put to work all over again. There’s something quite special about grasping the wooden handle of an antique gardening fork or trowel, smooth to the touch from years of work gone by just feels ‘right’ somehow.
I have many vintage trowels, forks, onion hoes, secateurs and weed grubbers. I adore my collection of English galvanised watering cans, although rusty and a little battered in places most are still fit for the purpose intended. My stamped (makers mark era 1896 onwards) antique garden line and pin ensures rows are straight for planting, I often wonder if it was ever used in a Victorian kitchen garden. But, my most treasured tool has to be my vintage Brades garden fork. Lightweight, sharp and beautifully smooth with age, each time I push it into the soil it emanates quality.
I snoop around car boot sales, garage clearance sales and have a flutter on ebay for my finds, I’ve found some real bargains too. This year I stumbled across a shop on Etsy via Julie’s blog Suburban Veg Plot and bought a rather beautiful hand fork and trowel set. My set arrived beautifully packaged in brown paper and garden twine (perfect for gifting) along with a packet of in season veg seeds (lovely touch). So, if you’re wondering what to spend your Christmas gift money on I highly recommend Julie’s shop, Ember Gate http://www.etsy.com/shop/EmberGate, she has some wonderful pieces.
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on December 29, 2012