I usually plant my onion sets straight into the ground in spring, covering with a mesh frame to keep the birds off until they’ve sprouted and developed a good root system to anchor them in. I harvest a decent crop but I do get a number of smallish bulbs despite my soil being well nourished.
Today I planted half my onion sets in module trays filled with compost (‘Red Baron’ and ‘Stuttgarter Giant’), growing them on in my unheated greenhouse. The other half will be planted out into the ground, in the usual way. The idea is to give half the sets a bit of a head start, an experiment really.
I’m curious to see if this makes any difference to the overall size of bulbs come harvest time, compared to the sets planted straight into the ground a month or so later.
I’ll let you know how I get on.
Posted by TheGardenSmallholder on February 27, 2014
At last, it feels like I’m doing something productive again. Laying seed potatoes out in trays or egg boxes to chit (encouraging the seed potatoes to sprout before planting) really is the start of the growing year for me. Some say chitting potatoes isn’t necessary, I get stupidly excited about chitting mine so I’ll carry on doing it regardless.
This year I’m planning to grow Charlotte (a salad variety) and Desiree main crop. They’re firm favourites of mine and always seem to do well on my plot.
By the way, I think potato flowers are utterly gorgeous…..
What are you planning to grow in your potato bed this year? If it ever stops raining!
Posted by TheGardenSmallholder on February 6, 2014
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 TheGardenSmallholder 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 TheGardenSmallholder 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 TheGardenSmallholder 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 TheGardenSmallholder 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 TheGardenSmallholder 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 TheGardenSmallholder 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 TheGardenSmallholder 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 TheGardenSmallholder on March 11, 2013