My second attempt at growing parsnips and these have to be the best yet. No sign of disease, over wintered well, and very tasty. The variety is Gladiator and I bought the seeds from Suttons.
I am very impressed with the size of them too which is just incredible, particularly because my other attempt (different variety and position on the plot) were just OK by comparison. I lifted some for yesterdays Sunday dinner and I still have some left. I just wish I’d photographed some of the biggest ones!
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on January 31, 2011
Chitting seed potatoes is a green light to get plans underway for the growing year, it’s a reminder that spring is just around the corner, I can feel it in the air and I can hear it in birdsong – an exciting time for gardeners.
Garden centres and seed merchants are stocking and selling bags of seed potatoes now so I popped out last weekend and bought mine. I went for Charlotte salad potatoes again because we love them, also Picasso which is a main crop variety and a first for me with good disease resistance. Normally if I have the space for growing main crop I usually go for tried and trusted Desiree but I threw caution to the wind and went for something different. Ooh get me!
To get earlies off to a flying start you can chit your seed potatoes before planting, this means standing them in an egg box or tray with the eyes facing upwards towards the light, keep them in a cool, light and frost-free place where they will soon produce short green sprouts (shoots) to help give an earlier crop when planted. They can stay in their trays until planting conditions are right, usually from March onwards ready for lifting around June time. Main crop can go in a few weeks later than earlies and second earlies normally ready for lifting anytime from late August through to the end of the year depending on variety.
Happy chitting and potato growing!
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on January 26, 2011
It sure is cold and miserable out there but I have still managed to get a bit of gardening done. The last of the Leeks have been pulled (some were suffering from rust so were forgiven for looking a bit scruffy) and the plots given a good digging over and general tidy up with organic home compost forked in. I weighed down my collection of empty compost bags on top of the plots to help warm the soil for spring sowing, this should suppress the weeds for a while too. The sunflowers that were left for the birds to strip were mouldy and water-logged, no more seeds remained on the heads so these got the chop, bit of weeding and digging were needed to get the ground ready for spring. I just adore sunflowers and itching to get growing them again.
Already there are signs of life from the rhubarb patch, fat buds of Timperley Early are pushing through the soil just to tease me, I would love to force it but it needs at least another years growth with light harvest in order to make it a stronger plant. I shall resist the temptation. On the subject of forcing I have been hunting around lately for a terracotta forcing pot, they look so stylish nestled amongst the fat green rhubarb leaves don’t you think?
Seed potatoes are readily available now, just lay them out in a tray or egg boxes to chit with eyes uppermost in a cool frost-free place and by March /April they will be ready for planting out. I will probably get some Charlotte salad potatoes but I need to make my mind up on a main crop variety. I cut the autumn raspberry canes down and collected up what felt like a ton of leaves from the lawn for the compost bins and potted up autumn sowing broad beans – the bad weather claimed my outdoor sowing in December. With the constant wet weather I fear my new seeds will rot off in the ground, I don’t want to risk another disaster so germination in pots it shall have to be.
Daffodils are just starting to appear, lighter nights and a change in birdsong have me feeling all excited for the coming gardening year.
What have you been doing in your January garden?
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on January 21, 2011
It’s been a while since I last updated my poor neglected blog – I know, I’m crap! I’m sorry to report a few more losses within the flock, sadly Rose and Dolly have passed away so this now leaves 6 hens here at the garden smallholding. At the moment they are all getting along just fine and just starting to come into lay again. Bringing more hens in at this point would probably cause unnecessary stress and problems for them, to be honest I could do without the hassle. Six laying hens are plenty for our needs.
The vegetable garden was a hit and miss during the harsh weather, the good old leeks, garlic and parsnips survived their blanket of snow and ice, but the young peas and winter onions are all but a distance memory. Never mind, I can always get going again with the peas, the onions can wait. Besides, I still have some left in store from summer so all is good.
So how have YOU all been doing with your winter growing (if you did any) and your chickens?
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on January 18, 2011
I decided a little late in the year to try growing Pumpkins, something I have wanted to try for a while but concerned as usual that there would not be enough space. After a lot of mumbling and frowning I did a last-minute sowing of Racer that produced 2 strong plants, I then planted these in an unused patch of weedy ground, and pretty much ignored them. To my horror one of the plants gave up and died, the other kept growing away happily and produced a fruit. Just as I was starting to feel very smug about my baby Pumpkin, I suddenly remembered that we were having a new fence put up. You guessed it, the new fence would be built right where my poor Pumpkin was! I had no choice but to harvest it while green and then place it in the sun to cure and ripen. A few weeks later it doesn’t look too bad and is almost completely orange now, not a bad size either considering. Oh well, I will probably let my children have this one for carving (hopefully it won’t rot in the meantime) and start again next year.
What are your favourite variety of pumpkin to grow?
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on September 23, 2010
I planted my very first Leek seedlings in May and was fascinated by the way they are just dropped into holes and pretty much left to get on with it. It did seem very alien to me planting this way and to be honest I didn’t really know what to expect, but here we are in September and they have come on really well. Big strapping Leeks and very tasty I am pleased with my first attempt at growing Leeks even though some have bolted and are not quite as good. Perhaps the hot spell in the summer had something to do with it, despite trying my very best to keep them well watered. Any ideas why some of the Leeks have bolted?
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on September 19, 2010
Back in May I had a bash at growing a new type of carrot for me, Purple Haze. As the name suggests, it is indeed a purple skinned carrot with an orange centre. The long thick roots have a vivid colour, I am pleased with the end result. They are best eaten raw (although you can cook them) and look very decorative when sliced and added to a salad, good flavour but personally I prefer the stronger flavour of the orange varieties that I like to grow.
I bought my Purple Haze seeds from Thompson & Morgan and I think I will try their yellow carrots next year, Yellowstone. I still have a few rows left in the ground to be lifted soon. Have you tried a different colour carrot? How did they compare to your orange ones?
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on September 15, 2010
After the 2009 autumn harvest nothing but bare earth was left in the veg beds, basically I didn’t plan that particular growing season very well. Apart from being bored from lack of things to do, I was disappointed that the vegetable garden was not being given the chance to be used to its full potential.
This year I have attempted to extend the growing season by growing crops that can be left in the ground during the winter months until needed, such as Leek and Parsnip. I will also try autumn /winter sowing of peas, autumn sowing of Broad Beans as well as overwintering onions and garlic. I have never used mini polytunnels to grow more tender crops during the colder months, perhaps this is something I could also try? Any ideas?
So, what will be grown in the garden smallholding to hopefully see me through the winter months of gloom?
Leeks. Ready for use now but I shall resist the urge to gobble them all up in one swoop.
Parsnips. Probably big enough to lift now but I want them to get a frosting to sweeten. They shall be left in the ground till needed.
Purple Sprouting Broccoli? No, I don’t because my first attempt was a disaster and I was too lazy to sow again on time, gaaaah!
Overwintering onions. Sets, all ready to be planted.
Peas. Autumn/winter sowing variety, never grown these before so I’m looking forward to the challenge.
Broad Bean. I have never done an autumn sowing of Broad Bean before, normally I opt for early spring. I’m not a fan of Broad Beans usually but hey if there is a sniff of an extra early season crop then it’s got to be worth a bash.
Garlic. I plan to plant garlic towards the end of October.
Swede. Disaster. I did not give them enough room and powdery mildew claimed the lot. I shall put this one down as experience.
What are you currently growing or plan to grow for winter and early spring crops?
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on September 13, 2010
I’m so excited! Our new William’s Bon Chrétien pear tree has baby pears, aren’t they amazing? You can really see the shape formation already. I adore pears and cannot wait to sample our very own home-grown ones which should be ready to pick by September, ripening a week or so later. It’s self fertile but pollination by another pear will maximise yield, the neighbouring garden to the rear of ours has a mixed orchard on half an acre so hopefully this will help.
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on June 2, 2010
Tomatoes are one of those vegetables/fruits (whatever) that can be a real pain in the bum to grow. Blight can be a big problem or worry to many tomato growers, like me, who do not have the luxury of a glass greenhouse. But, putting all the hassle aside, the taste of home-grown tomatoes makes the stress of growing them so very worthwhile.
I have been quite successful with growing outdoor bush varieties, especially so last year when local gardeners were cursing the dreaded tomato blight while I was busy admiring my beautiful shiny red fruits. This season however, I have gone all mad in the head and decided to have a bash at growing two different types of cherry tomato, Sungold and Gardener’s Delight. Both of these varieties are uprights, also known as cordon or vine. They would probably do better under cover, in one of those luxurious greenhouses that I just do not own, but they can go outside. Today I bought a plastic tomato grow house ‘thingy’, it looks quite good actually and will hopefully help to keep the rain off my tomato foliage as well as provide them with a little extra heat.
Because I have always grown bush varieties I have never bothered pinching out side shoots. Apparently, bush varieties naturally produce a limited amount of side stems so they kind of know when to stop producing shoots and start producing tomatoes, however, cordon varieties will produce far too much foliage and very few fruits if left unchecked. I have never bothered (until now) to learn why cordon varieties need their side shoots removed, it’s all about helping to divert the plant’s energy into producing the fruit on the main stem rather than putting all that energy into the side shoots. Easy huh? Pinching out side shoots is easy too once you know what to look for – shoots forming in between the main stem and the leaf stems, in the arm pit of the plant. Hopefully the photo will help (although those shoots are a tad large and should have been pinched out earlier, whoops!) just make sure the first flower truss has set above and away you go with your pinchy fingers. Happy tomato growing!
Posted by The Garden Smallholder on June 1, 2010