Vegetable Garden

What’s Growing On In February?

Biting winds, rain, hail and snow showers, we’ve never been so thankful for the occasional glimpse of sunshine to provide some respite. Ooh naughty February! Welcome back to our monthly catch up posts where we show you what’s growing on in our garden smallholding.

The vegetable garden in February still offers fabulous things to eat thanks to a bit of careful planning. By dedicating a whole bed to carrots rather than just a couple of rows for late summer/autumn use, we’re still pulling tasty roots of ‘Autumn King’. Standing well in our soil our garden tends to get rather boggy in winter so this variety really is worth growing. The same can be said for ‘Gladiator’ parsnip, fantastic roots right through to spring.

Another great crop providing nutritious leaves from summer right through to winter is kale. ‘Nero Di Toscana’ will grow in difficult conditions such as a shady spot and poor drainage (trust us, we know!). The flavour improves after a frost and once it finally bolts the flowers can be eaten too.

We’ve just finished picking the last of the Brussels Sprouts and now we’re patiently waiting for spears of beautiful early sprouting broccoli to make an appearance. Early purple sprouting is sown late spring one year and produces from February/March the following year – so you really do need to be patient!

The veg garden in February

Autumn-fruiting raspberry canes got their annual chop this week. Rich carefully tidied around to remove the old leaves and debris being careful not to damage emerging canes, finishing up with a mulch of compost afterwards.

The canes are very spiky – gloves are needed! In just a couple of months the whole bed will be brimming with fresh new growth.

Rather than burning or composting we’ve decided to keep the cut raspberry canes and use them as organic slug and snail deterrents (due to the spikes), laying them on the ground in and around seedlings.

Something has had a go at the broad bean seedlings underneath the cloche tunnels (unlikely to be a pigeon, a mouse perhaps?), a bit of soil disturbance and a couple of seedlings vanished – one is wilting so I guess the seed bean is damaged. This is the first place we’re going to use the canes. I wonder if mice will be that bothered by a few spikes? It’s an experiment so we’ll let you know if it works.

Our chickens were beginning to lay regularly (except for Mrs Broody pants), a couple have now decided to have another moult which means no eggs.

Some of our girls are getting on for retirement, perhaps nearer summer we’ll increase the flock seeing as we have a new coop!


Vegetable Garden

And Sow it Begins

I came home from hospital last weekend, my body is tired and sore but getting a little stronger every day. I ended up needing more surgery than expected which has set my recovery back with one thing or another but I am getting there, slowly. I miss spending time with the chickens and of course the day-to-day activities in the garden smallholding, family are mucking in and doing what’s needed. I long for the day I can join in rather than watch from the window but I’m not to lift anything heavier than a cup of tea for at least 6 weeks. Meh.

I guess I can cope with the tea bit.

After going through our seed stash last month we’ve ordered what we need for the new growing year with some new varieties to try, the rest will be our own saved seed. We will buy our seed potatoes very soon and set them out to chit in egg boxes.

We like to sow our tomatoes and chillies early, harvesting can begin as early as June/July depending on varieties grown. Chillies need constant heat to aid germinate so we’re using a seedling heat mat at the moment to help. We’ve never used anything like this before when germinating seeds such as chillies and peppers, we usually get decent germination results by using the warmest spots in the house but it can take up to a month to occur due to temperatures dipping at night. It’s a bit of a trial so we’ll let you know how the heat mat performs in terms of germination rate/time, and if we like it enough to recommend we’ll do a little blog post. Rich set everything up for sowing our seeds to avoid me lifting anything, all I had to do is pop the seeds in. It felt so good to be involved and gave me the lift I needed.

It’s official, gardening is therapy!

Fruit Garden, Grow Your Own Guides

Planting Summer and Autumn Fruiting Raspberry Canes

I planted Tulameen and Joan J raspberry canes at the weekend, 3 canes of each variety which will be plenty for my daughter and I, the only raspberry fans of the family. If you’ve never planted raspberry canes before it really is very easy. The following guide shows how I planted the summer fruiting (Tulameen) canes – hand model my very bored better half!

Bash a post into the soil (I used 8 ft long pieces of timber) against the centre edge, at each end of the bed. Using large-head screws or nails, place one at regular sections all the way up both posts, say about a foot apart and even on both posts. Don’t screw/hammer completely into the post, you need to leave a gap to attach wire.

Attach garden wire by wrapping around a screw head, stretch the wire across till it reaches the other post and wrap the wire to secure. Repeat this until you have enough wire secured all the way up the posts.

Plant the canes in the centre of the bed, just in front of the first wire. Space the canes about 60 cm apart, firm in and tie the canes onto the wire. Water them in well. A long narrow bed is ideal for planting raspberry canes, I planted just 3 canes into my 6 ft long x 3.5 ft wide raspberry bed, if you want to plant more canes use a longer bed.

The autumn canes are in another bed nearby, I’ve grown Joan J before and love the flavour. No special treatment needed for autumn canes, just pop them in a well prepared bed – supports aren’t generally needed because they don’t grow very tall. Cut down all growth on autumn varieties in February or March, they will fruit on the wood produced that year. Summer canes grow tall and need support, they fruit on the wood produced the previous year. New summer canes that are produced this year will bear next year’s fruits and should to be tied onto a wire support system. Cut down fruiting canes once you’ve finished harvesting, this should make pruning summer canes easier!