Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Spring In To Action

Now that spring is officially here, I felt I was getting a bit left behind with everything I had to do. Fortunately, we had some glorious weather at the weekend which enabled me to get some jobs done. We spent part of Saturday at the allotment, sorting out the compost bins, planting up the new strawberry bed with the Sonata strawberries I bought at the back end of last year, and making a start on digging and preparing the beds. As you can see, some things are now waiting to go out. The red onions and shallots have put on plenty of growth in the greenhouse, and the broad beans don't want to be hanging around much longer either.

On Sunday, I decided it was time to get some sowing done. First off, I got the tomatoes planted. I mentioned the varieties in my last post, but didn't bother with the Harbinger and Red Cherry. I'm hoping to grow a couple of plants of each of the other nine varieties. I made my first sowing of peas - Hurst Green Shaft and mangetout - Reuzensuiker, and I will sow these again in a month or so to stagger the harvest. The brassicas also got sown, cabbage - Advantage, Swiss chard - Bright Lights, kale - Cavolo de Nero, kale - Dwarf Green Curled, broccoli - Autumn Spear, broccoli - (Sprouting) Summer Purple and kohl rabi - Purple Delicacy. I also sowed some lettuce - Salad Bowl. I think I'm just about caught up now with the sowing, though I still need to sow the radishes and spring onions.

The first potatoes which were planted in containers are now showing some leaf above the compost. I'm staggering the planting so that they're not all ready to harvest together, two or three weeks between each batch should just about do nicely and then I'll be kept in potatoes well in to autumn and perhaps in to winter. It's all in the planning.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Let's Talk About Tomatoes

If I could only grow one thing, it would have to be tomatoes. Not only do home grown tomatoes taste so much better than those bought from the supermarket, but I enjoy the process of growing them too.

I usually squeeze six plants in to my small 6X4 greenhouse, but this year I'm branching out, trying some different varieties to those I've grown previously, as well as some favourites, and I'm going to grow some outdoors in the garden as well as in the greenhouse. I'm hoping for a much bigger harvest than usual so that I can make some sauces.

The old favourites I'm going to grow are Tangella, I grew these from my own saved seed last year and I'm doing the same again this year, Tigerella, Ferline and Gardener's Delight. I picked up some new to me varieties in the Wyevale 50p sale last year. Wyevale has now changed it's name to The Garden Centre Group, and their sale can really save you a lot of money, one of the packets should have been £4.99 and it only contains six seeds. I wouldn't have bought them at that price, but I don't mind for 50p. I was looking for ones which do well outdoors. The ones I came up with are Pannovy, Gold Nugget, Black Cherry, Harbinger and Incas. I've also got Red Cherry which were a freebie and Eleanor which was sent to me by Kath from Veg Heaven. Kath has bred this variety herself and I'm eager to try it as my daughter's name is Eleanor. Thank you Kath.

It's now just a matter of getting the seed sown, which I'm hoping to do this week. I've usually started the seeds off on a windowsill in a heated propagator, but last year I sowed them inside the mini plastic greenhouse which is inside the normal greenhouse to give them a little extra protection. They grew much stronger so I'm going to do that again this year. I can't wait to pick the first sun warmed tomato from a plant and pop it straight in my mouth.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Impulse Buy

I think all gardeners are guilty of impulse buys. Even when the flower beds are well stocked, there's always something which catches the eye on a trip to a garden centre or nursery. We visited our local nursery to buy the apple tree which I blogged about in my last post, but I had to pass the perennials in order to pay for the tree. This gorgeous Hellebore Niger called out to me as I passed, and with a price tag of just £2.99 it was a certainty that it was coming home with us. I've seen much smaller specimens at double the price, so I was happy with this. The flower border in my back garden needs a total overhaul this year, many plants have grown too big for their boots, so they'll have to be moved in to the patch we've got at the front of the house, and new smaller plants will be purchased to replace them. I'm going to follow Geoff Hamilton's advice and buy something new every month so that I can be assured of some colour in the border all the year round.

Today is Mother's Day in the UK, so Happy Mother's Day to all you mums reading my blog. I've been thoroughly spoilt, and one of my presents is a blackcurrant bush. I'm trying to get a bit more fruit on the allotment so this is a wonderful present. I don't have anywhere prepared to plant it yet, so it's now biding it's time in a container until I can prepare a patch especially for it.

I haven't managed to get to the allotment this weekend, but hubby has dug over a bit more ground, as well as filling the old bath there with some fresh compost in order to grow carrots again this year. The carrots which were sown in the bath last year were great so I'm hoping we have the same success again this year.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Decision Made

I've been contemplating getting a small apple tree for sometime now. I don't have room to plant a tree in the ground, but after seeing how well my cherry tree has done in a half barrel container, I decided that I'd give an apple tree in a container a go too. I didn't want to get more than one apple tree so I had to look for a self-fertile variety, and luckily, my local nursery had quite a few different ones in stock, many of them suitable to be grown in a container. We decided on Gloster in the end, a lovely red skinned variety with crisp flesh. My parents had given us some money for our twentieth wedding anniversary in 2010, and we've been waiting to find the perfect present to spend it on and this is it.

It's been a lovely weekend weather wise, so I set to getting my leek and sweet pea seeds sown. I'm growing Musselburgh leeks. I've sown them earlier than I usually do, so I hope they do better for me this year. I've never done very well with leeks before, they always seem to grow very spindly. The sweet peas I've sown are from a collection by Suttons. There are five different varieties in the pack, which I bought for 50p in the Wyevale sale. This was marked down from £4.75 so I got a bargain there. The varieties are White Ensign, Noel Sutton, Air Warden, Mrs R.Bolton and Beaujolais. I'm hoping to have some in the garden as well as at the allotment.

Hubby was busy in the garden yesterday. He emptied the compost bin which was full of lovely compost. It will now be spread on the beds at the allotment. He'd been digging over some beds on Saturday, and the new strawberry bed is just about finished so I'll be able to get the plants set out soon. He also washed down the greenhouse for me and put the mini plastic greenhouse inside so that it gives any seedlings a little extra protection. It means I can start seed sowing in earnest now.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

I Couldn't Resist

I know I said that I was only going to grow one variety of potato this year, but when I saw packets of seed potatoes in a shop window display at only £1.00 per packet I couldn't resist. So, as well as the Arran Pilot potatoes which I've already got chitting, I now have some Nicola. There were six tubers in the pack, which is ideal if you want to give a variety a try without having it as your main crop. Nicola is a salad variety so should be good for boiling. They'll get planted up in to containers just like the Arran Pilot.

Hubby dug up all the remaining parsnips and leeks from the allotment at the weekend, par boiled them and they're all now in the freezer waiting to be used up. I was very surprised at the amount of parsnips we had left in the ground, it's quite hard to judge just how many are there after the leaves have died down over winter. This year is the best we've ever done with parsnips, they were sown direct last year and I think this has made all the difference, we'll be sowing direct again this year but the soil needs to warm up a little first. The leeks never really put on much growth, but they're still tasty, and those now in the freezer will cook well in casseroles.

The next seed I sow will be leeks. I've never really had a good crop of leeks and I think one of the reasons is because I plant them out too late. This year I'm hoping to get them in the ground a little earlier so I can see if this makes any difference. It can't hurt.

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