‘Two Sisters’ planting (corn & beans)…

The post that gets the most traffic on this blog is one I wrote back in 2009 on ‘Three Sisters Planting’, it was the first time I attempted growing sweetcorn and it has been on my ‘must grow’ list ever since.  As I’d read in many books, the corn you grow tastes infinitely better than any bought in the shops and to prove this I managed to convert my oldest to eating it even though he runs in fear of the tinned variety.

The smallest every Turk's Turban squash ?

That first year I abandoned the bean part of the ‘Three Sisters’ and just opted for the corn and squash, I had read that the beans get very tangled and can be difficult to pick and look a little messy.  The single squash didn’t do well and produced a single comedy teeny, tiny Turk’s Turban.  

This year I’ve decided to have another go, it’s party because I know I want the Barlotti Beans I plan to grow with the corn to dry, so I don’t care if they grow all over the place and also I am short of space for squash so I may as well put one (or even two) in the bed as well….although they might be difficult to keep well watered so I might just go with the bean and corn option.

To this end I have started 16 sweetcorn ‘Lapwing’ off in pots, indoors, they don’t like root disturbance so I’ve put them in card pots that I will plant direct in the ground, once the chance of frost has passed, under large cloches.  This should allow the roots to grow through the card without needing to remove them.  I have only planted one kernel per pot as I need a minimum of 12 to germinate (ideally all 16  to get a good planting grid), which helps with the wind pollination, in the past all kernels have germinated so I have my fingers crossed for the same result this year.  I plan to plant 2 beans against each corn and, as above, maybe a squash underneath.  As I have quite bad luck germinating beans in the ground I’ll probably also start these in pots but only after the corn are on their way.

I think my big challenge will be keeping it well watered, with the hose pipe ban it’s going to be hard going but hopefully worth it when we eat the first cobs.  Oddly we have had rain on and off all week, I can’t help but celebrate as it gives all the seeds already planted half a chance to get off to a good start.

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Shallots 2012…

Just before we went away the shallot sets arrived and I was quick to get them into the garden.  As always, I ordered Longer variety from Thompson & Morgan back in autumn.  They were supposed to arrive by the end of February and I’ve been phoning T&M weekly since asking where they are (to which they always replied that they were on their way), I think there was a supply problem, and it’s not the first time, but I do wish they’d just email to say.

Shallots are one thing I will always make room for in the garden, they are expensive to buy from the supermarket and they store extremely well with no effort on my part.  The above were rescued from the greenhouse early this year where they had simply been left on the benches.  I had brought loads inside already, plaited them up and hung them in the kitchen, I was amazed these ones were also in such good condition having spent much of winter neglected.

They have been planted in rows about 15cm apart (with 2ocm between the rows) in various spots throughout the raised beds, with just their tops poking out.  I love the way you plant a single bulb and a short while later it splits giving you a little group of new bulbs.  I do wonder about simply keeping some of my own bulbs back for growing the next year, I had a little read around on the internet and found some gardeners do, do this, the big problem seems to be that they are obviously not heat-treated against disease but as I’ve never had any Allium diseases (yet!) I might try this next year, save my weekly calls to Thompson & Morgan 😉

Spring Weather…

We are in the middle of half term here in the UK and we’ve just returned from a trip to Yorkshire (where I am from and most of my family still live).  Before heading off I took a picture of some spring flowers I’d picked from the cutting patch.

I am definitely missing some green in the garden for putting with cut flowers, I’d normally have Euphorbia Oblongata but I moved it all last autumn, there is some in the borders but I am too lazy to sear the stems to stop the milky sap from oozing out as you are supposed to do.  I am also missing Cerinthe Major Purpurascens (common name Honeywort) with it’s lovely purple bells that go so well with other spring flowers, this is the second year I’ve forgotten to sow them in autumn, for spring flowering and I’m rather cross with myself.

Replacing the anemones last autumn with new corms was a great move, the original ones planted 4 years ago were getting rather worn out and I am a bit in love with the new red ones.  As well as the original Mr Fokker & Sylphide that I always grow I  have some white (The Bride), but they were a bit nibbled by rabbits that got into the cutting patch and aren’t producing quite so many flowers.  I should say, sadly, that none of the ranunculus planted have survived, I have really bad luck with these in general and all of the mixed fritillaria meleagris that I planted in the lawn, under the trees, have been eaten just as they were about to look beautiful.  I am not a fan of the rabbits in our garden.

Before heading off on our holiday, I took a day to tidy up the vegetable patch.  As part of this I designated one of the raised beds (which needs the wood replacing really, as you can see) as a ‘dump’ space for now.  I have a terrible habit of grabbing empty buckets to do a quick weed but not tidying them away, partly as the recycle bins are always full and there is no other spot to put them.  I hope to get his lot cleaned away before I need to bed for cut flowers, but at least the rest of the patch looks tidy.

We arrived in Yorkshire to a compete change in the weather, gone was the early summer sun and instead there were gales and snow.  This photo is of Grimwith Reservoir, on a long walk I did one day, as you can see the snow was melting, but I kept climbing stiles to find myself faced with 4 foot high snow drifts on the other side to try and navigate my way over.  It was quite surreal after the sunny weather we’d been having in Kent.

We returned to proper spring weather on Monday, a mix of sunshine and showers.  The garden is so grateful for the rain, before we left the poor trees in our borders were looking very sorry for themselves but have perked up nicely now.  I have set up a planting station on the decking outside the kitchen door so I can dash out between showers and get things potted up but also be able to hear the boys.  The rubber gloves are so I can run inside and act as referee when needed without having to wash my hands first, otherwise I’d normally quite like getting my fingers into the soil.

So far I have potted up (from the jiffy 7’s that they were sown indoors):

Tomatoes, Peppers & Chillies

These are now in the (unheated) greenhouse in small pots under long cloches and I’ll be keeping an eye on night time temperatures.  I’ve also moved the cucumbers outside, they went very lanky whilst we were away and I fear wont survive so I’ve planted some more seed indoors to replace them, if needed.

In pots, in the kitchen I have planted:

Sweetcorn ‘Lapwing’ x 16

Melon ‘Edonis’ x 4

And direct, in the garden, I have replanted the Peas ‘Ronda’, the originals have disappeared, I am thinking into the mouths of mice….I’ve also put in all my remaining French Bean ‘Blue Lake Climbing’ in a large pot in the greenhouse, they didn’t germinate last year so I figured I may as well put all the rest of the beans in, see what happens and buy new next year.

There’s so much more to get into the garden over coming weeks, April is always the busiest month, but I plan to take it slowly and do a bit each day.  Ah there’s a break in the rain so I’d better make the most and get back out there.