Peppers and Aubergines…

I can’t believe I totally missed both peppers and aubergines off the list in my last post whilst mentioning things that are still cropping (I also can’t believe it’s taken me so long to actually finish writing this, sorry).  We came back to a mass of both

I see from my notebook that I planted:

Topepo Rossa

Sweet Mini

Worldbeater

Back in February and they have done very well and have most definitely earned a place on next years list.  They were started in the house, then planted up in pots in the greenhouse.  I pinched out the tips so as to get more peppers per plant and they have still turned out a good size (I read in one article that you shouldn’t pinch out the tips or you get very small peppers, other growers suggest you do).

The aubergines:

Turkish Orange

Violetta Firenze

have also done well, and were again started back in February and mostly grown in the greenhouse, although I potted them up outdoors for their final growing stint and they have still ripened well.

With so many ripe peppers, I added them to my last batch of tomato puree.  I simply roasted them on a high heat (after removing any seeds and white bitter parts) and then popped them in a bowl with cling film over for a few minutes, after which I removed the skins and sliced them to add to my puree directly before freezing.  The rest are being eaten in salads and by the boys who love to much on raw red pepper.

As for the poor garden, I have been so busy sewing that it’s been a bit neglected, but I am planning my next phase of planting and ordering a few bits and pieces (more on that in the next post) so hopefully I’ll be getting my hands mucky over the next few weeks 🙂

Tomatoes & Late Frosts…

Well, as predicted we suffered from some late frosts over the past few weeks, I had been keeping an eye on the overnight temperatures so managed to protect most of the tender vegetables with cloches (namely the squash, beans, potatoes and some tomatoes I had planted out), sadly I ran out of cloches for the courgettes and they have died a rather dismal death!  I have replaced 2 of the 4 with my ‘mystery’ seedlings from the germinated squash/courgette/cucumber seeds that had been returned to the compost pot and the other 2 I have left to see of any life returns (although I still have some ‘unknowns’ to pop in later if they don’t recover).

Also, I’ve struggled to germinate all my sweet corn, you need to plant in blocks of a minimum of 9, ideally 12 to get wind pollination so I have ordered and planted new seed of the same variety in the hope they can catch up with the 5 that have germinated.  Annoyingly it took 10 days for these seeds to arrive so there is definitely going to be a gap, I fear this may effect how many kernels I get but as always, time will tell.

The big success has been the tomatoes, they recovered amazingly well from their earlier floppy selves after being planted in larger pots very deeply and removing the seed leaves.  I have potted most up into their final ‘buckets’ with some JI No 2, the Brandywine and Tigerella are for growing in the greenhouse and the San Marzone, 100’s & 1000’s and Sungold are for outside.  For the first time I am growing some in the raised beds, there are a few gaps in my cut flower beds that I have decided to fill with vegetables as I’d rather that then they go empty.

They need staking and their side shoots have to be pinched out as they grow (the jaunty stem growing at an angle between the main stalk and the side stems), once they flower I will feed them once a week and keep tying them in to stop them falling over.  I will also pinch out the growing tips once there are about 6 trusses of flower.  More here on all that.

I think a quick photo update of the beds is best as I’ve lost track of what is and isn’t planted, for now I’m off the make the most of the beautiful sunshine while it lasts 🙂

And it all begins again…

The garden is starting to take up time again and not just sitting around looking at seed catalogs, although I do enjoy doing that bit!  My shallot ‘Longor‘ sets arrived last week, as did my potatoes (‘Charlottes‘, as I usually grow and still my favourite) ready for chitting.  I need to get the shallots in so will do a re-cap on last years planting but I am already struggling for space in the raised beds so I’m not sure where they are going yet.

Today I put my first group of seeds in the germinate.  The February list consists of:

Tomatoes

Sungold x 1

Brandywine x 2

San Marzone x 3

100’s & 1000’s x 3

Tigerella x 3

Aubergine

Violetta x 2

Turkish Orange x 2

Sweet Pepper

Mini Red Skin x 3

Topep Rosso x 3

Chilli

Hot Stuff x 2 (well that’s what is says on the packet!)

Cucumber

La Diva x 3

Tasty Burpless x 3

As you can see, I don’t plant anything in large quantities, we just don’t have the space plus I really only want to grown what we can eat fresh with a bit for use in pickles etc.  I am also quite lazy when it comes to sowing seeds, this year I have used small plant pots filled with an organic (none peat) compost.  I don’t sow many extra pots, only what I hope to grow to the final vegetable, I would rather add extra seed and prick out any extra that germinate, if I want to keep them, or throw the extra seedlings.

The pots have now been covered and left in the kitchen which with it’s underfloor heating is nice and warm, once the first signs of life appear I’ll uncover them and pop them in front of our ‘glass wall’ where they can get plenty of light and annoy the heck out of Marcus by turning the kitchen into a temporary greenhouse 🙂

I did so badly germinating cucumber seeds last year that this time I am doing it ‘properly’.  They need a high heat to germinate, ideally 21-24 degrees so I have potted them up, put them into a box (as it was handy) to block out the light and they have gone next to the radiator in our bathroom which is the overflow radiator so it’s always on and the room temperature is a constant and rather barmy 21 degrees.  We’ll see how they go.

Lastly, I planted up 2 gutters with Beetroot (Pronto & Burpees Golden) seeds in the greenhouse.  I forgot to check the weather forecast (doh!) and see now that we are due a cold spell this this was probably a mistake, however, the seeds have gone into old rain gutters filled with damp compost, 5 cm apart, then tucked up in the seed bags for warmth and to keep out the light.  If they germinate I will thin to 10 cm, before moving them outside and into their final position in one of the raised beds when it’s warmer.  Oh and I soaked the seeds for an hour or so in warm water before planting.

That’s it, enough for today and I really need to make time to plan my vegetable beds so I can get Parsnip seeds in this month.  Right, off to cook a chicken.

Happy New Year!

Just a bit late, but hope you had a lovely time.  We had a very relaxing (as much as it can be with hyper sweet fed young children) time.  I just couldn’t do the planned pared down lunch in the end and opted for the full hog, I just didn’t feel very Christmassy on the day, almost a bit lost but as soon as I decided to cook the full lunch and put the radio on to find Carols at Kings in session everything clicked into place.  Was I genetically born to be chained to the kitchen sink?  I prefer to think I am just happier multi tasking and busy, ideally with glass of wine in hand…when appropriate, obviously.

So, with the freezer bread sauce and stuffing, and some parsnips from the garden (despite snow still on the ground I managed to prize up a few) and with all the rest of the lunch ingredients that had remained on my Ocado delivery we had a full all singing all dancing Christmas meal.  It was yummy and oddly didn’t take up that much time, must have been the canape making that made me so busy the weekend before.

I did extremely well on the foodie present front.  My brother gets a HUGE round of applause for delivering mushroom plugs (I will beg a few hardwood logs from our neighbour to plug them into – more about that later), River Cottage ‘Every Day‘ and…drum roll please…Yorkshire Wine. I kid you not, really there are Vineyards in Yorkshire, more than one I believe.  We got a bottle of Seyval from Leventhorpe Vineyard in Leeds, I have no idea how it tastes, I’ll report back when we open it.    There is also a bottle of fruit wine, Gooseberry, from Yorkshire Country Wine based at Glasshouses, Harrogate.  From this link you can see the other English suppliers including our local Meopham Valley Vineyard, who sell on-line.  I really recommend their sparkling wines, last year I ordered a case to give away as Christmas presents having already bought it a number of times from the local Farmer’s Market and 2 hours later a nice bloke knocked on my door with the delivery (we are kind of local), how about that for service?

My sister also turned up trumps with a copy of Michael Roux Jr’s ‘A Life in the Kitchen‘, signed not once, but twice the second being ‘To Beth, Big Kiss, Michel Roux’, oh yes Big Kiss.  My sis ate in his restaurant and took the already signed book along and asked him to sign for me after telling him how much I like to cook.  How nice is that.

I also had many other lovely presents, but back to the point of this blog, the garden.  It’s survived being covered in snow for a week, the longest I have known since we moved here to Kent and although a bit squashed most things look OK.  The tops of the parsnips have dissolved into a slimy mess but they need eating now and can stay in the ground until needed.  I bravely put the broad beans outside after the snow as they were getting a bit ‘green’ on the soil surface due to the humidity inside the greenhouse and they also look to be surviving.  I was surprised to note that the Chard is still there after being coated in snow, last year the first prolonged frost killed them but they are hanging on this time as are the Kale, covered still in giant cloches and still not really a usable size, I think it will be spring before we can eat them.

We are due another cold spell with a bit of snow over the next week so we’ll see how they all do, hopefully on their own as I am planning to stay cosy indoors and read all my new books!

Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain…

Well, thank goodness for that, some rain at last and after the builders had roofed our old extension so perfect timing.  What a difference it makes, the garden has sprung into life and turned a rather spritely green which is a nice change from brittle yellow.  Last week I planted out the final seeds for the flower garden, which were the sweet peas.  I have used toilet rolls as I figure they act as a sort of root trainer, I did this last year and felt rather smug with my invention only to find it wasn’t very original and everyone does it.  Anyhow they are in, two per roll pushed about 1 inch down, a mix of Midnight, Painted Lady and the seeds I saved from this years Matucana.

DSC_0236

Also starting in the greenhouse are the flowers Antirrhinum/Snapdragon (Crimson Classic, I think), Centaurea Cyanus/Cornflower (Blue Boy) and Scabiosa (Black Cat) all of which will stay there for the Winter after which I will plant them out, under cloches as early as I dare next Spring so they get a good head start.

DSC_0235

The 3 buckets with Broad Bean (Super Aquadulche) are on their way. I still have to decide whether to put them outside for the Winter or leave them in the greenhouse.  They did OK last year outside in a sheltered spot but they were a big scraggy and wind worn by Spring.

DSC_0239

As mentioned in my last post, here are The Purple Sprouting Broccoli (Red Arrow x 2, Rudolph x 2 & Late Purple x 2) looking rather splendid, oops, some weeding required around the bottom; on which note, here is what happens when you go overboard scattering seed heads

DSC_0238

just a few extra nigella seedlings to remove then!

DSC_0235

Last, and by no means least is a photo of the wonderful book ‘Vegetable Growing Month by Month’ by John Harrison.  John contacted me asking to use one of my photos a while back and in return he sent me a copy of his book and some seeds, I know who got the better deal!  Great book, it’s get every detail you need to grow veg month by month (does what is says on the tin) and I am very pleased he sent 100s and 1000s Tomato seeds as I have been looking for these mini tomatoes to add to my seed collection.  I should also mention John has a super fantastic site Allotment Vegetable Growing which is well worth a visit and has every piece of advice, including recipes you could possible need.

Hope the rain keeps up for a while!

Final Autumn Vegetable Planting…oh and garlic…

The final seeds have gone in over the past few weeks to provide some needed winter eating.  In the pots that had contained the squash I have planted seeds for Pak Choi (Tatsoi – an Autumn planting Pak Choi, about 5 per pot) and Kale (Cavalo Nero and Red Bor, one of each per pot as they need a lot of space) which are sprouting now.  They are  a little later than planned but the originals, which were started in the greenhouse, were munched by caterpillars.  Also in the garden I have seedlings (started in the greenhouse) of Chard (White Silver) now planted out (6 altogether) and finally last week I planted up my apple crates with a mix of salad seeds for the winter:

  • Mizuna
  • Mustard – Green in the Snow
  • Lettuce Cos – Green Oak Leaf
  • Lettuce – Cocarde
  • Lettuce – Marveille De Quatre Saison
  • Lettuce – Red Sails

I think I put in some Winter Purslane as well but to be honest can’t be sure.  I was in a hurry and rather stupidly though I would write down what I had planted where and then didn’t, however I do have 5 apple crates now sprouting a mix of seeds (usually 2 types per crate spaced as instructed on the packet).  This is why I should REMEMBER TO LABEL WHAT I PLANT!!!

DSC_0234

My garlic arrived, as ordered a while ago from the Isle of Wight Garlic Farm.  As in this post, I have decided on only planting Albigensian and Solent Wight this year, the bulbs were massive so I planted all the cloves (I sometimes discard/eat the smaller ones in the centre) and they have taken up the best part of two of the raised beds.  This is not ideal but I got annoyed this summer with the garlic being spread over the garden, including in the flower borders so I decided to sacrifice another raised bed in the veg patch.  For the full garlic ‘how to’ post read here.  There is still plenty of time to still order and plant garlic, some can go in as late as Spring but I prefer to give them an Autumn start.

Still growing nicely in the garden are the Alpine Strawberries (Mignonette) which Charlie strips every day.  I am slightly amazed that 5 small plants are providing so many fruit over such a long period, they are a definite favourite and the extra 5 plants I have planned for next year are in place and growing well.  The Purple Sprouting Broccoli (Red Arrow x 2, Rudolph x 2 & Late Purple x 2) planted in the greenhouse in April and then in the bed after the garlic are an amazing size, I had to abandon the Enviromesh as it was rather crushing the leaves so I do a regular caterpillar patrol and the pick them off.  The late purple is rather lagging behind but is still doing well.  Also still in there are my Parsnips (Gladiator) which I will leave until after the first frosts, ideally not too long as last year they ended up rather large!

DSC_0562

Today I planted my final seeds (I think, unless I try and dash in some Spinach or some new herbs), Broad Bean (Super Aquadulche) which can be planted now and left over winter in a sheltered spot for an early crop.  Last year I planted 2 per bucket with John Innes No 2, this year I am going for 3, I had hoped to add a scarlet broad bean but have failed to find one and I saved quite a few beans for planting from the S. Aquadulche so want to make sure I use them.

All I have to do now is try and remember to water them!

Squash, the conclusion…

I couldn’t help but notice it was a bit nippy this morning when we set of on the school run (F started ‘big school’ last week) and I decided to remove all my squash/pumpkins to the greenhouse for their final drying period.  I am pretty sure we wont get any frost but I fear there is so much going on around here I may forget them and it only takes one frost for all the hard work to be ruined.

So, to re-cap, last April I started Squash ‘Turk’s Turban’, ‘Butternut Harrier F1′, ‘Sweet Dumpling’, ‘Buttercup’, ‘Crown Prince’ & ‘Gem/Rolet’ in Greenhouse.  To be honest I struggled to germinate some of them and when it warmed up planted some direct outside.  All my squash were planted in 125 litre (I think!) plastic buckets bought from The Garden Superstore and were filled with the contents of my compost piles (to be honest not fully matured), some bought manure and topped off with a bag or two of John Innes No 2.  The containers are big and heavy and wont be moved unless I empty them first.  They worked really well, I had healthy plants and I’m very happy with this method as it saves the raised beds for other things.

A while ago I did photograph the growing squash but I think we will skip this and go straight to the ‘ta-da’ shot:

DSC_0265

so this is what I’ve got:

Buttercup (top left) x 2 – not bad, might have liked another one but they are a decent size

Crown Prince (middle back) x 1 – love the colour of this and it’s the biggest, as expected.

Gem/Rolet (right) x bucket loads – this is the only summer squash so needs eating pretty swiftly but the quantity and lovely 1 person portion makes it a winner.  I have eaten loads already, pricked with a fork, boiled for 45 mins then cut open seeds removed and eaten direct with a blog of butter and some seasoning.

Sweet Dumling (bottom left) x 4 – I grew this as it’s described as a ‘Shreck’ squash and I thought the kids would like that.  It was very late to get started so I am happy with my 4, they are meant to be that size, like the Gem, you get lots of small squash.

Butternut (bottom middle) x 6 – I should have removed some of these earlier, I took off about 6 forming fruit but I think a little late, I think I should have aimed for 5 if I wanted decent sized squash, as it is I have 6 small but edible ones.  They could have done with a bit longer to grow, they started late.

Oh, did I forget one?  Oh, yes, that would be my ‘comedy’ squash, the petite but perfectly formed Turk’s Turban.

DSC_0266

This was part of the three (or two in my case) sisters planting and as you can see, it didn’t flourish.  I watered the container planted squash every day, a lot, and it’s been a dry summer here, I tended to rather neglect my raised beds so I think this was the problem, it’s a shame as I was growing this partly for decoration, as you can see it’s very pretty (and tastes good too apparently) there were 2 but one got eaten by slugs early on and this mini version was the only surviver.

Next year I think I will add ‘Marina di Chioggia’ which is an Heirloom variety that’s has fantastic warty skin and I will definitely shift the ‘Turk’s Turban‘ into a container to get a better crop.

Late August eating…

As with the flower beds, the poor veg beds have been a bit neglected.  I have concentrated on watering pots and have rather let the rest dry out resulting in a bit of a scruffy mess.  The courgettes have finally come to an end, I took the photo below just before cutting and composting.

DSC_0234

The 2 x courgette ‘Defender‘ (dark green) were really past their best, very dry and covered in powdery mildew (more about this in the next post on squash), the 2 x courgette ‘Soleil‘ (yellow as above)  still had life in it but the leaves were also covered in powdery mildew and I had thrown a few marrows away recently so decided to also compost those.  The 4 plants did us well, they grew very nicely in their potato bags and provided just about the right amount for our family (2 adults, 2 kids).

DSC_0237

Also still providing lost of fruit are the tomato plants.  The lovely orange cherry ‘Sungold‘ are about over as are the ‘Tigerella’ and beefeater ‘Brandywine’ but ‘San Marzone’ are at their prime, we are getting huge trusses of fruit, as above.  The 8 plants (2 of each) were about right, next year I think I will add a couple more early fruiting but we have managed lots of puree for the freezer, a good few jars of ketchup and lots of fresh fruit.  Sadly the plants are showing signs of Early Blight but I know from past years they still have time so I have removed some large trusses to ripen in the sun for a few days and have left the rest on the plants to chance.  There is a great description of Blight here for those unsure what it is or how to deal with it.

DSC_0238

Finally, in the greenhouse the Aubergine ‘Violetta di Firenze’ are ready and outside Aubergine ‘Slim Jim’, although they are a bit nibbled by earwigs.  Other than that, it’s cucumber, salad crops and herbs that are providing food, oh and the final few sweetcorn.  There is plenty growing ready for over winter and lots more to sow but that’s for a big September update when I will take stock of the whole patch.

Early August Eating…

The courgettes are still coming fast, so fast in fact that I have to confess to a few ending up in the bin.  The 4 plants (2 x Defender, 2 x Soleil) have provided about 22 courgettes each and are still producing but are looking past their best so I might cut them off and compost in the coming week.  I just went outside and discovered two huge marrows that I have missed lurking below a leaf – oops! this happens so quickly, if you don’t cut the courgettes whilst small, they suddenly bloat into big fat marrows.  These two have gone into the fridge for either chutney or stuffing later.

DSC_0237

I tend to find the same thing happens with cucumbers.  Above are a couple of comedy large cucumbers that were hiding behind a leaf.  We haven’t done as well this year growing these, I think I took the plants (grown in buckets in the greenhouse) outside too early and they were a little in the shade later in the day which has affected their growth.  In the past we have grown huge triffid like plants, but still, we have a steady supply coming now so nothing to complain about.  The only adjustment is next year I will only plant Cucumbers ‘Tasty Burpless’ & ‘La Diva’ and I wont bother with the Gerkin ‘Piccolo Di Parigi’.  I had ideas about pickling my own gerkins but with 2 plants you don’t get enough ready at one time to pickle.

DSC_0244

Also ready to eat are the summer squash ‘Rolet’ also known as ‘Gem’.  The plants so far has 10 fruits, 3 of which we have eaten.  I think this deserves to be on the winners list, it’s the only summer squash I have grown, the rest are winter (a squash update post is due later this month), for a quick re-cap all of these have been grown in giant plastic tubs filled with home made compost and it seems to work well.  To cook, I opted for simply boiling the gem squash (after pricking with a fork) for about 45mins then cutting open, removing the seeds and putting a blob of butter and salt in each half and eating.  Yummy.

DSC_0240

Finally, today we had our first 2 sweetcorn for lunch.  I was worried about the pollination with only 12 plants but it seems OK.  Could be a bit better at the top of the cob but considering I did nothing to help (no shaking or hand pollinating) not bad.  To check they were ready, I carefully pulled a bit of leaf/husk back and checked the colour (pale yellow) and also pushed my finger nail into a kernel, a milky liquid squirted out so I got the pan on the boil and waited 4 mins for sweetcorn heaven.  They were excellent and despite the space 12 plants need I will be growing them again next year, and to think, there are still 10 more cobs to eat when ready!

Garlic update. And the winner is…

Albigensian Wight and Solent Wight are by far my favourite from the home grown garlics so next year these are what I plan to grow.  Both had nice big bulbs earlier than the rest (even though Solent is a late variety) and both are soft necked so keep well, in fact from the first year I planted garlic we still have 2 bulbs of Solent Wight left and they are a still OK, although with so much nice fresh garlic now ready it’s unlikely we will eat them, I will probably stuff them into the next chicken I cook as I can’t face throwing them out.

For more information on how I grow garlic check out this post. 

Recently, the spare bed wasn’t very inviting for guests to stay (but keept the Vampires away!) as it looked like this:

DSC_0242

I had brought some of the garlic indoors from the greenhouse as with all the recent rain I wanted to make sure everything was spread out properly for drying and our spare room has one wall of glass so gets pretty hot.  

DSC_0248

Last weekend I took it all down and plaited the soft necked and tied the hard necked into bundles.  I was a bit short of string so they aren’t tied very nicely, but you get the idea, I will buy some raffia at some point and tidy them up.  I plait the same way as I used to try and french plait my hair when I was a teenager – badly!  I see there are lots of on-line instructions for this if you just google it.  I am not opting out here, honestly, but my method is a bit make-it-up-as-you-go-along and there are lots of great tutorials on how to do it properly.  The rest have just been trimmed, very roughly, and will be used first.

DSC_0253

So, with last year’s all indoors and stored in a cool out of sunlight spot I deiced to pre-order for sowing this Autumn.  I have ordered:

Albigensian Wight – Softneck

Solent Wight – Softneck

and, just for fun, a set of wild garlic to plant under the trees.  All have been ordered from The Garlic Farm and should be delivered from September onwards.  I see that they have included smaller planting Starter Packs which is great as I struggled to plant up their full size ‘Garlic Lover’s Growing Pack’ and I have a decent sized garden.

Whilst in pre-order mode I have also ordered 

Shallot – Longer

Red Onion – Garnet

from good old Thompson and Morgan for dispatch December onwards.

Finally, whilst in ‘order’ mode I wanted to mention that there are seed and plant sales on everywhere so it’s a great time to go and buy your seeds.