Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Tomatoes - The Jewels of the Garden

Well, how did we all get on with our tomatoes last year?  I made the decision to grow more outdoors - bad decision!  The poor plants didn't stand a chance against the wet weather and blight.  Up at the plot the Sungold stood their ground and didn't succumb,  they were very slow to produce any fruits, but gradually caught up, and I was still picking them in October.


In the greenhouse I grew Marmande, Alicante and Gardeners Delight which fared better

I try and sow my first batch of seed in February, especially for the the larger tomatoes, to give them a long growing season.  Another batch in March and then again in April - hopefully that will give me a fair chance of  getting a good harvest, by not putting all my eggs in one basket and sowing them all at the same time.  The Tumbling Tom plants in the hanging baskets are usually the most prolific, but last year they let me down I'm sad to say - the tomatoes just refused to ripen and I had to bring them into the relative warmth of the greenhouse - something I have never had to do before.

This year I am going to try a few new varieties including Bloody Butcher, Garden Peach and Red Zebra.  These are from a mixed packet of seed which also includes a white tomato called  Snowberry.
Bloody Butcher


Red Zebra

Garden Peach

Let's hope this year is a better year for tomatoes - plenty of sun, not too much rain and definitely no blight. So  - it's seed packets and potting compost at the ready - propagators plugged in and warmed up - and let's get planting! 

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

How Not To Grow Lettuce

How about a sunny picture of some bolted lettuce to take our minds off the weather conditions outside.

Bolted Lettuce - August 2011

The Oregon State University partnered with the Oregon Food Banks Learning Gardens Programme has asked for my permission to reprint this photo in the booklet that will accompany the courses.

I can only guess that they will be featuring this photo in a lesson called 'How Not to Grow Lettuce!'

It is a rather nice picture of bolted lettuce though, and because they asked nicely, I gave my permission for them to use it.

In 2012 the lettuce was all eaten by slugs before it had a chance to bolt, or even grow, for that matter.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Surviving the Winter . . . Be Prepared

After reading Charles Dowding's excellent book 'How to Grow Winter Vegetables' I decided to follow his advice and cover up my winter vegetables before the start of winter to ensure their survival if the snow decided to fall and the temperatures drop.

Netting covering the psb and cabbages
Netting cloches covering chard and celery

Using everything I could find, fleece, plastic sheeting, netting and cloches I then covered the  winter plants to ensure their survival till the weather gets warmer.  My reasoning being, if the weather gets harsh, which it is now, at least I will be able to get something to eat from the garden.  I braved today's snow to take some pictures to show you.

This cloche is made from the top of an old metal arch
that I covered with a mesh cover to protect the spring cabbage

I used netting cloches to cover the chard and celery, netting to cover the psb, fine mesh butterfly fabric for my new spring cabbage plants and ordinary netting to drape over the cabbages.  This is an experiment to see which is the best covering to hold off the winter snows.

draped green mesh over some garden canes to protect
winter onions and cabbage
There are more young cabbage plants nestling under this netting cloche
Inside the greenhouse I have a few lettuce seedlings and in the cold frame, some spinach and chard seedlings.
They are not a winter variety, just normal salad leaves

Inside the greenhouse the young lettuce seedlings
are covered with plastic fruit cartons
with a double layer of fleece on top

the chard and spinach in the coldframe shows no sign
of winter damage save that of being nibbled by
something or other
The lettuce in the old tomato grow bags is covered by ventilated polythene

a pot of rocket leaves in the greenhouse seem
perfectly ok without any extra protection

So, when it finally stops snowing, I will lift the covers which are now weighed down with snow and check to see how everything has fared.  I suppose in the end it is all about common sense and being prepared for the worst.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

The Best Laid Plans Have Gone Awry...

Purple Sprouting Broccoli this year

I am fast running out of veg to eat from the garden.  It is getting to that 'hungry gap' stage now - there are only a couple of small Savoy Cabbages left, the Spring Cabbage is still not ready and there is no sign of any stems on the Purple Sprouting Broc. yet.

Savoy Cabbage last winter

My planning for winter wasn't as good as last year - otherwise I would still have had plenty left.  No January King cabbage, no Brussels Sprouts.  The Scarlet Kale hasn't produced as much leaf as last year and the Cavolo Nero is, quite frankly, pathetic.

Scarlet Kale last winter

It is hard to judge just how much leafy veg you need over the winter months and I thought I had planted enough - I grew several varieties of broc from early to late varieties, but something has gone wrong with the plan - the so-called early varieties just haven't produced anything yet

January King Cabbage last winter
So, I am going to have to put my thinking cap on again when ordering seed for this year to make sure I have enough brassicas to last through next winter.  Seems strange to be talking about next winter when we still haven't finished with this one, but brassicas need a long growing season and it won't be long before seeds will be sown.

cabbage leaf in close up

The weather seems to have taken its toll on my brassicas this year, the cabbage are a lot smaller than last year and not anywhere near as leafy as they should be - come on Elaine, get your act together - you can do better than this.  There, that's me ticked off.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Getting Ready for the New Gardening Season

 Well, that's it then.  The Christmas season is over.  The tree has been taken down and the fragile ornaments carefully packed away for another year.  Cards that were suitable have been made into present tags for next year.  The foliage brought it to decorate the house has been removed.  The house is back to normal, another Christmas season swept away leaving only a few uneaten chocolates behind.

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Now it is time to start planning for the next highlight of the year - the beginning of the new gardening season.  Seed catalogues to be pondered over, choosing what we will be eating from the veg garden over the next year - wondering how we are going to fit everything in - wishing for more space.

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Preparing the soil, mulching, manuring, fertilising - making it ready to take the vulnerable seedlings and plants that will be soon filling every available space.

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Flower pots and seed trays need to be washed, new packets of labels standing by to be written with the new varieties we will be trying this year.

There are still a few weeks to go before the soil warms up enough to be able to plant anything, but there should still be enough veg left in the garden to pick for the odd meal.

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Will this year be more successful that last - will mistakes made last year be rectified in this.  Who knows?  For me, personally, the end result isn't always important - it is all that goes before that I enjoy, the sowing and pricking out - the transplanting and potting-on.  Watching the seedlings come through and the anticipation of whether or not they will all survive, is all part of the pleasure of gardening.   BRING IT ON.

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