Tag Archives: brassicas

My blue wall seems to be orange and purple!

My little sister emailed me yesterday and pointed out I had not posted anything for a while. I realise this is true but there is a reason. Every time I sat down to write something all I could think about was the awful weather, nothing is growing and how the garden is being eaten alive by slugs.

I am one of life’s positive people – irritatingly so sometimes. My glass is always half full etc etc etc but when midsummer night came and we were sitting in the dark with the fire on – normally we would be sitting outside until after 11pm – even I found it too hard to think of something positive.

Since then, the temperature has risen to a level that is still below average for this time of year but slightly warmer than the record breaking coldest June on record levels experienced recently. And there has been the odd sunny spell. It is still very wet, that combination of heat and damp that conspires against straight, shiny hair (ladies, you’ll know what I mean), but that is why scrunchies were invented.

So last night when I got home I wandered round the garden looking for something positive to tell you all and, despite recent adverse conditions, there is some good news.

My experiment growing early carrots and peas inside the greenhouse has paid off and I now have lots of the sweetest petit pois and Autumn King and Purple Haze carrots to eat. The spinach and pak choi are also ready for eating.

The tomatoes, lettuce, rocket, basil, coriander, peppers and chillies are all making progress, the aubergines are in the bed in the greenhouse and I have flowers on my melons (ok how many of you are hearing Kenneth Williams saying “ooh matron!”).

Outside, the brassicas are happy and there is beetroot, fennel, beans, peas and mangetout. The strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries and blackcurrants should be ready for picking soon and the potato bags have already been filled up to cover the shaws.

On the flower front, I have still not finished planting all my seedlings, but most of what I have planted has been eaten by slugs.  I have turned my focus to the winter flowering pansies and perennial flowers for next year which are all germinating nicely inside.

Finally, my biggest surprise came when the flowers on my blue wall started to come out. I dedicated a trellis and the border in front of it to be only blue flowers to see if I could create a wall of blue flowers. For the climbers I picked blue sweet peas and a variety of morning glory called Grandpa Otts – a lovely royal blue flower. In the border I have planted blue and white anemones, white cosmos, silver dust, salvia, catnip (not that there is much left after Dennis has eaten it) and, when they are a bit bigger, my lavender that I have grown from seed.

Well the monring glory flowers have started to come out. What colour would you say this is?

In my book this is purple!

However, at least purple is closer in the colour spectrum to blue than this anemone!

My blue and white anemones appear to be orange!!!!!

But after the season we’ve had so far I am just delighted to have any flowers.

Happy gardening!

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The greenhouse that time forgot

It feels as if nothing is really growing but I have just looked at some photographs taken a month ago and there has been some movement…but not nearly as much as there should have been. It is as if time has stopped.

I should have my tomato plants in growbags by now. I am only growing three varieties this year, moneymaker, red cherry and sungold. These are the ones I always have most success with.

I was having a bit of blogger banter with fellow gardening blogger Adam Leone (see Carrot Tops Allotment http://carrottopsallotment.com/) about the tastiest cherry tomato. He reckoned Gardeners Delight is the best variety but I think sungold is just that bit better. Put it this way, last year very few of our sungold tomatoes made it as far as the kitchen. In fact, very few made it out of the greenhouse. They were so sweet we ate them like sweeties.

So I set Adam a challenge. Grow both varieties and then do a blind tasting to see which one he prefers. He has even gone as far as mention my challenge in his last podcast and he has planted his sungold seeds – so the challenge is on! All we need now is some sunshine!

This week I managed to plant swedes and Florence fennel outside. The beetroot and peas I planted outside a couple of weeks ago have germinated which is good news.

I have potted on some zinnias, cosmos and diascia. The flowers and brassicas are all hardening off nicely. It has certainly been the perfect hardening off weather!

The brassicas could really do with being planted out now but we dug over the plot two weeks ago and normally we would have expected the clods of earth to have dried enough to crumble when stamped on. However, it has never stopped raining long enough and so I am unable to get the patch prepared for planting!

The brassica patch is not quite ready!

My sweet peas have been ready to go out for weeks and they have become really straggly and unsightly…so I sowed some more.

My gran’s magnolia tree is about to flower but we have had to cover it with fleece a few nights when frost was forecast.

Casper the friendly ghost!

I lost a melon and courgette plant, so only have one of each left. I have planted some more seeds just in case.

The good news is the peas, livingstone daisies, sunflowers, potatoes, blueberry, carrots and pak choi are thriving in the greenhouse and the strawberry plants outside have started to flower! My 4 okra plants seem to be in the land that time forgot.

24 April 2012

18 May 2012 – spot the difference!

I have not been able to sow any seeds for cut flowers outside, something new I wanted to try this year. So I have just planted up some large pots and left them in the greenhouse until things warm up.

The forecast for the weekend is sunny spells with a high temperature of…FIVE DEGREES! Never mind, it’s nearly June……

 

Round and round we go – crop rotation made easy!

I have been desperate to start planting seeds outside but it has been so cold and wet I was not able to. However, this morning saw the sun shine for the first time in ages so it was boots on and outside.

we won’t be planting any veg in this patch this year!

Now I have a conundrum. We had 3 areas for growing veg but due to Mr Mac’s path and wall building project, one of the areas has a mountain of earth piled on top of it. It will eventually become a lovely raised bed enclosed with a stone wall but for the time being it will be sprayed with weed killer, covered in black plastic and left until next year.

This leaves me with 2 areas and one has already been earmarked for brassicas. We have “acquired” an old gazebo frame which will support a net to cover them and protect them from cabbage white butterflies and the resulting caterpillars.

Over the last three years we have planted potatoes in each patch to break up the soil and have followed a crop rotation system, making sure the same vegetables were not grown in the same place 2 years in a row.

One veggie plot ready for action.

So my conundrum this morning was to work out what I had planted in my 2 remaining veggie patches last year and try to work out what can go where this year. This hurt my brain! So now that I have worked it out, to save you the bother, I will gladly share my new found knowledge.

Depending on what book you consult and how much space you have, crops can be rotated over 3 years or 4. I will go with 4 but if you only have room for 3, alliums and roots should be put together.

The idea is to avoid planting the same crop in the same bit of ground more than one year in four.

Crops fall into 4 categories:

  1. Legumes – peas and beans
  2. Alliums – onions, shallots, leeks and garlic
  3. Roots – peppers, tomatoes, aubergines, celery, celeriac, beetroot, carrots, sweet potatoes, parsnips and potatoes
  4. Brassicas – cauliflowers, cabbages, brussels sprouts, broccoli, pak choi, swedes, turnips and radishes

Plot 1

Year 1 Legumes

Year 2 Brassicas

Year 3 Roots

Year 4 Alliums

Plot 2

Year 1 Roots

Year 2 Alliums

Year 3 Legumes

Year 4 Brassica

Plot 3

Year 1 Alliums

Year 2 Legumes

Year 3 Brassicas

Year 4 Roots

Plot 4

Year 1 Brassicas

Year 2 Roots

Year 3 Alliums

Year 4 Legumes

Advantages of crop rotation:

  • This is a natural way of preventing root diseases.
  • Some crops like potatoes blanket the soil, smothering weeds, so it is useful to follow them with crops that are difficult to weed like onions.
  • Root crops also break up the ground keeping the soil structure open and full of air.
  • Legumes put nitrogen into the soil making it ideal for nitrogen-hungry crops, like brassicas, to follow.

Jobs for May

Well, for the first day in May we have some hazy sunshine and it is not raining! It is still quite cold though.

May is the month to start sowing outside and hardening off seedlings to plant out when the soil becomes warm enough.

Is anyone else getting a sore neck from gazing at the sky, wondering when the sunshine will return?

I have a bit of a backlog in the greenhouse. Lots of plants successfully germinated in March are ready to go into cold frames (which have not been built yet!) but after what happened in April I fear for their future if I put them outside.

Brassicas outside but kept under a net just to be on the safe side!

I put the brassicas out during the day and put them back inside at night but not only is there still a risk of frost damage, the slugs have slithered out of hibernation (do slugs hibernate?) and are starting to nibble. It’s like living in a war zone!

 

 

Anyway, I have checked the books, encyclopedia, manuals, handbooks and magazines and here is a summary of what we should all be doing in the month of May.

Jobs to do:

  • Harden off frost tender plants
  • Once the last risk of frost has passed, plant crops outside
  • Start watering newly planted fruit and any grown in pots
  • Keep an eye on the pest situation – flea beetle, slugs, snails, pigeons, aphids and carrot flies…where does it end…
  • Keep growing small quantities of salad
  • Hoe and weed regularly
  • Keep haunching up potatoes – we have still to sow the maincrops which should really have been done last week but I’m sure one week won’t make a huge difference.
  • Put in supports for peas and beans. We use the prunings (or whips) from the apple trees – the ultimate in upcycling!
  • Net fruit trees and bushes and check for diseases and pests
  • Remove raspberry suckers and strawberry runners
  • Support tall plants as they grow
  • Finally, remember to sit down and enjoy your hard work!

I am going to grow tomatoes, peppers, chillies, aubergines and okra in the greenhouse.  I have brassicas, leeks, shallots and celeriac ready to plant out but will probably wait until the second half of the month. I have sown some peas outside as well as beetroot and parsnips but I also plan to sow beans, spinach, Florence fennel and swedes.

So it is shaping up to be a busy old month!

The greenhouse is full!

Something is eating my garden!

I went down to the greenhouse this morning to put my brassicas out in the sunshine to harden them off and noticed a couple of bulbs lying on the path. Then I followed the trail of destruction that led to 5 empty planters which, as of yesterday, were full of tulips just ready to open their flowers.

the flowers have been eaten right down to the soil and the bulbs pulled out!

Total devastation!

We had planned to move them into the front garden today but now there is nothing left.

Earlier this week we also had to dig up 2 rows of rainbow chard which was also being eaten by something.

The chard, slowly getting nibbled

CHIEF SUSPECTS

Pigeons are the top suspects. I have noticed a lot of them flying around and sitting in the trees. The damage to the chard would indicate it was pigeons but I don’t see how they would be able to eat the tulip plants and be able to pull the bulbs out. We have not been bothered by pigeons before but then we have never grown chard or tulips before.

Rabbits are 2nd favourite. We are surrounded by fields which are full of rabbits although we are not usually bothered by them as we have two employees of the furry, four-legged variety who catch them. I could see the rabbits eating the chard but the tulips would be too high for them to reach – unless they carry a ladder!

The final suspect – deer. This year we have seen a record number of 7 deer in the fields beside us and they are becoming used to our presence, grazing right up to our fence. They eat grass, but do they eat tulips and chard? I don’t know.

Two outsiders

There is a fox which wanders around but we scare it away if it comes too close. Could he be a vegetarian? There is also a pheasant wandering around looking for a girlfriend – would he eat chard and tulips?

I am devastated about the tulips as we had looked after them all winter and they were going to produce a stunning display. That’s gardening for you though.

Thinking about it, something was attracted to the chard and after we pulled it out it has looked for the next best thing – tulips! Perhaps we should have left the chard as a decoy.

Here is one tulip that had come out. Really beautiful.

Could this be the reason why?

I am going to have to have a serious word with these two!

It’s the brassica X-Factor!

We have been blessed with a few days of unseasonably hot weather. It has been 23 degrees this week which is what we would class as a good day in June, July or August….but it is still March!

While the shorts got a rude awakening being pulled out of their winter hideaway 2 months early, the hot weather has put a spanner in the works as far as work in the garden goes.

I had planned a week of potting on my flowers but it was too hot to work in the greenhouse – 38 degrees at one point on Monday. It was too hot to dig, too hot to wear wellies and everything is confused. My fear is that many of the flowers may die off with the frost that will inevitably arrive (probably in June the way things are going!).

It is cooling down slightly now and after much consideration (ie what would be the easiest!) I decided to pot on my brassicas.

This  year I am growing red cabbage, white cabbage, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and brocolli. I am trying new varieties of white cabbage and cauliflower this year. I have gone for a variety of white cabbage called “Minicole” which produces a smaller head and can be left in the ground longer. The problem we had in the past was that all the cabbages were ready at once and they were huge. We would be eating them all week and had to give most of them away.

I am also trying an all year round variety of cauliflower and will try planting seeds periodically to extend the eating season. Again, there is only so much cauliflower cheese you can eat in a week. “Why don’t you freeze it?” I hear you ask. I tried. I freeze things then forget about them, find them 2 years later and throw them out! I need to start keeping a freezer inventory so I remember what I have.

My next problem is I am too successful! Most of the seeds sown germinate and I have struggled in the past with getting rid of any plants. I pot them on then try to give as many away as I can but then find we are left with 30 or 40 plants which is just too much for two people.

This year I decided I had to be brutal. Only pot on as many as we will need with a couple of emergency plants in case we lose any. So I found myself holding X-Factor style auditions in the greenhouse, examining every seedling for signs of healthy stems and leaves and I even found myself lining up several specimens to see who had the best roots. Only the best made it through to the finals!

I have kept 9 red cabbage, 9 brussel sprouts and 18 brocolli. The reason brocolli were shown some favouritism is because my friend is taking some but last year the brocolli stems were very spindly which meant we maybe had enough for 3 meals (from 12 plants!). I love brocolli so I decided to grow more of it.

I used pots rather than seed trays to germinate the white cabbage and cauliflower seeds and was not very successful. I think something ate the cauliflower. I only had 3 cauliflower and 4 cabbage seedlings to pot on. I have sown some more today so fingers crossed!

Here they all are in their new 3 inch pots.

As I write, Mr Mac is laying slabs on which my coldframes will sit so by the time he is finished, these guys will be ready to go outside to harden off.

What he does not know yet is that I plan to grown them in a new raised bed…….which he has still to make!