Monday, June 10, 2013

Mystery plant

I've just found this mystery plant in one of my raised beds. I thought it was going to be a runner or French bean that had self-seeded from last year, but when I dug it up it looks more like a parsnip root. I've potted it up and will keep an eye on it to see what it turns into!

PS It's looking more and more like a bean of some sort

PPS Turned out to be a runner bean and produced loads of beans

Salad leaves

I've grown a couple of types of salad leaves this year - Suttons "Speedy Veg Spicy Oriental Mix" and Mr Fothergill's "Mixed Lettuce Leaves". Rather than sowing them straight into the raised beds this year, I started them off in a modular seed tray. Having planted them out about 3 weeks ago I found the birds were helping themselves (we seem to have a whole flock of sparrows nesting around our house!). Having covered them with netting, supported by forsythia canes (see here) they are now doing well and taste lovely!


Just planted out

Growing well (with protection!)

Fingers crossed no more frosts

19th May. According to local weather records, we should be past the last frost by now so I've been leaving the front open on my growhouse for a week or so. Over the weekend, I planted out my sweetcorn, courgettes and runner beans.

10th June. Well, it's now 3 weeks later and we didn't have any frosts! Of the 18 sweetcorn plants, 2 got a bit eaten (slugs maybe, sparrows more likely) and 1 has completely disappeared. However, I'm pleased to say the others are all doing well. The courgettes are all doing well and have lots of flowers forming. The runner beans are more variable - 1 seems to be a non-starter, while another 2 are romping ahead.

Sweetcorn, just planted out
Sweetcorn, 3 weeks later

Courgettes, just planted out
Courgettes, 3 weeks later

Runner beans, just planted out

Runner beans, 3 weeks later

Sunday, May 19, 2013


My dwarf apple tree has 3 different varieties grafted onto the root stock. The Discovery are ready first, followed by James Grieve and finally Fiesta, giving a lovely long picking season. This year it was really obvious that the blossom was developing at different rates. I wonder if that's anything to do with the cold/late Spring? It certainly felt like nature was waiting to pounce and then everything burst into life at once.  These photos were all taken within minutes of each other... 

Discovery - blossoms over
James Grieve - blossoms fading
Fiesta - blossoms still opening

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Weekend work

I haven't done a great deal in the garden this weekend as I did my sponsored swim yesterday. Despite some aching muscles though, I managed to dig up the remains of last year's rainbow chard and kale. We had a pretty good crop of chard, but the kale never really came to anything. I think the problem with the kale was that it didn't get a very good start, being attacked by caterpillars. I left the chard all through the Winter, and the sparrows have been helping themselves - hopefully they took a few bugs too!

I also tidied up the strawberries. The instructions said to remove runners in the first year, but I obviously didn't do a very good job. As a result, I now have about 12 more plants to pot up. Free plants any-one?!


I bought a bare rooted rhubarb crown way back in the autumn, and I was worried it hadn't made it through the awful Winter we had. Much to my relief, this week it decided to show itself. Don't think we'll harvest any this year, but next year should be fine.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

More progress

Last weekend, Amy and I planted the rest of the seed potatoes, this time in potato bags. On Monday, I potted on the chilli seedlings - they started off looking a bit sad and I was worried I'd killed them. However, they soon picked up and are now sprouting their 1st true leaves.

I've also taken the fleece off the raised bed that was protecting the shallots and pea shoots. They are both doing nicely now, so I took the opportunity to put in the support for the peas. This year I'm trying netting stretched between bamboo canes.
Pea shoot

Shallot shoots

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


I made the most of the weather when I got home from work this afternoon and potted up my basil. The "Red Rubin" seeds came free with Kitchen Garden magazine and their advice is to sow thinly and grow them on as a clump rather than individually - apparently this prevents stem rot. So, rather than splitting up each cell, I potted them on as a clump. Fingers crossed!
Basil "Red Rubin" seedlings before potting on

Basil "Genovese" seedlings before potting on

The "after" shot!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Potting on

My sweetcorn and courgettes were looking a bit overgrown in their seed trays, so I spent some time potting them on today. Good job too - their roots (especially the sweetcorn) were really long already. To give the sweetcorn some extra depth, I put them in toilet roll tubes on top of the pot (unfortunately I was 1 short!)

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Sprouting seeds

A week ago, I sowed a whole load of seeds and they are already sprouting well. The only exception being the peppers - no sign of them yet. The courgettes and basil are doing really well as you you can see:

Courgette seedlings
2 types of basil seedlings

The sweetcorn in the propagator
are growing well:

and the sweetcorn that were chitting in the airing cupboard have also done well, with all but 2 having lovely long roots. I've potted these up into 3" pots now, and put them in my growhouse outside.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Busy weekend

Well, finally the sun has decided to shine, and the wind is somewhat less fierce, so maybe Spring has finally sprung! I've made the most of it and been busy planting.

Home Guard potatoes before being covered
(with garlic and onions in the corner of the bed)

Yesterday morning I planted out 12 of my "Home Guard" early potatoes. I think I probably could have risked putting them in earlier, but hopefully the extra chitting time will allow them to catch up quickly as they've got lovely shoots by now. I've still got some more to plant, but can't decide where to put them, so they'll have to wait.

In the afternoon, I put in a wide row of 30 mangetout (Delikata) and 2 rows of parsnips (Lisbonnais on a tape, and Duchess F1). I'm going to make a big effort to thin them out this year in the hope that I get better roots. I also sowed some sweetcorn (Applause F1), courgettes (All Green Bush), chillis (Hot Cayenne) and 2 types of basil Red Rubin and Sweet Genovese). These have all gone into my windowsill propagator in the kitchen.

Today I had more of a flower day, with a trip to the local nursery to buy some plug plants to grow on. I've put some sweet pea seeds in to soak overnight and some more directly into toilet roll tubes. I'm also trying another method for sweetcorn - they are sitting on damp kitchen towel in the airing cupboard until they sprout. It will be interesting to see which method does best.

Sunday, March 31, 2013


Just found this post that I wrote last October, but doesn't seem to have been published:

I've been regularly picking carrots for a few weeks now. A few had split (blame the weather) but not so many of the recent ones.These little ones were the first of the Chanteney carrots that Amy planted. They look good and taste fine, but they have pretty much all had a green top, and don't taste as carrotty as the conventional ones. I'm not sure about green bits, so tend to cut the worst out, which is a bit fiddly given the size. I wonder whether I should have earthed them up like the potatoes?

Getting ready for the summer

This morning the clocks changed, the sun was out and it was beginning to feel a bit like Spring. Our back garden is gradually drying out, so it's now possible to walk on the grass in Crocs and not get muddy toes! Anyway, I thought I'd make the most of it and decided to prune the raspberries that I planted last year (have a look here). 4 of the 6 canes have started sprouting and it looks like there's a few runners coming up too, so I guess they weren't too waterlogged last year. I've also dug out some of the bottom of the compost bin to use as a mulch for them (and the strawberries in the same bed).

By this afternoon, the winter had returned - overcast and cold. I decided the ground is still a bit cold to sow much in the raised beds, so have started a few things off in seed trays in my new growhouse. I've put in some Galaxy runner beans (in toilet roll tubes), Lisbon spring onions and a couple of types of mixed salad leaves (Mr Fothergill's mixed lettuce leaves and Suttons Spicy Oriental mix). These were all from seed packets I opened last year, but hopefully they'll still germinate well enough.

Monday, March 25, 2013


Last year I grew red onions from seed. Although I did get a few that developed to an eatable size, they were all pretty small. I'm not sure whether the rubbish weather was to blame or whether it was because I grew them from seed. Anyway, this year I thought I'd have a change. Before Christmas I put in Senshyu Yellow Onions and today I've put in some shallots. My fingers were frozen in the few minutes I was outside, so I've covered them up with fleece (will keep the birds off too!). The onions are beginning to show some green shoots already, so I won't bother covering them. Only time will tell...
Last year's red onions

Ready to get sowing

I spotted a half price, double size growhouse in the garden centre the other day, so it would have been rude not to buy it really! I've been waiting for the weather to warm up a bit but there's no sign of that yet, so I figured it was time to construct it anyway. I've taken the bottom section out of my old, smaller one and it now fits neatly under the kitchen window. Plenty of room for lots of seed trays, no need for all the shuffling around and balancing I did last year - all I need now is some sun!

Sunday, March 17, 2013


I wasn't planning to grow asparagus, as the family never seem that enthusiastic when I buy it. But when we went to the garden centre the other day, Amy persuaded me that I should get some as she loves it! Needless to say, the pot was purchased. Today I finally managed to find 5 minutes between the showers to get it in the ground. The pot label says it's a year old, so I might even get a few spears this year if I'm lucky...

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Garden planner software

I've been playing with the 30 day free trial of Dobies (of Devon) garden planner software. I've not included the whole garden, and not used all the software's features, but I like it so far. I put in last year's plants and it warns me for this year's positions for healthy crop rotation which is handy. It can create a web page for mobile use which might be useful when I'm outside, although could result in a very muddy phone!

If you're interested, the webpage it generated is here.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Christmas Veggies

They may have been small (and not quite perfectly formed) but I managed to harvest a few fresh carrots and sprouts for our Christmas lunch! The carrots had been got by carrot fly larvae, but I managed to cut those bits out and once I'd added some shop bought veg we had a feast (although mine definitely tasted better than those I bought!) The aim for next year - keep some parsnips and potatoes as well...

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Purple radishes

On a sunny day, way back in August, I pulled up these beauties. They didn't look much covered in mud, but just look how bright they were once I'd washed them off! The first few I harvested small, but realised that they are supposed to be this big, so left the rest to grow away and picked them when they started flowering.

They sat in the fridge for a while before I could decide what to do with them. Apparently it's a German tradition to eat this type thinly sliced and served with salt as an accompaniment to beer! As I mentioned before, the taste was more than a bit overpowering for our tastes, so I looked up some recipes for radish relish. In the end I combined a few to come up with my own, but these 2 were good sources:

What I ended up using using was:
1 1/2 lb Radish
1 1/2 large Onions
3 sticks Celery
3 tsp Salt
3/4 lb Sugar
1 1/2 tbsp Dill seed
1 1/2 tsp Celery seed
1 whole Chilli
1 1/2 tbsp Mustard seed
12 fl oz Vinegar

As yet I haven't tried the finished product, preferring to let it mature. It must be close now...